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"A Bucket of Blood" is a 1959 film that was written by Charles B. Griffith and directed by Roger Corman, who had directed some classic horror films including "Pit and the Pendulum" (1961), "Swamp Women" (1956) and "Creature from the Haunted Sea" (1961).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film was 66 minutes in length and starred Dick Miller ("Gremlins" (1984), "The Howling" (1981) and "Piranha" (1978)) as Walter Paisley, Barboura Morris ("Sorority Girl" (1957), "The Wasp Woman" (1959) and "Atlas" (1961)) as Carla and Antony Carbone ("Pit and the Pendulum" (1961), "Creature From the Haunted Sea" (1961) and "Last Woman on Earth" (1960)) as Leonard de Santis.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A frustrated and talentless artist finds acclaim for a plaster covered dead cat that is mistaken as a skillful statuette. Soon the desire for more praise leads to an increasingly deadly series of works.
I am a fan of old horror films and I watch them from start to finish regardless of how awful they are, and I came across this in one of my movie packs that I'd bought online and when I watched it I recognised Dick Miller from "Twilight Zone: The Movie" in which he has a small part in the segment entitled "It's a Good Life". I always have reservations when I watch old horror films because you never know what you're going to get, but as this was only 66 minutes long I thought I'd sit through it. Is it any good? Let's find out!
I'm not one for poetry as I don't really understand the concept of having a poem and not rhyming - I guess that's part of my youth with limericks and school classroom English Literature - if that's the case, then why is it acceptable to not rhyme in a poem? Or is it acceptable and what I allegedly learned at school is wrong? Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that when the film begins, we see Maxwell H. Brock (Julian Burton) reciting a poem he wrote in a coffee bar with a light saxophone playing in the background. Said poem is not in rhyme, but the delivery from the actor is simply wonderful and had it been in a film favoured by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it may well have won him an Oscar nomination.
The special effects aren't very good in places. There is a scene where Walter stabs a cat through a wall and it's pretty obvious that it's a very light model made out of card or something similar, and in complete contrast there is another scene where Walter kills a cop and makes a model out of him. Now I'm sure that if this had been in colour it wouldn't have looked right, but as it was in black and white, it was visually good and would put some of today's special effects to shame. Some scenes of note are where Walter first figures out there is money to be made in modern art as he puts clay around the cat he killed and sold it to the coffee bar, which is where he gets noticed as someone with a talent, rather than a strange loner. He does seem a little slow which probably fuels his need to be socially accepted by the inhabitants of the bar, none moreso than the beautiful Carla. You can't help but feel sorry for him and you will probably find yourself cheering him on as he becomes a sort of hero that never was. The two artists (I forget their names) in the shop seemed to be part of a new brigade of flower power even though this was 1959. They attempted to be hip and trendy, but were clearly out of their depth in doing so. Towards the end of the film, Walter begins to question his own sanity as he gets more and more popular and is eventually forced to take his own life as people started to find out what he was really doing. How he kills himself, however, is for you to find out when you watch for yourself!
In summary, I'm not sure where the title came from, to be honest. I didn't see any buckets throughout the entire film and there wasn't much blood, either. That should not stop you from watching the film, though, because as far as classic horror goes, this is one of the good ones of the 1950s and I especially enjoyed it. Yes, there are better ones out there, but if you want to see raw acting with a good storyline, this is the one for you. Dick Miller is a fine actor and this is his best work by far.
My rating: 8/10
Walter Paisley works in a trendy cafe where artists, poets and authors converge to discuss their latest projects. Ignored by most of the regulars, he has a crush on Carla, who is the only artist to take any notice of Walter. Walter spends his time off trying to model with clay, without much success. Then he accidentally kills a neighbour's cat and to hide the evidence, he covers the cat in clay. He takes it to the cafe, where everyone is amazed at his new-found talent. His next project is a statue of a man - which also happens to be a corpse covered in clay, unbeknownst to his new admirers, and more are to follow. Carla is particularly impressed, until she realises that Walter has feelings for her and is forced to turn him down. Will she be the next victim, or will someone work out what Walter is up to before it is too late?
This is a 1959 horror film by director Roger Corman. Not having heard of it, I had low expectations, presuming it was going to be a budget horror with little appeal. I was pleasantly surprised - this is an unusual little gem that many people will unfortunately overlook because of its age. Roger Corman is perhaps best known for his directing of the original Little Shop of Horrors, as well as a series of Edgar Allan Poe story adaptations featuring the wonderful Vincent Price. The film was undoubtedly made on a tight budget; nevertheless, it is a good story, made better by the marvellous acting of the lead actors.
Walter Paisley is played by Dick Miller. Paisley is a funny little man, who appears to be not quite all there. Constantly ignored and belittled by the customers in the cafe, he has no real friends and longs to be someone important. Miller plays the character to perfection, with just the right amount of creepiness, yet managing to inspire a lot of sympathy in the viewer. It is perhaps a little bit of a stereotype of a serial killer, but it's nevertheless done an awful lot better than many more modern versions. He really does manage to hold the film together single-handedly, although Barboura (that's not a typo!) Morris as Carla is also great and adds a little bit of eye candy to the film.
The story really is a very simple one, but that is actually one of the strengths of the film. It is easy to follow and there are no irrelevant threads that go off in all sorts of strange directions. It is fairly obvious from early on in the film what is going to happen, although how it ends isn't all that easy to guess. The simplicity of the plot is highlighted by the fact the film only lasts for 66 minutes. The problem with so many films today is that they go on for far too long and lose the viewer in the process. This one is the perfect length; it finishes when it naturally runs out of steam and many modern directors could do with taking note of this.
The film was made in 1959 and this can be seen in the quality of the DVD and the special effects. It is in black and white and the picture is often shaky and unclear. The use of light appears to be done rather badly, with weird flashing effects at times that don't really improve the viewing experience. The director tried to get around the special effects by not showing the deaths in any great detail - the only complete dead body we see is that of the cat (which is clearly fake). On the whole though, this works fairly well because it helps to build up the atmosphere without ruining it with poor quality effects. The rating of 15 is actually unnecessary - 12 would probably be fine, provided that your 12 year old isn't overly sensitive.
There isn't much to criticise about the film, it is certainly an under-rated little gem. However, the beginning of the film perhaps isn't as compelling as it could be. Setting the scene, it shows Walter working in the cafe, but concentrates on one of the artists performing for the first few minutes. It could certainly have been a little more interesting. Thankfully, it doesn't take long before the viewer's attention is grabbed. The other niggle for me is that a cat is killed. I'm a cat lover and hate to see cruelty to animals of any kind. Nevertheless, it is so obvious that the cat is not real that it really is a minor niggle.
There are no extras with the DVD - this is a shame, I would have liked to find out more about Roger Corman.
I really enjoyed this film and I'm thrilled I came across it by accident. It isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I know that the lack of clarity and the fact that it is in black and white will put a lot of people off. However, the quality of Miller's acting and the simplicity of the plot make this a film well worth watching - provided that you like horror of course. I'll certainly be making an effort to watch more of Corman's work. I certainly recommend the film, four stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com from £2.79.
Running time: 66 minutes
A review of just the film. This one's in the public domain, and there are plenty of cheap DVD releases, often double-billing it with other cheap films by the same director.
A great little black and white horror comedy from 1959, this is one of Roger Corman's most entertaining films. It's a one-gag premise, really, but at only 66 minutes it never wears out its welcome.
There's a coffee shop/art gallery full of beatniks who flock to admire the crazy poetic stylings of Maxwell Brock. A humble and distinctly unhip waiter, Walter, desperately wants to be in with the in crowd. He tries to become a sculptor but lacks the basic talent. But having accidentally killed his landlady's cat, he covers the dead animal in clay and passes it off as sculpture to enormous acclaim. Soon graduating to human subjects, Walter is the toast of beatniksville, but in order to keep his burgeoning art career alive he needs a constant supply of 'subjects', and so the body count rises.
It's a fun idea for a horror film that never tries to take itself seriously. It's a knock-off of the basic idea of House of Wax, but it's played for laughs throughout, never trying to drum up anything like suspense or chills. All the violence takes place offscreen (although the clay 'statues' are pretty gruesome), and, being 1959, we see a lady's naked back, but sadly she never turns round. Although there are undercover cops hanging around the coffee shop after drug dealers, and although Walter does accidentally acquire some heroin, there's no sense that this is trying to be anything other than a goofy comedy about an artist who kills people.
The real joy of this film is the way it mercilessly rips the piss out of beatniks, as they swan around looking ridiculous, posing and blathering on about nothing. Best of all is Maxwell, the poet-king of the coffee shop, his poetry genuinely hilarious ("Necrophiles may dance upon the placemats in an orgy of togetherness!"), his pompous performances the film's highlights. The rest are aimless morons in funny hats or bitchy women turning on anyone who doesn't fit in ("You're just a stupid farmboy and we're all sophisticated beatniks!" someone tells Walter. This turns out to be a mistake.)
Walter is played by Dick Miller, who was in many Corman films (he also turned up in Gremlins much later). He's brilliant, a pint-sized Kirk Douglas, desperately trying to fit but kept out of the beatnik world by barriers he doesn't even understand (he's a "blind fish swimming in a cave of aloneness", of course, but then we all are when you think about it). His frustration is superbly realised, and his later attempts at being the kind of arrogant artist he thinks he should be are hilarious. The rest of the cast play their parts with gusto, but I didn't recognise any of them from anything else.
This was obviously very, very cheap - there are only about two sets and some location work. It was made in under a week. It's classic Corman, in that hardly a frame of film is wasted and it's short enough to fit on a double-bill with something similar, perhaps a film about giant crabs, or a beach party movie. The soundtrack contains appropriate jazz stylings (and dig the bongos in the final chase scene!).
It's seldom that out-and-out horror comedies really work, but I think this one does (the League of Gentlemen used one of its visual gags). This film should make you chuckle and won't take up too much of your precious time. Give it a try.
'Bucket of Blood', directed by Roger Corman is one of the funniest horror comedies of all time, a fact which is all the more remarkable considering that it had an incredibly low budget, and that it was reportedly shot in just five days. Even non-horror fans should enjoy this film, which has lost none of it's laughs despite the years. The plot follows the misadventures of the hapless Walter Paisley (played by cult actor Dick Miller), a coffee shop worker who is desperate to fit in with the hepcat beatniks he serves everyday. To try and win their respect, he attempts to become a sculptor. He accidently kills a cat, and covers it with the plaster: the resulting work of art is hailed by the beats as a far out masterpiece. As he falls in with the group, his misfortunes continue as he accidently kills a number of people, all of whom end up as 'living statues'. This film is completely hilarious ! Dick Miller, a regular in Roger Corman flicks, is absolutely perfect as Walter Paisley, playing him as a likeable sap. The beatniks in the film have some wonderfully dated chat, which raises a smile everytime I watch the film. The whole affair is is hugely likeable, and has a real sense of nostalgia to it, harking back to a time when horror comedies could be funny without having to resort to gross-out gags. I suppose it's a strange comment to make about any film with horror elements, but there is a real innocence to the film which makes it very appealing. Obviously, the film is bargin-basement, and the low budget clearly shows, with cheap looking sets and unconvincing effects. However, these are barely noticable, and do not detract from the film at all. In fact, if anything, they add to the appeal. Corman's direction is good enough, and he manages to effectively capture the absudity of the affair without letting it degenerate into a complete farce. For horror fans, although there are a few deaths in the film, ther
e is very little blood or gore. Since this is a black and white film from way back then, this is pretty much to be expected, and I don't think anyone would come to this expecting much splatter. There are a couple of edgy scenes in the film, however, such as when a beatnik girl gives Walter some heroin. Overall, I would definitely recommend this film to any fans of comedy or horror. If you like black and white films, or like the sense of nostalgia that comes from watching films from a different time period, then there is much to enjoy here. A funny, entertaining classic which is well worth seeking out.