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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A BUCKET OF BLOOD -- Movie Review by Porfle

A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) is a Roger Corman classic that I wasn't that familiar with at first since I bought the dollar DVD years ago at Wal-Mart,  watched it once, and then sold it in a garage sale.  I probably only got 50 cents for it,  maybe even a quarter, but I was glad to get it because that's the kind of year I was having.

Corman regular Dick Miller plays a guy named Walter Paisley, who's also having a bad year (how's that for a segue?)  He's an insecure milquetoast who buses tables in a coffee bar where beatniks hang out, but dreams of being a creative artist like pretentious poet Maxwell (Julian Burton) in order to impress his heartthrob Carla (THE WASP WOMAN's Barboura Morris). 

Another Corman fave, the great Antony Carbone of THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, and PIT AND THE PENDULUM, is Walter's overbearing boss Leonard.

When Walter accidentally kills his landlady's cat, he covers the evidence with modeling clay and then shows off the result as his own artistic creation, garnering instant fame as a brilliant new talent. 

But a hunger for greater recognition leads to murder when he whacks a gun-waving narc (future game-show host Bert Convy) over the head,  killing him, and then turns him into a highly-praised clay sculpture as well.  With more money and fame rolling in, Walter's trail of victims grows longer, eventually leading to Carla herself.

If you liked 1960's THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS you should really be interested in this amusingly morbid tale which amounts to pretty much a dry run for the later film.  Besides also being helmed by Corman,  both were penned by Charles B. Griffith, whose sense of humor seemed to play into the then-current appetite for beatnik culture and "sick" humor (the film's tagline is "You'll be sick, sick, sick--from laughing!")

 Both feature typical be-bop musical scores by Fred Katz and similar production values (moody black-and-white photography, modest stage-like sets, a "skid row" ambience).   Carbone's bullying boss Leonard, just like flower shop owner Gravis Mushnik, first sees dollar signs from his employee's creative efforts but grows increasingly squeamish when he discovers the truth behind them.

Walter could be a first cousin of Jonathan Haze's Seymour Krelboyne,  another mousey shlub stuck in a dead-end job with an oppressive boss, who yearns to break out of his rut by doing something creative which will lead to murder.  We almost expect him to have a clinging, overbearing mother when he shleps back to his cheap apartment, and indeed his landlady is played by Myrtle Damerel, who was Seymour's hypochondriac mom in LITTLE SHOP. 

Barboura Morris, however, grounds the film by playing her role straight, and Griffith's script for BUCKET isn't nearly as whimsically farcical as the later story.  Carbone maintains a delicious deadpan even when Leonard's dazed reactions to Walter's bloodthirsty activities threaten to incapacitate him. 

Other familiar faces include Ed Nelson as Bert Convy's undercover vice-cop partner,  Lynn Storey of LITTLE SHOP (she played "Mrs. Hortense Fishtwanger") as a curious square, and, as an art patron interested in Walter's work, the ubiquitous Bruno Ve Soto.

In the lead role that would define his career as a cult actor, Dick Miller wrings every nuance of nebbishness out of his pitifully desperate character and manages to remain likable even as his murderous tendencies spin out of control.  Corman's camera explores Miller's manic expressions with his own artistic eye and the collaboration results in a truly memorable performance. 

A BUCKET OF BLOOD itself stands as a minor classic and a model of efficient, creative low-budget filmmaking as well as simply being a real kick to watch.



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