A Bucket of Blood (1959)

The 1950s didn't have hipsters.  Instead, it had beatniks.  They were just as full of themselves as the modern hipster, but it was improvised poetry and jazz rather than indie bands and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  The beards have pretty much stayed the same, as has the condescending attitude that many have toward those, especially fellow creative types, they consider below them.  Thus, it was a scene ripe for satire, and the best movie to do it was Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood.

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is the busboy at the Yellow Door, a hip L.A. coffee shop owned by Leonard de Santis (Antony Carbone).  Walter is enamored with his fellow employee Carla (Barboura Morris) and aspires to be an artist of some type, despite receiving derision from the shop's patrons.  He buys some clay and attempts to sculpt a bust of Carla to no avail but gets an idea once he accidentally kills his landlady's cat.  He covers the body in plaster - with the knife still in it - and passes it off as an original.

This gets him the attention he was seeking, both from resident poet Maxwell Brock (Julian Burton) and Carla.  However, when one of the patrons slips him some heroin, he finds himself the target of an undercover officer named Lou (Bert Convy).  An altercation with Lou at his apartment leads to the creation of his masterpiece called "Murdered Man".  Now with a taste for killing and the need to continue to create, Walter starts seeking new subjects while Leonard, who has figured out Walter's inspiration, is torn between turning him in or making the Yellow Door the most talked-about coffee house in the city.

Dick Miller was in hundreds of movies, but this is one of only three in which he was the lead.  It's not the only one where he was named Walter Paisley, but it is the first.  I understand why he decided to pass on taking the lead as Seymour in The Little Shop of Horrors, as the roles (and the plot) are not dissimilar, but Paisley is the better written of the two.  His social awkwardness and general disconnect from his fellows is more pronounced.  Seymour, though deaths occur around him, doesn't kill anyone, while Walter is more than willing to do the work once he gets a taste for it. 

Barboura Morris gives Carla an easy-going, understated demeanor, while Julian Burton is as memorable as Miller, playing a pompous poet with an overinflated opinion of himself.  Charles Griffith, who wrote the screenplay, and Roger Corman hung out in a number of bars and coffee houses while coming up with the script and were writing from the scene they witnessed, in which many of the participants didn't understand how unbearable their egos and self-importance were.  While not as outright farcical as The Little Shop of Horrors, A Bucket of Blood was intentionally a satire and much more biting due to the fact that the jokes are much more subtle.

A Bucket of Blood manages to update the plot of The Mystery of the Wax Museum while trimming most of the fat out of the story.  Corman always said that he was in it for the money the truth is he did have talent as a director, a talent which only got better over the years.  Although I love The Little Shop of Horrors and Attack of the Crab Monsters this movie is the one that stands out prior to his string of Edgar Allen Poe films and revealed him to not only be able to churn drive-in quickies, but to make art as well. 

A Bucket of Blood (1959)
Time: 66 minutes
Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morrison, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton
Director: Roger Corman 



  1. It does sound a lot like Little Shop of Horrors only probably no musical update to make it more popular. I think Corman is kind of my spirit animal as I put out a lot of stuff and could probably do better if given the chance.


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