A Bucket Of Blood (1959)
Director: Roger Corman
Starring: Dick Miller (Walter Paisely), Barboura Morris (Carla), Antony Carbone (Leonard de Santis)
Dick Miller is one of those guys that’s in every second movie you see, Pirahna, Terminator, Gremlins, The Howling, Twilight Zone The Movie… even Amazon Women On The Moon. He has also appeared in countless TV series and occasionally does voices for Batman cartoons. He is one of the most recognised bit part actors in b-movies but this is probably the film and the role that he will be best remembered for.
Walter Paisley is an awkwardly goofy busboy at a cafe that is frequented by beatniks, poets and artists. The regulars, considering themselves intellectually superior to Walter, mock and humiliate him. Walter desperately wants to be part of “the scene” and aspires to be a great artist in order to be accepted and win the heart of Carla, another employee and art enthusiast. Walter tries his hand at sculpture only to find he is in serious lack of talent. That is until he accidentally kills his landlady’s pet cat with a knife. Walter covers the slain feline in clay (knife still protruding) and takes it to the cafe. Carla and Leonard, the owner of the cafe, are very impressed by the work entitled “Dead Cat” and encourage Walter to create more artwork.
Walter’s “Dead Cat”, now displayed in the cafe, attracts even more attention from the regular customers and he is heralded as a creative genius. One young girl is so impressed by Walter’s creativity she throws herself at him in an attempt to seduce the up and coming artist. When Walter declines her advances she gives him a canister of heroin, Walter, of course, has no idea what the strange powdery substance is. Unbeknownst to Walter this scene is overseen by an undercover cop and Walter is followed home to his apartment. When the cop pulls a pistol on Walter during an arrest, Walter bashes the cops head in with a frying pan. “Murdered Man” becomes Walter’s next masterpiece. Walter’s artwork has brought him success but at a cost. As demand for his artwork grows so do the murders and heinous acts.
I’m not sure where the title “A Bucket Of Blood” comes into play, as there is no actual blood (apart from a few carpet stains) in this film, let alone a bucket full. This film was probably sold as a horror film, even though it is obviously a black comedy with very little horror or suspense, but this kind of practice is common fare for Roger Corman. That said it is a very funny film that certainly has passed the test of time. It is a parody of the beatnik culture and artistic world, and has many funny moments lampooning the poetic types that would frequent an establishment like the cafe where the film is set. The humour and style is in a similar vain to “Little Shop Of Horrors” (1960), which was also written by Charles Griffith (Death Race 2000, Not of This Earth), directed by Corman and featured Dick Miller as the plant-eating man (not the man-eating plant).
The theme and plot are similar to Little Shop also; goofy nerd becomes famous but must continue to kill to maintain his new found popularity. It is also interesting to note that Miller’s characters in The Howling, Hollywood Boulevard, Chopping Mall and Twilight Zone:The Movie are also called Walter Paisley in homage to his role in this film. The movie was remade in 1995 and was most likely the inspiration for Herschell Gorson Lewis’s “Color Me Blood Red”, about a painter that makes big by selling paintings made from the human blood of his victims.