BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)
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Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a busboy at The Yellow Door, a coffee shop for beatniks and bohemian artists…what we would call a Starbucks today…and wants to be revered like many of the artistic types that frequent there, especially in the eyes of pretty co-worker Carla (Barboura Morris). In a series of unfortunate events, Walter kills his landlady’s cat Frankie and hides the body in some clay that he intended to use in a sculpture. He brings the cat to the shop and everyone becomes infatuated with it, especially Carla. Now Walter has discovered a way into Carla’s heart and it will only take some clay and a few corpses to do it.
Horror/comedy is directed and produced by Roger Corman from a script by Charles B. Griffith, who also wrote the original Little Shop of Horrors. It’s not the first collaboration between Corman and leading man Miller, but it is one of their most famous and one of Miller’s few leading roles. It also unleashed a slew of cameos by Miller playing characters named Walter Paisley in the films of up and coming Corman alumni years later. The flick is a comedy of errors with Walter making his first kills by accident, but as his “sculptures”, are getting him the attention he wants, he soon starts killing his subjects to be immortalized in clay. Obviously, things will get out of hand for the bumbling Walter.The satire may not click today as it specifically targets the beatnik culture of the 50s, but one may still appreciate the dark humor of Walter’s newfound art and the art crowd’s overwhelming reaction to it. It’s not a long movie at only 66 minutes and the jazz infused score by Fred Katz is quite nostalgic. On a production level, the film was shot in true Corman style for AIP on a budget of only $50,000 and in 5 days on the sets from another movie.
There is a small cast. Miller is likable and sympathetic as Walter. He’s abused by his boss Leonard (Antony Carbone) and ignored by those he wants attention from. Even when he starts to kill for his newfound hobby, he remains more tragic than unlikable, only becoming downright creepy in the last act. Barboura Morris is pretty and charming as Carla. She’s sweet and seems to always like Walter, though he doesn’t see it. Carbone is slimy as Leonard, who is benefiting financially from the art community’s new prodigy. Even when he discovers Walter’s gruesome secret, he chooses to profit until guilt finally overcomes him. The film also has a small role from 70s game show host and TV icon Bert Convy as an ill-fated undercover cop.
This early Corman production may be dated at this point, but it is still fun and it made Dick Miller a movie fan household name. Miller rarely had lead roles and this one would earn him a long career of character parts and cameos that lasted for sixty years. A perfect example of early Corman thriftiness and one of Dick Miller’s most famous roles.
Rated 3 (out of 4) sculptures surprisingly titled “dead cat”.
Farewell and RIP Dick Miller (1928-2019)