Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Bucket of Blood


Poor Walter Paisley.   Bussing tables for those condescending Beatniks at the coffeehouse, night after night.  Harrassed by his boss for spending too much time attempting conversation with them and not clearing away empty cups.   But Walter muddles through, marveling at (and memorizing every word of) the pseudo intellect spouted by the poets at the mic. Words like:

Life is an obscure hobo bumming a ride on the omnibus of Art. Burn gas, buggies, and whip your sour cream of circumstance and hope, and go ahead and sleep your bloody heads off. Creation is, all else is not. Creation is graham crackers; let it all crumble to feed the creator; feed him that he may be satisifed.

Walter (Dick Miller) aspires to create art, to be part of the group, not merely pitied.  He also pines for the cafe's hostess, Carla (Barboura Morris).

It is of her he is thinking as he attempts to mold her face out of a lump of clay, helpless to even create a suitable nose.  At that moment, he hears the cries of his landlady's cat, who's somehow gotten stuck in the wall.  When Walter attempts to free it with a knife, well, the meowing ceases.  After a brief lament, he finds that the feline corpse would make a great piece of art.  He covers the cat, with knife still in it, in clay.  Soon, Walter has impressed most everyone at the Yellow Door Cafe with his piece, marveled at for its realism and anatomical correctness.  But Leonard (Antony Carbone), Walter's boss, has some suspicions.

Soon human beings will be added to Walter's collection: an undercover cop, an obnoxious model, and even an innocent factory worker.  Those sculptures, so lifelike!  Walter's fans are none the wiser for a time, lavishing praise on this new resident genius.  Yet another fraud to join the ranks.

That point is made over and over in 1959's A BUCKET OF BLOOD, directed by B-movie czar Roger Corman.  Charles B. Griffith's script is quite wise for its time, skewering the Beatnik culture quite thoroughly.  But the art world is the larger target, a subject just as ripe for ridicule today as ever.  When someone can seemingly randomly splatter paint on a canvas or dip a crucifix in urine and have it praised for its brilliance.   ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL would nicely pair for a double feature.

A BUCKET OF BLOOD is just over an hour, long enough to be an effective comedic chiller and short enough not to wear out its welcome.  The very cheap production values do hurt the film a bit, and the finale is too rushed, but this is a nice bit of old school drive-in movie fun.  Character actor Miller, who has appeared in countless exploitation films (many with Corman's involvement) over the past several decades, has perhaps his best role as Walter, the slow witted wannabe (without talent) who represents millions of also-rans who may crave fame/notoreity but perhaps just want to be accepted and loved.  He just never learns that the way to sweep a woman off her feet is to not encase another in a clay tomb.....

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