Saturday, April 9, 2011

Just a drop In Roger Corman's bucket

Midnight Cheese continues its salute to this week's birthday boy Roger Corman with a look at his 1959 social satire/fright flick A Bucket of Blood. Starring B-Movie badass Dick Miller, A Bucket of Blood is the twisted tale of Walter Paisley, busboy at the boho chic coffee house The Yellow Door. Square Walter yearns to be an artist like the beatnik poets and sculptors he serves every night. Unfortunately for Walter, he possesses no artistic skills and is mocked by the coffee house clientele on a nightly basis.

One night while trying to sculpt in vain, Walter accidentally kills his landlady's pet. Too upset with himself, Walter decides to hide the pet's body by covering it in clay. While doing so, Walter realizes that may be creating art. When he displays the corpse/statue at the coffee house the following evening,Walter's work is met with praise. Critics crown him the king of cool and demand to see more of his work. Walter decides to oblige them with my creations via the only muse he knows - murder.

Made at a time when the burgeoning beatnik scene was laying the foundation of the hippie counterculture of the sixties, Corman and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith spare no expense at skewering pretentious pop art posers and beatnik bozos. Artists who once branded Walter a tool of the establishment, begin to to heap praise upon him when they realize they can benefit from clinging to his coattails. Characters that discover the secret to Walter's "art" decide to turn a blind eye to his misdeeds once they realize they can profit from them. Add in poorly-written poems, drugged-out intellectuals and some really bad art and you've got a nifty little knock at Eisenhower-era hipsters.

In addition to satire, the Corman/Griffith team and their company of players deliver the chills, too. Walter's artwork is especially creepy and several of the murder set pieces are eerie. Miller is especially fine as Walter. During the first act of the movie, Miller wrings every drop of sympathy from the audience. We root for the mistreated busboy and are genuinely frightened for him when he commits his first accidental murder. By the end of the movie we loath Walter. Miller transforms him into a madman as well as a hipster consumed with being the art scene darling. Although Miller's acting resume is enormous, Walter Paisley is the actor's signature role. Miller and this character are so beloved by cult movie director Joe Dante that he's cast Miller in several movies as unrelated characters named Walter Paisley.

A Bucket of Blood is worth checking out if you haven't seen it. It's also a worthy addition to any B-Movie lovers DVD collection. You can still get the MGM distributed DVD from Amazon and other online retailers. It features the original trailer and a nice transfer. There are also a few public domain DVDs floating around but their quality is crap. A Bucket of Blood is also available from Netflix instant watch.

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