Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 6 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith
Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton
Both a fun horror movie and a scathing black comedy about the beatnik lifestyle, A BUCKET OF BLOOD is a fun movie with an interesting back story. A studio hired Roger Corman to direct a horror film, but they gave him very little wiggle room. He received a budget of 50 thousand (not a lot in the filmmaking world, at all), a schedule of five days to shoot it, and left over sets from another movie that had wrapped up production. Corman accepted the challenge and Dick Miller (the lead actor) has remained frustrated over the budget constraints to this day. However, even though the film is clearly low-budget, it’s also a minor B-movie classic of the 1950’s.
Walter works in a café as a busboy. The place is populated by hipsters, beatniks, poets, supposed artists, and a couple of perverts. Nobody is nice to him, except for a fellow co-worker. After a particularly rough night at the club, Walter returns to his rinky dink apartment to discover that his cat has somehow gotten behind the wall. Doing what he believes is the smartest option, Walter sticks a knife in the wall to cut the cat out and winds up killing the poor animal. Walter covers the cat in clay and presents it as a piece of art to the scathing hipsters, who immediately praise him as a genius. Through a serious misunderstanding, Walter winds up accidentally killing a man and creating another “sculpture,” which is hailed as a masterpiece by the beatniks. Infatuated with his new-found friends and fame, Walter aims to create more sculptures and his boss suspects that there is something sinister about Walter’s art.
The plot is kind of like HOUSE OF WAX with the tone of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. It’s a movie that wears its meager little budget on its sleeve. The production values don’t distract from the ghoulish fun to be had here though. This is a Corman film through and through. Dick Miller does a great job as the socially awkward Walter, who is simultaneously sympathetic and creepy. The plot logically progresses exactly the way you’d think it would, leading up to an ending that’s fitting for this kind of story. It’s not the most original or clever screenplay, but it is enjoyable while it lasts.
There are still some real laughs that hold up to this day, including the ridiculous poems read by a hipster over the opening credits (about how art is a starving hobo). The jokes poking fun at just how impressionable and pompous these art connoisseurs are, makes for some funny moments. I especially loved the increasingly horrified reactions from Walter’s boss every time he is shown an even more grisly sculpture. One scene involving Walter showing him a bust, right after he’s hearing about a murdered man whose head wasn’t found, is especially hilarious in a sick way.
A BUCKET OF BLOOD never really gives you that much violence or gore, despite its misleading title. Instead, the movie is a horror-comedy that still impressively holds up to this day. If there’s anything negative to say about, it’s that the story feels a tad rushed here and there, which is most likely due to the production woes. It’s low-budget and cheap, but definitely entertaining and fun too. Just Google search it and you’ll find the film free to watch, legally. The movie is public domain and runs at just over an hour, so you really have no excuse for not checking this one out! It’s worth your time.