From time to time, our fetching Castle Blogferatu witch inquires about a movie, sometimes in person, often via infernal cellular device. Instances of the latter more often than not take the form of a title and a question mark. In reply I send a Yes or No and a brief summary. For example, I might get “Giant Claw?” and respond “Of course! Monster looks like a deranged chicken from The Muppet Show.” Or “It’s Alive?” “Oh hell yes! Larry Cohen! Homicidal mutant newborn!”
And that, boils and ghouls, is why today’s feature is A Bucket Of Blood. She said it was half over when she stumbled upon it, so she didn’t watch the rest. She did, however, ask “Is that the one you mentioned in connection with hipsters?” Well it is indeed. I’m told that hipsters aren’t even a thing anymore, but it sure seems like I see an awful lot of ’em around these parts.
Don’t get me wrong. Not for a second do I begrudge them their turntables or their precious $45 pour-over coffee makers or their vintage eyewear. Just, please, for the love of all that’s profane, don’t act like you’ve made some kind of life-changing discovery because you found a manual Smith-Corona at the thrift store.
Right. So if you find that kind of behavior irritating, A Bucket Of Blood is just your kinda flick. It skewers the same hipper-than-thou types that had already become walking self-parodies by 1955. Saxophones, berets, Vogon-level bad poetry, and even worse jazz. It also treats the art world with equally enthusiastic savagery.
Perennial Roger Corman stand-by Dick Miller plays Walter Paisley, a lowly schlub who works as a busboy at a beatnik joint called The Yellow Door. Walter also fancies himself a sculptor and one night unwraps a big ol’ mound o’ clay. But as he’s about to get to work, he’s disturbed by his landlady’s cat which has gotten itself stuck in his wall (your guess is as good as mine). Well, Walter gets out a knife to cut a hole in the wall and accidentally 86’s lil pusskins. Oops.
Naturally Walter panics. His brilliant solution is to cover the cat in clay. He takes it to the coffeehouse the next day, complete with protruding knife, and displays it as his sculpture, Dead Cat. For this he is proclaimed a genius by the regulars. No longer taken for granite, Walter becomes a darling of The Yellow Door. One woman even gives him a vial of heroin. Like ya do.
The heroin, however, attracts the attention of an undercover cop (pre-Password Bert Convy). Walter thinks the cop is about to shoot him and (watch your head–spoilers) smacks said cop with a frying pan, accidentally killing him. Oops.
He encases the cop in clay and the next day clayms (heh) it’s his latest piece, Murdered Man (when it comes to art, it’s all about subtlety). From there, in order to cement his new found fame and admiration, Walter succumbs to the need to kill people to provide himself with models. This includes beheading a guy in a lumber yard so he can make a bust, and strangling a model. Of course.
As is often the case, things have gone about as far as they can reasonably go when things have gotten about as bad as they can reasonably get. Under increasing suspicion, Walter’s story is slowly chiseled away. He’s finally found out and pursued only to be discovered dead in his own apartment where he has smeared himself in clay and hanged himself. This leads the main poet guy from The Yellow Door to close the movie out with “I suppose he would have called it Hanging Man. His greatest work.” Oops.
As horror comedies go, A Bucket Of Blood ain’t half bad and in some respect lays the foundation for later self-aware comic metahorrors like Cabin In The Woods and Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. It’s a blast to laugh at the cult of personality enveloping the beatnik caricatures and their artistic pretensions, the kind of above-it-all condescension that only safety and privilege can buy. Even more impressive that it was shot in 5 days and cost $50,000. 1959 dollars, but still.
Oh and there actually is a bucket of blood in the movie! I love when something does what it says on the tin.
BODIES- 5 (including aforementioned cat)
Stream- Dark Matter, Epix, Fandor, Hulu, Kanopy, Plex, Sling, Philo, Prime, Tubi
Rent- Apple TV