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Bucket of Blood (DVD)
Member Name: hogsflesh
Bucket of Blood (DVD)
Date: 05/05/08, updated on 06/05/08 (71 review reads)
Advantages: Very funny, short, great if you dislike beatniks
Disadvantages: A bit slight, a one-joke film
A review of just the film. This one's in the public domain, and there are plenty of cheap DVD releases, often double-billing it with other cheap films by the same director.
A great little black and white horror comedy from 1959, this is one of Roger Corman's most entertaining films. It's a one-gag premise, really, but at only 66 minutes it never wears out its welcome.
There's a coffee shop/art gallery full of beatniks who flock to admire the crazy poetic stylings of Maxwell Brock. A humble and distinctly unhip waiter, Walter, desperately wants to be in with the in crowd. He tries to become a sculptor but lacks the basic talent. But having accidentally killed his landlady's cat, he covers the dead animal in clay and passes it off as sculpture to enormous acclaim. Soon graduating to human subjects, Walter is the toast of beatniksville, but in order to keep his burgeoning art career alive he needs a constant supply of 'subjects', and so the body count rises.
It's a fun idea for a horror film that never tries to take itself seriously. It's a knock-off of the basic idea of House of Wax, but it's played for laughs throughout, never trying to drum up anything like suspense or chills. All the violence takes place offscreen (although the clay 'statues' are pretty gruesome), and, being 1959, we see a lady's naked back, but sadly she never turns round. Although there are undercover cops hanging around the coffee shop after drug dealers, and although Walter does accidentally acquire some heroin, there's no sense that this is trying to be anything other than a goofy comedy about an artist who kills people.
The real joy of this film is the way it mercilessly rips the piss out of beatniks, as they swan around looking ridiculous, posing and blathering on about nothing. Best of all is Maxwell, the poet-king of the coffee shop, his poetry genuinely hilarious ("Necrophiles may dance upon the placemats in an orgy of togetherness!"), his pompous performances the film's highlights. The rest are aimless morons in funny hats or bitchy women turning on anyone who doesn't fit in ("You're just a stupid farmboy and we're all sophisticated beatniks!" someone tells Walter. This turns out to be a mistake.)
Walter is played by Dick Miller, who was in many Corman films (he also turned up in Gremlins much later). He's brilliant, a pint-sized Kirk Douglas, desperately trying to fit but kept out of the beatnik world by barriers he doesn't even understand (he's a "blind fish swimming in a cave of aloneness", of course, but then we all are when you think about it). His frustration is superbly realised, and his later attempts at being the kind of arrogant artist he thinks he should be are hilarious. The rest of the cast play their parts with gusto, but I didn't recognise any of them from anything else.
This was obviously very, very cheap - there are only about two sets and some location work. It was made in under a week. It's classic Corman, in that hardly a frame of film is wasted and it's short enough to fit on a double-bill with something similar, perhaps a film about giant crabs, or a beach party movie. The soundtrack contains appropriate jazz stylings (and dig the bongos in the final chase scene!).
It's seldom that out-and-out horror comedies really work, but I think this one does (the League of Gentlemen used one of its visual gags). This film should make you chuckle and won't take up too much of your precious time. Give it a try.
Summary: Corman's great horror comedy