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Sculptures with a difference
Bucket of Blood (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Bucket of Blood (DVD)
Advantages: Great story, Dick Miller
Disadvantages: Some won't like the quality of the film
Walter Paisley works in a trendy cafe where artists, poets and authors converge to discuss their latest projects. Ignored by most of the regulars, he has a crush on Carla, who is the only artist to take any notice of Walter. Walter spends his time off trying to model with clay, without much success. Then he accidentally kills a neighbour's cat and to hide the evidence, he covers the cat in clay. He takes it to the cafe, where everyone is amazed at his new-found talent. His next project is a statue of a man - which also happens to be a corpse covered in clay, unbeknownst to his new admirers, and more are to follow. Carla is particularly impressed, until she realises that Walter has feelings for her and is forced to turn him down. Will she be the next victim, or will someone work out what Walter is up to before it is too late?
This is a 1959 horror film by director Roger Corman. Not having heard of it, I had low expectations, presuming it was going to be a budget horror with little appeal. I was pleasantly surprised - this is an unusual little gem that many people will unfortunately overlook because of its age. Roger Corman is perhaps best known for his directing of the original Little Shop of Horrors, as well as a series of Edgar Allan Poe story adaptations featuring the wonderful Vincent Price. The film was undoubtedly made on a tight budget; nevertheless, it is a good story, made better by the marvellous acting of the lead actors.
Walter Paisley is played by Dick Miller. Paisley is a funny little man, who appears to be not quite all there. Constantly ignored and belittled by the customers in the cafe, he has no real friends and longs to be someone important. Miller plays the character to perfection, with just the right amount of creepiness, yet managing to inspire a lot of sympathy in the viewer. It is perhaps a little bit of a stereotype of a serial killer, but it's nevertheless done an awful lot better than many more modern versions. He really does manage to hold the film together single-handedly, although Barboura (that's not a typo!) Morris as Carla is also great and adds a little bit of eye candy to the film.
The story really is a very simple one, but that is actually one of the strengths of the film. It is easy to follow and there are no irrelevant threads that go off in all sorts of strange directions. It is fairly obvious from early on in the film what is going to happen, although how it ends isn't all that easy to guess. The simplicity of the plot is highlighted by the fact the film only lasts for 66 minutes. The problem with so many films today is that they go on for far too long and lose the viewer in the process. This one is the perfect length; it finishes when it naturally runs out of steam and many modern directors could do with taking note of this.
The film was made in 1959 and this can be seen in the quality of the DVD and the special effects. It is in black and white and the picture is often shaky and unclear. The use of light appears to be done rather badly, with weird flashing effects at times that don't really improve the viewing experience. The director tried to get around the special effects by not showing the deaths in any great detail - the only complete dead body we see is that of the cat (which is clearly fake). On the whole though, this works fairly well because it helps to build up the atmosphere without ruining it with poor quality effects. The rating of 15 is actually unnecessary - 12 would probably be fine, provided that your 12 year old isn't overly sensitive.
There isn't much to criticise about the film, it is certainly an under-rated little gem. However, the beginning of the film perhaps isn't as compelling as it could be. Setting the scene, it shows Walter working in the cafe, but concentrates on one of the artists performing for the first few minutes. It could certainly have been a little more interesting. Thankfully, it doesn't take long before the viewer's attention is grabbed. The other niggle for me is that a cat is killed. I'm a cat lover and hate to see cruelty to animals of any kind. Nevertheless, it is so obvious that the cat is not real that it really is a minor niggle.
There are no extras with the DVD - this is a shame, I would have liked to find out more about Roger Corman.
I really enjoyed this film and I'm thrilled I came across it by accident. It isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I know that the lack of clarity and the fact that it is in black and white will put a lot of people off. However, the quality of Miller's acting and the simplicity of the plot make this a film well worth watching - provided that you like horror of course. I'll certainly be making an effort to watch more of Corman's work. I certainly recommend the film, four stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com from £2.79.
Running time: 66 minutes
Summary: Thoroughly enjoyable black and white film