A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) Review

Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Starring Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, and Julian Burton

If A BUCKET OF BLOOD proves anything, it seals the deal that hipsters were just as annoying fifty years ago as they are today. I don’t want to get all curmudgeony here, but there’s nothing more annoying than a wool cap wearing, bearded, dirty hipster sitting and drinking and pondering the heavier questions in life such as “why shower?”, “did Daddy deposit my check?” and “can I look MORE like a garden gnome?” But I digress. This isn’t about my personal peccadilloes against today’s culture, it’s about a beat poem serenade from the King of Low Budget Horror himself, Roger Corman.

A BUCKET OF BLOOD is somewhat of a statement about the vapidness of the Bohemian hipster generation of the fifties. Walter, a bumbling busboy in a coffee shop (played by the irreplaceable Dick Miller), dreams of becoming an artist while clearing off the tables of pompous art snobs. After being verbally beaten up by the clientele and his boss alike, the busboy returns home with 50 pounds of clay determined to become an artist. Soon, though, he realizes he doesn’t have a creative bone in his body–that is, until he accidentally kills his cat who is stuck in the wall (which immediately made me think of the episode of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILIDELPHIA when Sweet Dee’s cat gets caught in the wall and then I thought of Charlie’s Kitten Mittens and I giggled for quite a while.)






Digressing again. Sorry.

So Walter covers his dead cat in clay and tries to pass it off as art. And it works. The Beatniks eat it up and soon Walter is the toast of the town with an audience hungry for his next masterpiece. Though it happens accidentally (again), Walter kills an undercover cop and covers him in clay. Miller does a great job of playing the bumbling busboy turned attention-thirsty killer. His descent into madness is pretty seamless. Though blips in narrative occur frequently like the occasional musical number and poetry session, Corman moves the story along pretty swiftly and uses a lot of camera tricks to make up for the low budget (which is, of course, Corman’s specialty). In the end, the story plays out as a nicely gruesome morality yarn fallen on ears too deaf because they’re stuffed with coffee and beard hairs.

Ironically, A BUCKET OF BLOOD is pretty bloodless. There are a few decent kills and the tone is darkly funny. I think Corman’s commentary on how shallow the hipster culture is and how easily it can support and turn on an artist is pretty insightful. Corman’s stance on the subject is by far my favorite part of this film. If you’re like me and like seeing coffee shop lurkers meet a gruesome end, you’re probably going to enjoy this film. If you’re a hipster yourself, you might find A BUCKET OF BLOOD a little too close to home to watch. But all I have to say to that is, “TAKE A BATH, HIPPIE!”

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