So strap in for one of his classic featurettes, A Bucket of Blood.
The film is short, only running about 65 minutes. (I’ve seen it multiple times, and actually misremembered it as an Outer Limits episode.) It follows Walter, a not-so-bright bus-boy at the local beatnik hangout, a combination gallery and coffee house. He wants to be a hip, cool, swingin’ artist…but he’s painfully awkward and not really skilled at anything. Not even clearing mugs off of tables.
Walter figures he’ll get some clay and just sculpt something. As luck would have it, the very night he brings home the clay and starts mucking about, his landlady’s cat gets stuck in the wall. Walter jams a knife into the plaster to cut it open, and fatally stabs the animal. But inspiration strikes – and the next day he arrives at the cafe with a sculpture titled “Dead Cat” (which looks suspiciously like a cat covered in clay with a knife sticking out of it).
Well, the beatniks think it’s out there, man! It’s the living end! They want more! And Walter is happy to oblige. Especially when the right girl starts to take notice…
Corman shot the film over five days with a minuscule budget on a leftover set (which he later used yet again – upcycling!). He was originally asked to make a true horror film, but with such limited resources, he and co-creator Charles B. Griffith decided a dark comedy was the way to go. The film is simultaneously set in, and making fun of, the beatnik culture of the late 1950s.
Walter Paisley is played by Dick Miller, a boxer turned actor who made a career of playing unsavory types. This was one of his few leading roles, though Corman often cast him in character parts. (Incidentally, Mr. Miller has played a character named Walter Paisley 6 times.) Julian Burton, who played the poet Maxwell, supposedly wrote the epic “Life Is a Bum” poem himself to parody the beatnik style. Myrtle Vail (AKA Myrtel Damerel) appears as Mrs. Swickert, the cat-losing landlady. Ms. Vail was the grandmother of Mr. Griffith, and was a well known radio personality.
Yes, if you want to get technical with it, there are issues with this film. It would be physically impossible for Walter to simultaneously maintain the level of detail he keeps with the “sculptures” by only skim-coating them in clay AND keep them from collapsing after rigor has left the bodies. With the possible exception of the cat (which was thickly coated, and possibly could have been drained of fluids), how did they not start to putrefy? How the hell was he getting people to help move them and not notice they were bodies?
But put all that aside, it’s a delightfully twisted tale to get yourself warmed up for Halloween. It’s a great add-on to a movie night, and a must for a Corman marathon!
If you would like to watch Corman’s delightfully twisted darkness for FREE, visit The Interent Archive to see A Bucket Of Blood.
You can see the same sets (and some of the same people!) in Little Shop of Horrors.
For more schlock and awe in featurette length, check out Corman’s Attack of the Giant Leeches.
And hey, for a side of Corman I bet you never expected, check out the post Dileas put together on his version of The Fast and the Furious.
If you want to keep tabs on what Corman is up to these days, you can follow him on Twitter.