Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton, Ed Nelson, John Brinkley, John Herman Shaner, Judy Bamber, Myrtle Vail, Bert Convy, Jhean Burton, Bruno VeSota, Lynn Storey
Written by: Charles B. Griffith
Directed by: Roger Corman
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 66
Date: 10/21/1959

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Omnibus of Art

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

There was a bit of controversy over whether or not Roger Corman actually deserved his 2009 honorary Oscar. It's true that Roger Corman's directorial career is a bit spotty and filled with duds, but not more so than Oscar-winning directors like John G. Avildsen or Ron Howard. The real issue is that the Academy never, ever considers anything that doesn't look and feel prestigious, so that usually rules out comedies, horror movies and B-movies. Corman is responsible for at least a half-dozen great second-gear films, including The Intruder (1961) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and the great black comedy A Bucket of Blood, which Corman made when he was getting tired of horror and was in the mood for some fun.

Corman insisted that this was the first black comedy made in many years; I guess he wasn't counting Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux, or Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry. Either way, A Bucket of Blood has a vibe all its own, set in the beatnik cafes of the day, with the bongo drums, the berets, the beards, "free jazz" saxophone, the coffee and bran muffins, and the dark, groovy poetry. It was perhaps Corman's first film to establish a really rich atmosphere, which only grew richer on the subsequent Poe films; it's all the more remarkable when you learn that Corman shot the movie in just five days (his personal record at the time). Not to mention that he made both A Bucket of Blood and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) back-to-back for $50,000.

Dick Miller is perfect as the slightly dim café busboy Walter Paisley, who unexpectedly becomes a star sculptor for reasons best left to the movie itself. Miller made such an impression that he continued to play characters with the same name for years afterward, including in Joe Dante's The Howling (1981).

Note: A Bucket of Blood is in the public domain and available to watch for free.

Best Buy Co, Inc.