I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity horror fan. I enjoy films from every and all sub-genres, and while I favor those from the 80s and later, I tend to visit even earlier works from time to time. Tonight, travel with me to the late 50s as I discuss Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood.
Walter works as a busboy at a swanky coffee shop. Surrounded by poets, musicians, and other creatives, Walter just wants to fit in. After an unfortunate incident involving his landlady’s cat, Walter stumbles upon what will soon become his first piece of art. Now, as he begins to gain the notoriety he so desired, Walter’s sculptures must continue to impress, therein his body count must continue to grow.
I must admit, cinema from this era is lost on me. I have not watched many films from this period, but I was drawn to A Bucket of Blood by two very important and recognizable names. One being iconic writer/director/producer Roger Corman. The other being the late great character actor Dick Miller.
While the opening credits roll on by, A Bucket of Blood sets the stage. We are introduced to our main cast of characters, consisting of a myriad of talented performers. Included in the cast are the likes of Julian Burton (The Masque of the Red Death), Antony Carbone (Pit and the Pendulum), Barboura Morris (The Wasp Woman), and of course, the aforementioned Dick Miller, who sadly passed away earlier this year.
Like myself, most genre fans will most likely be familiar with Miller’s work in films like Gremlins, The ‘Burbs, The Howling, The Terminator, and so many more. It was wonderful to see him at such an early stage in his career, as he played the role of simpleton, Walter Paisley.
Walter is surrounded by artists, people he looks up to, and individuals he would do anything to fit in with. These fancy pants beatniks who populate The Yellow Door coffee shop on a daily basis only look down on Walter, having fun at his expense more often than not.
The only time poor Walter gets any attention is when he introduces his first real piece of art, a clay sculpture that he calls “Dead Cat.” The thing is, this piece actually is a real dead cat.
Frightened of losing this newly found admiration of his peers, Walter must move on to his next piece. This next one also happens by sheer circumstance for poor Walter, when a police officer threatens him with a pistol. Walter is only protecting himself, when this officer happens to become his next victim, his next sculpture.
This 1959 film, although rather gruesome on paper, is not all horror. More of an early black comedy, Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith makes it a point to keep things lighthearted as best as they can when dealing with subject matter of this nature.
The 66 minute black and white film is full of tension as Walter figures out where, or who his next piece will come from, but also a great deal of laughs, mostly brought on by characters like Maxwell (Burton) with his nonsensical poetry and a high-maintenance diet that actually resembles that of a gluten-free, all natural vegan millenial from 2019, over 60 years after this film was produced.
A Bucket of Blood at Home
Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood is available now on Blu-ray from Olive Films.
The home release is limited to 3,500 units and comes in a beautifully crafted side-loading slipcase. Inside the case is a booklet containing an essay by Caelum Vatnsdal, author of “You Don’t Know Me, But You Love Me: The Lives of Dick Miller.”
A Bucket of Blood has been remastered from a brand new 4K scan. While the film still shows its age with slight imperfections here and there, this is certainly the best you will ever see Corman’s 1959 horror comedy.
The film is presented with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has a mono audio track, with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
There is a myriad of amazing supplemental content including interviews with Roger Corman and Dick and Lainie Miller, audio commentary by Elijah Drenner, director of That Guy Dick Miller, an archival interview with screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, trailers, photos, and more. Learn many more details about the small indie production, shot in five days on a budget of $50,000, directly from the people responsible for it.
Olive Films has gifted fans the ultimate release of this cult classic, one that should not be missed!
A Bucket of Blood is as funny as it is shocking. Dick Miller is brilliant as our main character, making it easy to sympathize and identify with the little guy, the one who is picked on and looked down upon. At the same time, you can’t help but wonder what horrors he will come up with next.
Pick up a copy of A Bucket of Blood today and see for yourself why I’m giving it 3.5 expensive horses out of 5.