This delicious black comedy is one of the films that Roger Corman used to make before he got a bigger budget and went on to do fantastic adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stores, starting with ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, the year after this was made. A Bucket of Blood stars Dick Miller, whom you may know as ‘that guy from Gremlins’, which Dante almost certainly cast him in due to his affiliation with Corman, as he plays a character named Walter Paisley in both The Howling and A Bucket of Blood. Anyway, in this film he has been cast a busboy for a public house, who is also an aspiring artist. However, Walter lacks creativity and is looking for an idea when he inadvertently kills his landlady’s cat, which he then proceeds to cover in plaster and present as a piece of art. The art world is filled with weirdo’s, and because of that, this sculpture becomes an instant hit and Walter is now very much ‘in’. One masterpiece isn’t enough, however, and Walter must add more to his collection to gain the fame he wants…but where is that next masterpiece going to come from?
Aside from being a cheap black comedic exploitation thriller, A Bucket of Blood is also a commentary on the art world. Anything can pass for a masterpiece when it comes to being ‘creative’ (shown by that strange woman with a bed in real life), and a dead cat certainly fits that bill. The film also comments on the fact that one masterpiece isn’t enough for an ‘artist’ to cement themselves in the annals of history and thus they need several. Dick Miller’s portrayal of the aspiring artist at the centre of the tale isn’t award worthy, but he does a very good job. The character is naive, with an air of pathos, spanning from a need to be accepted, and Dick Miller captures this essence so well that you cant imagine anyone else in the role. I really enjoy seeing Miller on screen and it’s a shame he didn’t get more roles as he has a lot of potential for playing characters of this sort.
This film is an obvious predecessor to many other indie themed exploitation thrillers, such as The Driller Killer and is important for that reason. The jazz styling makes a nice atmosphere for the movie and it helps to capture the pseudo-cool jazz trend that is often associated with art in the late 50’s and early 60’s. And, aside from everything I’ve said so far; this film is just really good. It’s a lot of fun and many of things shown on screen are really funny. There’s also some lovely death sequences including, most notably, someone being cut in half with a buzz saw. Naturally (considering this was made in 1959), we don’t get to see the death, but it still happens and it’s not Corman’s fault he couldn’t show it. This film is a damn good time and it’s a shame that it hasn’t gained itself a more established following the forty-five years since it’s release. Recommended viewing.