(director: Roger Corman; screenwriter: Charles B. Griffith; cinematographer: Jacques Marquette; editor: Anthony Carras; cast: Dick Miller (Walter Paisley), Barboura Morris (Carla), Anthony Carbone (Leonard), Julian Burton (Maxwell Brock), Ed Nelson (Art, Undercover Cop), Bert Convy (Lou, Undercover Cop), John Brinkley (Will, the hustler’s partner), Jhean Burton (Maolia), John Herman Shaner (Beatnik), Judy Bamber (Alice), Bruno VeSota (Art Collector), Lynn Storey (Sylvia), Myrtle Vail (Landlady,Mrs. Surchart), Paul Horn (Sax Player); Runtime: 66; American International; 1959)


“A true cult film delight from the 1950s made for all eras.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This one is my favorite Roger Corman (“Little House of Horrors“) film–it’s cast with beatniks, artists, druggies, narcs, tourists, and folk singers hanging around a Greenwich Village coffeehouse called ‘The Yellow Door.’ It plays out as a horror comedy low-budget B-film that is a parody of the hipster art world and those who seek fame and fortune even though prestending to be hippies. Its satire cuts deeper into this bohemian world than most other films. Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a nerdy busboy living a lonely life idolizing the beat artists he encounters on the job, but is not talented enough to be an artist. He dreams of becoming a famous artist and marrying his dream girl Carla (Morris), who also works at the coffeehouse hangout. Listening to anti-establishment poet Maxwell Brock (Julian Burton) recite his bitter poem against materialism, Walter memorized every line and literally craves to follow in the poet’s footsteps.

When Walter’s landlady’s cat gets stuck in the wall of his apartment and the meows irritate him, he tries to get the cat out of the wall by digging it out with his kitchen knife. In the process he accidentally stabs it to death, but remembering Maxwell’s rant about creation not being a Graham cracker he pours clay over the cat and comes up with a gruesome statue. He entitles the realistic work “Dead Cat.” He gets the materialistic coffeehouse owner, Leonard (Carbone), to display it for his clientele. When Maxwell lauds the work for its realism, Walter receives instant popularity among the beatniks. Maolia (Jhean Burton), who hangs out at the coffeehouse, is so attracted to him for what he’s accomplished, that she lays some heroin on him. Unfortunately for Walter an undercover cop, Lou (Bert Convy), spots the exchange and goes to Walter’s pad to arrest him. Walter fearing the cop will shoot him, kills him when he bops him over the head with a frying pan. He becomes his next great work of art called simply “Murdered Man.”

Walter is discovered by Leonard as a murderer, but since collectors are willing to pay big bucks for such detailed realistic work–he doesn’t tell the cops. Instead, Walter continues getting new subjects until his few moments of fame come to a macabre end.

Charles B. Griffith provides the film with a witty script. Character actor Dick Miller gives an impressionable performance as our hero, as does his romantic interest Barboura Morris. Julian Burton as an Allen Ginsberg guru-type of poet, influencing the bohemian scene and setting the standards for their art, is forceful in his role. It’s a bloody black comedy that is gruesomely funny and because of its unsophisticated way of probing into the underground art world–it exudes a radiant charm, a true cult film delight from the 1950s made for all eras.

It might be of interest to note that the film was completed ahead of schedule, so Corman had the sets for another three days and used that time to make another classic low-budget cult film with the same theme called Little Shop of Horrors (also written by Charles B. Griffith).

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

REVIEWED ON 9/14/2001 GRADE: B + https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/