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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), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965), 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, papaya cheesecake, and the dark, groovy poetry.

It was perhaps Corman's first film to establish a really rich atmosphere, filled with nighttime shadows and a general edginess, 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 unsaid, but includes several accidental deaths/murders, not unlike in the more modern Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Miller's "square" performance at the film's center only makes the groovy dialogue all around him all the more absurd and funny. It 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).

A Bucket of Blood is in the public domain and available to watch for free, but in 2018, Olive Films released what appears to be a nicely restored DVD; there's no such claim made on the box, but the video transfer is solid, with a nice contrast and evidence of film grain, and the audio is clean. It appears to at least have come from an original source, rather than a smeary public domain video. It includes optional subtitles, but, sadly, no other extras.

In 2019, Olive Films released the film on one of their "Signature" deluxe Blu-rays, with an above-average transfer, a bit diffuse, but with some nice film grain, good contrast, and a few pops and scratches left intact. The real bonus here is the plethora of extras. We have new-ish interviews with Roger Corman, and with Dick and Lalaine Miller, a commentary track by Elijah Drenner, director of the documentary That Guy Dick Miller, an archival audio interview with screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, a visual essay comparing the original script to the finished film, a rare prologue from German release, the super 8 "digest" version, trailers, and an image gallery. A liner notes essay by Caelum Vatnsdal is available in a booklet, and on the disc itself.

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