A classic little lowbrow cinema excursion from the crown prince of low budget films, Roger Corman. This is a black comedy with horror elements attached. Hired by American International Pictures, given only a $50,000 budget and five days to shoot, Corman rushed off and hastily created a masterpiece of camp horror.

The film is a satire, not only of Corman’s own films, but also of the art world and teen films of the 1950s. The film is noted in many circles as an honest, undiscriminating portrayal of the many pretentious facades of beatnik culture – including bad art, uncoordinated dance, and a lousy style of living. The plot has similarities to Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), but by setting the story in the Beat scene of 1950s California, Corman creates an entirely different mood from the earlier film.

Written by Charles B. Griffith, it was the first of three comedy/horror collaborations between the writer and director. It was followed by Little Shop of Horrors (1960) which is much more famous, thanks to the musical created based off of it and the fact it has a very young Jack Nicolson in a bit part. And finally Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961) that isn’t worth mentioning except in connection to the other two.

The protagonist in a Bucket of Blood is Walter Paisley, a dimwitted busboy for a beatnik café who is constantly mocked by the pompous artists and assorted riff-raff that frequent the place. Walter wants to fit in with all the other cool cats at the café, such the pompous Maxwell who recites poetry and walks with a limp, the cafe owner Leonard who wears a beret to be pretend to in with the crowd but is more concerned about making a buck, and the ditzy artist Carla who wants to be surrounded by creative and artistic people, and a host of other beatnik types. To do this Paisley tries his hand at clay sculptures, but discovers that he has no talent.

While looking for an idea, he accidentally kills his landlady’s cat. Instead of giving the feline a proper burial, Walter covers it in clay, leaving the knife stuck in. The next morning, Walter shows the cat to Carla and his boss, Leonard. Leonard dismisses the sculpture, but Carla is enthusiastic about the work and convinces Leonard to display it in the café. Walter receives praise from Maxwell and the other beatniks in the café.

But an artist cannot just have one piece and a series of events leads Walter to produce larger sculptures with people as the base. Murder leads to murder. All of this begins to catch up with Walter, who starts drinking heavily, leading to a brutal, but inevitable conclusion. Walter’s greatest work. Himself!

A Bucket of Blood stars the original “that guy from that one film” actor Dick Miller, whom I am sure you will have recognized in a host of films. Although, he has 184 acting credits to his name according to IMDB, he has only starred in three movies- this being the first. The other two were the forgettable B-movies War of the Satellites (1958) and Rock All Night (1957). This film did have a positive effect on Miller’s career in that the character, Walter Paisley, has been adapted as an in-joke in productions such as The Howling (1981), Chopping Mall (1986), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Shake, Rattle and Rock! (1994), The Adventures of Biffle and Shooster (2015), and Hanukah (2019) – and give characters played by Miller under that specifc name.

My first memory of Dick Miller in a film was when he played the owner of a gun shop in The Terminator (1984) and is blown away by Arnold Schwarzenegger. “You can’t do that.” “Wrong.” BOOM. Shotgun blast to the face. Of course, probably his most famous role – at least to me – is the alcoholic conspiracy theorist Mr. Futterman in Gremlins (1984) and its sequel.
When first released there was a promotion in the newspaper’s movie section advertisements that made the offer, “If You Bring In A Bucket Of Blood To Your Local Theater’s Management (Or Ticket Booth), You Will Be Given One Free Admission.” It has never been reported if someone actually took them up on the offer. The trailer is linked below.
Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

Rex Hurst

Rex Hurst


Born into the blue-collar city of Buffalo, NY, Rex Hurst was traumatized as a small child by the suffocating rabbits scene in the animated adaptation of Watership Down.  Ever since, his mind twists towards the macabre, until his inevitable blossoming as a horror and sci-fi writer. When not writing he is an assistant professor of composition, public speaking, and literature. 


Rex Hurst is the author of the horror novels The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out; What Hell May Come & the sci-fi novel Across the Wounded Galaxy as well as several novellas. He is also co-host of the weekly radio show Write On SC. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, www.rexhurst.com, and What I’ve Been Reading blog- https://rexhurst.blogspot.com/ 

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