A Bucket of Blood
Film: A Bucket of Blood
Director: Roger Corman
Writer: Charles B. Griffith
Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris and Antony Carbone
This film begins in a coffee shop. It is full of artists of different varieties. On stage is Julian Burton, who is doing free verse poetry with a man playing saxophone. The busboy is our main character played by Dick Miller. He has a crush on a woman who is played by Barboura Morris. She hangs out a lot with the man that runs the place, played by Antony Carbone.
Miller really wants to be an artist, but he is largely ignored. We see that he gets scolded a lot by Carbone. He talks to a table of artists and he is mocked. He goes home where he runs into his landlady, played by Myrtle Vail. He is a little overbearing and asks Miller if he has seen her cat.
Inside he puts some soup on the stove and has a bunch of clay. He has a picture of Morris and he tries model it to look like her. It isn’t working as he wants it to and Vail’s cat is in the wall howling. His soup is boiling over and the pressure of all of this becomes too much. He tosses the soup into the sink and tries to free the cat. To do this, he stabs a knife into the wall and accidently kills it. He knocks the wall down to find the cat is dead.
Miller does come up with the idea to cover the cat in clay. He takes it to where he works and shows Morris and Carbone. She loves it and thinks that it is really good. They decide to display it at the coffee shop and if anyone decides to buy it, they will split what they make in half.
He has become somewhat popular off of his sculpture. Burton sings his praise and two drug addicts who hang out there follow suit, they are played by John Brinkley and John Herman Shaner. Another man, played by Ed Nelson, calls someone about Miller. Morris is also proud of him. Carbone doesn’t really know what to make of it and he talks with Bert Convy. Miller is sent home because he can’t do his work with everyone praising him. As he goes to leave, a woman played by Jhean Burton gives him something.
Convy follows Miller home. Turns out that Convy is a police officer and Jhean had given him heroin. Convy wants to arrest Miller and he panics, killing him with a pan. Vail heard the commotion and comes over. Miller hides the body and rushes her out. Miller gets the idea to make Convy into a sculpture as well.
Carbone knocks over the cat sculpture and it cracks. He notices there is hair inside and that this isn’t a sculpture at all, but just a real dead cat covered in clay. He is horrified by what he finds. He does go with Morris over to Miller’s place to see his sculpture of Convy. Carbone is even more horrified. He suggests that Miller stop making new pieces and they will do an art show with him.
Miller comes into the coffee shop looking very similar to Carbone in how he dresses. He also has some arrogance to him now. He is hurt when a pretty woman, played by Judy Bamber, mocks him. Morris has the idea for him to make a woman sculpture to balance out the death of his previous two.
Will Bamber become his next one? Or will he realize what he is doing is wrong? Will the pressure to stay important allow him to stop?
I have to say that coming into this one; I just knew that the film was about a man killing people to create art. This film was directed by Roger Corman, so I was expecting it to be campy. It actually is very smart and deep, which surprised me. Miller is ignored by all of the people that he idealized. I think Miller might have a slight mental handicap, as he is awkward and doesn’t pick up on social norms. It takes him to start killing people and making these extremely life-like sculptures to be accepted his peers. The film really calls out the pretentiousness of this group of people and how they are only accepting of those that are similar to themselves.
This film does come with some issues though. The first is that this film has a very low running time. I think this film would have benefited from having a subplot or two. This is something I bring up a lot with older films. I would have liked to delve more into Miller’s psyche to understand him better. Like we can see there is something off about him, but I think seeing him more about him before the film started would have been better for the overall story. It would make us feel sorrier for him too. The angle with Convy and who he called didn’t make a whole lot of sense and it isn’t revisited after his murder. I also don’t understand why Carbone didn’t go to the police, as he knows from pretty much the beginning what Miller was doing. It didn’t make sense either. Two goofs also were his wall is knocked in pretty easy, but it is then fixed. Now he could have done it himself and it just wasn’t shown to us. The other is that the cat is cracked by Carbone, but we never see Miller fix it as the sculpture doesn’t seem to leave the coffee shop.
Now with that said though, I actually really liked this film. Miller was great in his role. He brought a depth to it that made the film deeper and I would have actually liked more of that for the overall story. The concept is really good and interesting. It does bring up the social commentary of artists and their pretentiousness. The film did have a low running time and I think a deeper story could have helped there. There also some plot-holes that are ignored that hurt the film for me. I want to warn you that this film is from the 1950s and is filmed in black-and-white. If that is an issue for you, then I would avoid this film. If not, I do think this is enjoyable and worth a viewing.
My Rating: 7 out of 10