Buy A Bucket of Blood (The Film Detective Restored Version) from Amazon!
Corman’s Classic Of Corpses And Clay Comes to Blu!
Released to Blu-ray in late October by The Film Detective, A Bucket of Blood stars Roger Corman (and Joe Dante) stalwart, Dick Miller (Gremlins, Rock N Roll High School, and SOOOO much more), as Walter Paisley. Walter is the nebbish busboy at The Yellow Door, a cafe frequented by beatnik poets, artists, & musicians. At least that’s what they call themselves. In truth, most of them are spoiled, over-educated slackers and hypocrites. As is usually the case in these “scenes”, some are just burnouts and degenerates. They all believe that what THEY do truly “matters”.
Like most of us, Walter wants to be accepted. To “fit in”. To be “part of the scene”. And just like many of us, he tries desperately to do so, oblivious to just how much these people and what they do doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of life. The only thing that may mean more to Walter is Carla (Barboura Morris- The Haunted Palace, The Wasp Woman) the waitress at the café. She, an aspiring artist herself, IS part of the “in crowd”, but still manages to show compassion for Walter.
Walter lives alone in an efficiency at a shithole boarding house. On his table sits a large mound of clay that will become his first piece of “art”. Only problem is that Walter isn’t an artist. Not even close. The frustration that stems from his desire to be “someone” is percolating. As he tries to control his emotions, he can hear his landlady’s cat mewing from inside the wall in which it has become stuck. He tries to free it by cutting loose a piece of the drywall with a knife, but like most things he attempts, this also fails and he ends up stabbing the cat and killing it.
Inspiration finally shines on Walter when he gets the notion to cover the cat in clay, the knife still sticking out. Walter takes his creation to The Yellow Door, hoping that this will be enough to garner Carla’s attention. And indeed it does. It also draws praise from Maxwell, the poet that frequents the cafe. As Maxwell is considered the “King of the Beats”, his praise is all that it takes for every other wannabe & follower in the place to now look at Walter as a “somebody”. Everybody except Leonard, the cafe’s owner and Walter’s boss.
As Walter is leaving for the night, he is stopped by one of the many groupies that frequent the cafe. She’s very much like Walter, doing whatever (or whomever) she thinks will make her feel like part of this “something”. Walter is fairly oblivious to her advances. She sees this as rejection, so she gives him a small container, saying that it’s something for “him to remember her by”. It is, in fact, a container filled with heroin. Walter is oblivious to this too.
An undercover cop (played by future Win, Lose, or Draw host, Bert Convy) that’s been casing the cafe sees the woman hand the drugs to Walter. He follows Walter to his home and confronts him about the “horse”. Walter truly is unaware of what he was given (and possibly that drugs are illegal), but the cop believes that Walter is only “playing” dumb. He draws his gun in an attempt to arrest Walter. However, Walter believes the man means to kill him and this causes him to fly into a panic. Walter smashes the narc over the head with a frying pan, killing him.
Hoping to taste yet another morsel of success and acceptance, Walter makes another “sculpture” out of the body of the dead man. This piece is even more popular than the cat. Walter is now seen as a “shooting star” in the scene. The regulars at The Yellow Door now flock to him. Maxwell writes poems honoring him. However, as we all know, one taste is never enough, and Walter continues to add more “pieces” to his collection. Walter’s dreams are becoming reality, but at what cost? Is this enough to win Carla’s heart?
On the surface, A Bucket of Blood appears to be nothing more than a campy piece of low-budget horror. However, it’s also a scathing satire of that time’s art/Beat scene, as well as any others that have followed. It mocks the shallowness of those who perceive themselves as “elite” or “special” in an environment of meaninglessness. It exposes the fleeting nothingness of “cliques”, and it does so unapologetically. More so, it laughs in the face of “social acceptance”, an idea that only holds merit to those that are unable to see their own true self-worth.
I’ll admit a full on bias when it comes to this film. It’s a showcase for Dick Miller (my favorite actor), but also an early example of the biting social commentary that Corman would later expand upon in films such as The Wild Angels and The Intruder. And as I’ve said many times before, I unquestionably consider Corman to be the most important name in film history…. so, yeah…. bias.
Let’s make this quick: This is a disappointment. While there are definite signs that this is indeed a true HD transfer, there is very noticeable signs of DNR (Digital Noise Reduction). Too much so. What this means is that while the film no longer appears “fuzzy”, it also serves to remove a lot of the detail and clarity that HD enthusiasts look for. In other words, while the image does sport a higher level of fine detail in clothing, hair, and facial features, the overall picture quality is only marginally better than the MGM DVD release from 2003. Another deterrent is that the image presented has had the brightness cranked to 11. This serves to wipe out even more fine details. There does appear to be some cropping of the screen, but this is minor as it does not remove any key elements from the film.
The films original monaural soundtrack is delivered here via a serviceable 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio track. This too seemed to only be a marginal upgrade over the 12-year-old MGM DVD.
Special Features: What Special Features? There are none. Not even the film’s trailer is presented on the disc. Unacceptable.
Final Verdict: The film is a classic. You are welcome to disagree with my opinion, but you’d be wrong. (wink, wink). That said, there is NO reason to buy this release unless you are able to find it for dirt cheap. Stick with the MGM DVD. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper and almost as good.