The 13th Floor

Revisiting the 1959 Roger Corman Classic A BUCKET OF BLOOD

“You’ll be sick, sick, sick – from laughing!”

Gather round poets, bohemians, artists, and beatniks. Roger Corman and Charles B. Griffith are about to tell us all about art, mostly that hipsters and critics have always been a source of contention and that artists will go to any length for fame. 1959’s A BUCKET OF BLOOD tells the tale of Walter Paisley (played by horror vet Dick Miller). Paisley is a hapless busboy at a poetry café who wants nothing more than to be part of the thriving beatnik art scene. After accidentally killing his neighbor’s cat, he discovers he can create sculptures around corpses, which the art community loves. Now he just needs more bodies to make into art!

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In 1959, American International Pictures approached the legendary b-movie director Roger Corman (well, he was not quite legendary at the time) to direct a film for just $50,000. He was also told he had only five days to shoot it. Corman teamed up with screenwriter Charles B. Griffth to create this pointed little black satirical horror film. Unlike many films from the time period, A BUCKET OF BLOOD is still just a sharp and satirical today as it was in the late 50s, still stabbing at the just a prevalent hip art scene. The beret wearing beatniks could easily be subbed out for any number of artists and hipster stereotypes. Supposedly, Corman and Griffith actually researched the artists’ roles and dialogue for the film by hanging out at the many artsy coffee houses along Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip.

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Granted, the production values are pretty low on this one, but that is honestly part of the charm. Always known for cheap and quick pictures that still hold some strength, right after A BUCKET OF BLOOD wrapped, Roger Corman shot THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS on the exact same set.

Like many Corman films, A BUCKET OF BLOOD is stuffed full of soon-to-be-famous talent. Dick Miller plays our main murderous would-be artist. Miller actually kept the name of his character from A BUCKET OF BLOOD (Walter Paisley) and used this same character name in several subsequent films like THE HOWLING, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, and CHOPPING MALL. Another early celeb is Burt Convey who plays a “high on art” beatnik, but will go on to become a famous actor in the 1970s and 80s, perhaps most associated with his role on THE LOVE BOAT.

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A BUCKET OF BLOOD was remade into a TV movie in 1995 starring Anthony Michael Hall. In 2009, a musical version of the film opened in Chicago running for several weeks.  It is time to revisit the original A BUCKET OF BLOOD and laugh knowing that the art scene’s standard followers can be found in all historical times, but luckily we can always make fun of them.

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