Thursday 13 June 2013

Bucket of Blood (1959)

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), with a pancake pan
Everyone who's ever met me will know my love of pancakes, and my particular delight in pancake pans, those low-sided frying pans designed for lightness, dexterity, and all-round ease of flipping.  Imagine my delight and concern, then, when Walter Paisley, the spongy-legged hero and villain of this bizarre B-movie, does the inevitable and makes the pancake pan a weapon of murder, and a tool of art.

So there's this guy called Walter Paisley.  He serves tables at a cafe in the heart of America's beatnik scene.  All around him are artists who seem to him great.  Poets, painters, poseurs.  To us, they're incredibly pretentious - a point the film rams home slightly too hard - but to Walter they're heroes.  He yearns to be like them, to create a great work of art, and be respected; most of all, he wants everyone to say to him 'Walter, let me shake your hand.  It's been a real pleasure to have known you Walter'.  Walter has no especial talents.

It's not clear whether Walter has learning difficulties, or is just overwhelmed by the arrogant confidence of his peers.  Certainly, I've spent many days of my life being Walter Paisley, staring at my clay-analogue and realising I can't make anything out of it at all.  It's practically a default state.  However, a bizarre mishap changes his fortunes, and it's an event I hope never to replicate.  His landlady's cat gets stuck in the wall-space between rooms, and Walter tries to cut it out with his pocket-knife.  He aims poorly, and stabs the creature to death, and into an advanced state of rigor mortis.  What can he do to hide the evidence from his landlady?  He covers it with clay, of course.

Naturally, his clay cat is a big hit at the club.  Suddenly he's a figure of admiration, and many artists who ignored him suddenly admire him.  Maxwell, who bears a striking resemblance to an ambulant Michael Flanders, even delivers a poem about young Paisley.  Walter must make more sculptures.  Several of the artists even offer to model for him.  Obviously, this is where things start to go wrong.

Carla (Barboura Morris), the least arrogant beatnik, offers to model, but Walter would sooner marry her than kill her.
The trailer promises that we'll be 'sick sick sick ... with laughter', which isn't quite right.  It's a fun piece, a dark comedy, but makes no attempt to be hilarious.  It's thoroughly enjoyable, and at just over an hour makes an excellent appetiser to a longer programme of B-Movies (which is how I saw it lately), but while everybody found plenty to enjoy and laugh at, none of us were rolling around in hysterics.  It's just not that sort of movie.  The most well-worn piece of trivia about 'A Bucket of Blood', though it seems worth repeating here to give you an idea of the tone, is that filming ended two days before the sets were due to be taken down, so director Roger Corman used them to made the original version of 'Little Shop of Horrors', also featuring Dick Miller, who went on to have many fabulous adventures.

P.S. There is a bucket of blood in the film, as per the title, but so briefly that you could miss it.  After pancaking a policeman, Walter hides him in the ceiling, as you do, and puts out a bucket to catch any drips.

An enjoyable sorbet of a film, and currently available for as little as one pence, plus postage.

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