Roger Corman’s satirical horror film, A Bucket of Blood (1959), presents an oftentimes disturbing and always hilarious parody of 1950s Beatnik culture. A young philistine, Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), is transformed into a Bohemian icon after he covers his landlady’s dead cat in sculpting plaster to hide the fact that he accidentally killed it but then has the plastered cat mistaken for a work of art. Pressured by the assumption of his creative genius and a growing reputation in the high-falutin’ café cliques, Walter moves to human figures and quickly turns homicidal in the name of preserving the haunting appearance of death described in his “sculptures” and continuing his artistic success. Scripted by Corman’s fellow B-movie master Charles B. Griffith, this surprising film lampoons cultural pretension and makes a mockery of upper-crust artsy types, shooting an arrow through the heart of the 1950s San Francisco zeitgeist.
Full of laughs and campy shocks, the film is a one-of-a-kind mixture of technically proficient filmmaking, witty humor, and macabre conceit. It’s the sort of film that might feel at home alongside Mary Harron’s American Psycho (1999) – in fact, the two would make an excellent double feature. Both films are wonderfully and unusually entertaining and provide scathing insights into social phenomena integral to understanding a certain period in American culture. What American Psycho does for 80s yuppies, A Bucket of Blood does for 50s hipsters.
by Brandon Colvin