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MGM Studios DVD presents
A Bucket of Blood (1959)

"I've never seen anything like it before... but I hope I never see anything like it again!"
- Carla (Barboura Harris)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 25, 2000

Stars: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris
Other Stars: Antony Carbone, Bert Convy
Director: Roger Corman

Manufacturer: Sunset Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, partial nudity, drug use, bad poetry)
Run Time: 01h:05m:45s
Release Date: September 05, 2000
UPC: 027616852847
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Hey all you beatnik cats and chicks! Do you know where it's at? Where it's happening? Where the art flows like blood and the murder is like poetry? Well, make the crazy scene at the Yellow Door coffee shop and check out the art of my man, Walter Paisley (Dick Miller).

Poor nebbishy Walter is a lowly busboy at the Yellow Door, hangout of beatniks and wannabes. Everyone in the coffeeshop circa 1959 has artistic aspirations, including Walter. He'd love to be a sculptor, but can't quite handle the clay; no matter how hard he pleads, "Be a nose, be a nose," it doesn't work. By accident he kills the landlady's cat, and in order to hide it, uses his clay to cover the cat. Walter thereby accidentally becomes an artist and his "statue," called Dead Cat, complete with a knife in its side, becomes an instant hit.

When an admirer gives him some heroin as a gift, undercover cop Leo Raby (Bert Convy, who would later become a TV game show host) pursues the completely clueless Walter to his apartment. When he threatens Walter with a gun, Walter defends himself with a frying pan, and before you know it, he's got a new sculpture, Murdered Man. How many bodies will it take to get Walter his dream of being a great artist?

This all-too-brief film is not too gently satirical of the beatnik scene, and the coffee shop is full of pompous goons spouting the most lamentable imitations of Howl you would ever want to hear, complete with mournful sax behind them. The rapid rise to fame of the busboy gives quite a few laughs as we see how differently Walter is treated by those who considered him dirt just a little before. The thought of thousands of dollars for Walter's artwork reveals the bohemians as the hypocrites they are, more than happy to hide murders for the chance to make some serious dough. A few morbid background folksongs about murders and hangings make a humorous comment on Walter's nefarious activities.

Antony Carbone in particular is splendid as Leonard DiCenzo, the opportunistic owner of the Yellow Door. He is the first to catch on to Walter's method, and is continually torn between trying to discourage Walter from making any more "sculptures" and the possibility of reaping an enormous financial benefit by selling them. His nervous and twitchy delivery gives a nasty humorous twist to what might otherwise be a tedious role.

Director Roger Corman directed this film as a quickie; so quick was he, in fact, that he had enough time left over to make another entire film on the same sets: the immortal Little Shop of Horrors. That film essentially uses the same basic plotline, transporting the art world into the florist's shop. In both cases, the nebbishy hero finds himself caught up in homicide, tempted by fame and fortune that can be brought about by them.

There's no fat on this film, barely more than an hour long. It's very morbidly funny and good for many a laugh, unless you're a poet. "One of the greatest advances of modern poetry is the elimination of clarity. I'm proud to say my poetry is only understood by that minority that is aware."

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM gives us another beautiful transfer of an old cheapie from the AIP library. The black and white photography is gorgeous, with deep rich blacks, a wide range of grays and absolutely crisp picture throughout. Not a speckle of damage anywhere was seen. Some grain is visible, but that is no doubt present on the original film, considering its low-budget cheapie status. A first-rate transfer of the original Academy ratio film.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is the original mono, presented in DD 2.0. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the music (particularly the sax) comes through beautifully, without noise or significant hiss. It's not flashy, but it suits the film perfectly. I'm again amazed at the good treatment MGM is giving these films. Well done!

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The chaptering is incredibly generous, with 24 chapter stops for a 65-minute film. Beyond that, there's not much for extras. Although the keepcase says that a theatrical trailer included, I can't find it on the disc. French and Spanish subtitles are included, but no English subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A wryly sick black comedy given a splendid transfer by MGM. If not for the brief program length and the lack of any extras, it would have my highest recommendation. As it is, at its low list price the disc is still worth considering if you like black comedy.


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