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Bucket of Blood, A
In Roger Corman's 1959 film A Bucket Of Blood, we meet a busboy named Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) who toils away at his crummy job at a beatnik coffeehouse owned by the crotchety Leonard (Antony Carbone). Here Walter swoons over on of their regular customers, Carla (Barbara Mouris). Walter wants more out of life… he wants to be a great artist, he wants to be able to win the girl and he wants to be the popular guy, but he makes a lousy living and lives alone in a cruddy little apartment.
One night, his landlord's cat gets stuck between the walls of his apartment and Walter's. With the best of intentions, Walter pulls out a knife and tries to cut the kitty out but he winds up stabbing the cat and it dies. It's then that Walter sees an opportunity. He covers the cat's corpse in the modelling clay he had been toying with and then brings it to the coffeehouse where it's instantly appreciated as a great work of art! Soon enough, a prestigious art collector has made Walter an offer for the piece and everyone in the scene is asking to see more of his work. It's not long before Walter starts working on bigger and more impressive sculptures, but to do that he's going to need to do more than just accidentally kill a cat… Walter will have to resort to the ultimate sin.
At this point in his career Corman wanted to do something different and with A Bucket Of Blood, he did just that. This is as much a dark comedy as it is a horror movie, if not more so, and the film's gallows humor mixes quite flawlessly with its murder set pieces and odd twists. Corman, shooting in black and white, keeps the film going at a good pace and offers humor and horror in pretty equal doses. He's also savvy enough to not overshoot and keep the modest production well within the confines of its low budget. The sets are minimalist but completely effective and as the story doesn't call for scores of makeup effects or particularly elaborate murder set pieces, everything fits quite well.
At the center of all of this is Dick Miller, in a role that he'd carry with him throughout his life (he's played characters named Walter Paisley quite a few times since he made this film). It's not often that Miller, one of Hollywood's finest character actors, gets to play the lead but here he takes it and he runs with it. He's fantastic in the part, his odd facial features lending themselves well to the quirky character he plays and making the darker second half of the film a fair bit more intense for it. The supporting players all do fine work here as well, with Carbone putting in a memorable turn as the grouchy coffeehouse owner and the lovely Barbara Mouris quite fetching as the apple of Walter's eye, but really, this is Miller's show through and through.
A Bucket Of Blood is presented on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative, this transfer is a marked improvement over the Film Detective BD-R that came out in 2015. While that transfer was a faithful, film-sourced effort, getting access to the negative and using a 4k scan obviously yields much stronger results. Detail is stronger, contrast is better, black levels are deeper and texture is more impressive. The image looks very good, showing the expected amount of natural film grain but very little in the way of print damage, just the occasional white speck now and again. There are no noticeable issues with any compression artifacts nor are there any noticeable instances of obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about. Fans should be quite pleased with Olive's efforts on this release, the movie looks very nice.
The English DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track on the disc is also very strong. The track is clean and nicely balanced, exhibiting no audible defects at all. Range is understandably limited by the origins of the source material but that's not a flaw. The score sounds good, the dialogue is clear. No problems at all. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Olive Films has done a really nice job not only with the presentation of the feature but with the supplements as well, starting with an audio commentary by Elijah Drenner, the man who directed the excellent documentary, That Guy Dick Miller. Having clearly done a lot of research on the film's leading man for that documentary, it should come as no surprise that Drenner offers up a lot of insight into Miller's career, experiences working on this film, thoughts on the fairly iconic character that he played and how he got along with the cast and crew on the picture. He also offers up lots of information about where Corman's career was at this point, the film's distribution history, editing and cinematography techniques, where the sets came from, who did what behind the camera and lots more. In addition to the loads of facts and trivia he provides, he also offers his own thoughts on the film and what makes it work along the way. It's a very good commentary that's definitely worth your time.
From there, check out the eight-minute Creation Is. All Else is Not featurette, which interviews Roger Corman on A Bucket Of Blood. He speaks here about finding the money to get the movie made, directing the picture without any interference, the importance of casting Miller to the picture's success and quite a bit more. Call Me Paisley is a twelve-minute interview with Dick and Lainie Miller that was recorded in 2018 before the actor's passing. They talk about how they met and got married around the time that this picture was made, working with Corman on the film and the importance of the character Miller played in the film to his career and legacy. Olive also include a twenty-minute archival audio interview with screenwriter Charles B. Griffith who speaks about writing this picture and working with Corman on this and quite a few other pictures but also about how he got into the business and how he feels about his experiences overall. In Bits Of Bucket we're treated to a seven-minute visual essay from Elijah Drenner that compares the original script to the finished film. It's interesting as here we get to learn about a few scenes that were planned for the film but eventually cut out of the picture.
One of the more interesting finds on this release is the inclusion of a rare prologue from German release from 1962. It's almost ten-minutes long and it features a character named Professor Bondi mucking about in a cemetery before heading off to a creepy old mansion where he goes off on a woman. It's all very strange but super cool to see here. This was material was created because the German distributor decided to release the film as a sequel to House Of Wax! Those who geek out over Super 8 versions will also appreciate the inclusion of an eight-minute silent version of A Bucket Of Blood included here as well, courtesy of Germany's Ken Films.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are the U.S. and German theatrical trailers (the German trailer using The Legacy Of Professor Bondi as its title), a still gallery of newly-discovered on-set photography, menus and chapter selection. Olive has packaged this release very nicely with a cardboard slipcover. Inside you'll find the disc, of course, but also a color insert booklet containing an essay by Caelum Vatnsdal (author of You Don't Know Me, But You Love Me: The Lives Of Dick Miller).
A Bucket Of Blood is not only a rare horror comedy done right, but it's one of Dick Miller's finest moments in front of the camera. Corman directs the picture with a quick pace and some nice style while Miller makes the most of this leading role, stealing every scene he's in and delivering an iconic performance. Olive Films has done an excellent job with the presentation of the feature and stacked the disc with a host of interesting extra features. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.