A Bucket of Blood Blu-ray Review

An early Roger Corman film starring Dick Miller about murdered corpses being turned into sculptures

A Bucket of Blood is an early film from Roger Corman’s career. The black-and-white film was shot extremely cheaply and quickly in 1959, starring Dick Miller. Barely running over 65 minutes, it is a satirical black comedy looking at the hypocrisies found in the art world. The low-budget movie fits perfectly well into the teledramas of its age, poking fun at beatniks in this tale of murder.

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), a dimwitted waiter and busboy at a cafe frequented by local artists and beatniks, wishes to be more popular and talented in this community. He desperately hopes Carla (Barboura Morris), one of the sophisticates that hangs around the club, notices him. Things look hopeless for Walter in the art world with his limited talents. The club’s patrons and bohemians look down upon poor Walter.

After Walter accidentally kills his landlady’s cat and covers the body in plaster to hide the evidence, his cat “sculpture” is acclaimed as a brilliant piece of work by the beatniks that had previously dismissed him. The pressure mounts on Walter to produce more sculptures to maintain his newfound respect and popularity, leading to Walter murdering humans to create more sculptures. The more sculptures Walter produces, the bigger his ego gets as his personal fame rises at the club.

Not a conventional tale of horror, A Bucket of Blood has playful fun spoofing the pretentious art world and the various characters that fill its ranks. Maxwell (Julian Burton) is a local beat poet that is one of the club’s most respected members. He’s a colorful stereotype of the poetry-spouting beatnik and philosopher.

There is Leonard, the underhanded club owner that first attempts to take advantage of Walter’s “artistic” creations until he realizes the horrible truth of what has happened. For being a murderer, Walter receives a sympathetic portrayal. Most of the film’s scorn and contempt is reserved for the art world’s hypocrisies. It paints a telling picture of how one or two influential critics can turn almost anything into highly valued art.

Most of the film’s scorn and contempt is reserved for the art world’s hypocrisies.

The screenplay by Charles B. Griffith (The Little Shop of Horrors, Death Race) is laced with a nicely satirical touch that adds a good deal of humor. What does come up short is the final act, abruptly ending in a rush likely dictated by budgetary concerns. A Bucket of Blood is just getting good when it feels like Corman ran out of money to furnish a completely realized story.

A longer final act could have completely finished the narrative in a more satisfying manner. As is, this is still a decent curiosity from Roger Corman’s early career that feels right at home with the teledramas seen in the 1950s. He invests his usual amount of charm and craft into this fairly simple tale of ego and murder in the bohemian art world.

Movie ★★★☆☆

A Bucket of Blood Blu-ray screen shot 8

It’s not completely unwatchable but this black-and-white Roger Corman film has been “rescued” from the public domain by new label The Film Detective. To their credit, it is a widescreen transfer done in 1080P resolution from actual film elements. However, this is an extremely soft transfer with rolled-off detail and poor resolution. While some grain makes the journey, actual definition and clarity are far closer to DVD levels than what we’ve come to expect from Blu-ray.

The 65-minute main feature is presented in its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio on a BD-R. Yes, The Film Detective continues putting their Blu-rays out as BD-Rs. The solid AVC video encode averages a strong 34.99 Mbps, compression artifacts are not a problem.

The film print is fairly stable without significant wear but lacks the crisp contrast seen in solid film scans made from better elements. I would wager this is a telecine struck from a heavily-viewed film reel. A bit of telecine wobble and fuzzy grain hit certain moments in the movie. The first reel seems in the worst shape. It’s so soft that I thought this was going to be a mere upscale from DVD. Black levels are acceptable but crush most fine shadow delineation. While the contrast is consistently steady, white levels are blown-out and overly bright.

Video★☆☆☆☆

The original monaural sound is delivered by a serviceable 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Fidelity is below average but satisfactory for a 1959 film in the public domain. Its thin, recessed sound lacks much range but the occasional bit of music comes through in acceptable quality.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a yellow font.

Audio ★★☆☆☆

No special features are included.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.