Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Bucket of Blood -- Roger Corman's beatnik horror a low-budget gem


By Steve D. Stones

Director Roger Corman has a reputation for creating quickie exploitation themed films made on a shoe-string budget and filmed in a matter of a few days. His 1959 film – A Bucket of Blood is no exception. Bucket of Blood is often referred to as the precursor to another Corman masterpiece – Little Shop of Horrors. Both films star Dick Miller.

A lonely coffee house waiter named Walter Paisley, played by Miller, can’t seem to fit in at The Yellow Door – a swanky beatnik hangout that displays local art, music and poetry. One day he accidentally stabs the land lady’s cat while trying to cut a hole in his apartment wall. He discovers a way to grab attention at The Yellow Door by molding clay around the corpse of the cat to create realistic sculptures. His next victim is an undercover narcotics cop who follows Paisley to his apartment to bust him for heroin.  Patrons of The Yellow Door praise Paisley for his artistic genius and hail him as a great sculptor.

One sassy patron however is not convinced of Paisley’s talents. Paisley follows her home to ask for a nude posing session to sculpt her figure.  Paisley murders the beautiful woman, then his next clay masterpiece and first nude is set in motion. Beatniks at the coffee house arrange for an exhibition of Paisley’s sculptures and invite art critics and collectors.

At the exhibit, a patron discovers the flesh of the murdered woman showing through the molded clay. The patrons realize that Paisley’s work is a fraud and chase after him for the murders of the victims used in his sculptures. He completes his greatest masterpiece by smearing himself in wet clay and then hangs by a noose from a rafter in his apartment.

Actor Dick Miller played the character Walter Paisley in at least five films. His cult status was further solidified when James Cameron cast him as a gun store clerk in The Terminator. His character of Walter Paisley is seen as a janitor in the 1988 horror classic – Chopping Mall. He played a flower shop patron in Little Shop of Horrors who eats flowers sprinkled with salt. Happy Viewing!!

Both the newspaper advertisement and review are from the February 13, 1960 edition of the Wilson, North Carolina, Daily Times. The still from the film features Miller and includes co-star Barboura Morris.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Invasion of the Saucer Men a light, fun horror parody


Invasion of the Saucer Men, 1957, B&W, 69 minutes, American International Pictures. Directed by Edward L. Cahn. Starring Steve Terrell as Johnny Carter, Gloria Castillo as Joan Hayden, Frank Gorshin as Joe Gruen, Raymond Hatton as Farmer Larkin, Lyn Osborn as Artie Burns, Douglas Henderson as Lt. Wilkins, USAF, and Don Shelton as City Attorney Hayden. Schlock-Meter rating: 6 and 1/2 stars out of 10.

Invasion of the Saucer Men is a light, well-made horror parody about weird, large-headed men from outer space who inject humans and animals with alcohol until they are foiled by teens upset that their favorite make-out spot has been invaded by the creatures.

You have a lot of disbelieving adults, a couple of goofy salesmen attacked by the Saucer Men, two teens in love who no one will believe their tales of Saucer Men, and even some military officers trying to hush up the whole outer space attack! There’s even one more plot staple in this witty, but dated parody: The crusty old farmer who hates those kids necking on his property and blames them for his bull coming home drunk with “the blind staggers.”

It’s a great plot. The filmmakers give us a lot of action for the film’s compact 69 minutes. However, since this AIP drive-in staple doesn’t take it seriously, it loses a couple of stars. A great cult film needs to (most of the time) to take itself seriously. However, it’s still a lot of fun watching this 1950s ancestor of today’s “Scream” parodies.

Oh yes, teen queen Castillo, who is the city attorney’s (Shelton) daughter, has a car named “Elvis,” which is a nice touch for the times. Funny man Frank Gorshin plays a down-on-his-luck salesman, who besides having a pretty lame line when it comes to picking up a tired waitress, also is the only one unlucky enough to be killed by the Saucer Men. 

The film moves briskly along and actors deliver lines in a slightly goofy manner that holds with the light fare of the film. The Saucer Men are sufficiently bizarre and there’s a crawling hand that manages to create mischief. (I wonder if that alien “hand” served as inspiration for the malicious hand in Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead 2.”
-- Doug Gibson