Oct 1, 2019
On Blu-ray: A Bucket of Blood (1959) Gets the Olive Signature Treatment
After releasing a high quality DVD of Roger Corman's 1959 production of A Bucket of Blood in 2018, Olive Films has upped its game in a big way with a Signature Blu-ray release of the film. I’ve already enjoyed the Olive Signature release of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), which with its wealth of special features, much like a Criterion Collection release, was so robust that taking it all in felt like attending a film class. A Bucket of Blood gets the same treatment here. In giving genre films this level of attention and respect Olive is properly recognizing their importance in cinematic history.
Though mastered from a new 4K scan, the disc image is clear, but not sharp. It retains a sufficient amount of grain, so that the film doesn’t lose the seedy feel that is the core of its appeal. I found it to be a good middle ground between providing an improved viewing experience and keeping the film firmly in its time and place.
Beloved bit player Dick Miller had his best role as Walter Paisley, the Beatnik coffee shop waiter who finds success as an artist when he covers corpses in clay. Not only was it his most celebrated part, but his character name would follow him to several other films. Fortunately, this seems to have amused him.
With a nod to horror classics including Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and House of Wax (1953), screenwriter Charles Griffith takes the horrific idea of stealing life to make art and connects it with a man who feels an intensely relatable sense of inadequacy. This concept is especially powerful in an age of social media stardom, where many struggle with feelings of inferiority in the face of easy, but uneasily held fame.
Miller is the perfect actor to embody these feelings of unfulfilled creativity and low self-esteem. Having struggled to be a screenwriter, before barely making a living as a character actor, even this early in his career he had experienced the frustration of having more to offer than the world cared to embrace. As adored as he was, he always wanted, and deserved a little more out of his career.
The special features on the disc are especially remarkable because the key players in this production are all such fascinating characters. A typically measured interview with producer/director Roger Corman is nicely complemented by a livelier interview with Dick Miller conducted by his long-time wife Lainie Miller. An archival radio interview with screenwriter Charles Griffith about his career neatly fills in a little more detail. You can sense the unity in a Corman production, because so often the individual memories they share are remembered the same way.
An incredibly goofy prologue filmed for the German release of the film in 1962 attempts to present A Bucket of Blood as the sequel to House of Wax, though the German release trailer also included on the disc more effectively presents the film as a horror production than the also included US trailer which makes it look like a wacky Beatnik sex romp.
Features also include an interesting gallery of newly-discovered on-set photography, and a silent Super 8 “digest” version of the film, which has the nice touch of being backed by the sounds of a film projector running. An essay by You Don’t Know Me, But You Love Me: The Lives of Dick Miller author Caelum Vatnsdal is an interesting review of the different stage and screen adaptations the production has inspired over the years.
Many thanks to Olive Films for providing a copy of the film for review.