There are a number of films about crazy sculptors (no, not you Michelangelo) but none so crazy as the subject of Roger Corman’s cult classic A Bucket of Blood. According to legend the film was shot over five days for $50,000.
The story is a Corman classic, half original, half stolen from Edgar Allan Poe. Walter Paisley, a nerd waiter in a beat café, accidently kills his neighbour’s cat and hides the body by covering its stiff, furry corpse with clay and so inventing a new kind of sculpture. (Take a bow New Zealand’s John Radford for keeping this important genre alive).
Things pick up as Paisley raises the stakes by launching into ‘life’-sized statuary. To do this he kills random people using their bodies as armatures onto which he applies the clay. Yes, that’s right, we’re talking kill-and-cover art.
From here on, like most great ideas based on murder, it’s all down hill. There is a particularly low moment (although high on the gross-out scale) when Paisley decides to work on a bust, doing his prep work with a circular saw. Heady stuff. This is followed by one of those what-else-can-go-wrong moments as a visitor notices a finger poking out through the clay at an exhibition of Paisley’s work.
Finally it’s all too much even for the avant-garde set at the Bohemian café and as concerned citizens they hunt the artist down to his attic studio. To their shock and/or delight they find he has covered himself in clay and hanged himself . It is at this stage that one of the less feeling of them pipes up, “This could be his greatest work”.
And so it would have been had Corman been given a decent budget to stump up for the full mud-man effect. As it is there was only enough ding left for a bit of grey make-up that doesn’t really manage to produce the full I’m-covered-in-clay sculptural effect. You can get your copy of A Bucket of Blood here.
Images: Top left, the first full-sized sculpture that’s not a cat. Top right, Paisley’s first nude. Middle left, getting a head. Middle right, bust. Bottom, hung out to dry.