#174 A Bucket of Blood

Watched: April 6 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 06min

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In a beatnik café, pretentious poet Maxwell H. Brock (Burton) is performing his latest work, to the fascination of busboy Walter Paisley (Miller). Inspired by the artists he surrounds himself with, and also driven by their ridicule of him, Walter decides to try his hand at sculpting.

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“So, how did we do this in Arts and Crafts again..? I just knead it for a while and then it turns out amazing? Can’t be more to it than that!”

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Realising that sculpting is harder than it looks, he takes a break to save his landlady’s cat who’s stuck inside the wall. However, stabbing through it, he accidentally stabs the poor cat. Naturally, he proceeds to cover the dead animal in sculpting clay and the next day he turns up to work with his new sculpture.

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“Dead Cat” is an instant success, admired by art lovers and drug enthusiasts alike

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Walter’s newfound success leads to admiration from his crush Carla (Morris) and other patrons of the café, and a lady gives him some heroin as a gift, as one does. This in turn leads to an attempted arrest as an undercover cop follows Walter home and tries to book him for drug possession. Afraid, Walter hits him over the head with a frying pan, killing the cop instantly.

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What do you do when you accidentally kill a cop? Why, cover the body in clay and pass it off as a life sized sculpture, of course!

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Walter gradually goes from underestimated and accident-prone simpleton to calculating killer who lets every small slight become justification for murder. He is, however, not smart enough to avoid killing people he knows and is known to dislike.

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“It is so sweet that you made a sculpture of a strangled woman who looks exactly like the one who spent last night insulting you very publicly. I simply must kiss you!”

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Leonard (Carbone), the owner of the café, is the only one to see through his newly discovered talent, but he is making money off of Walter’s work and has a vested interest in keeping up the illusion. But how long can this go on? And who is next on Walter’s kill radar?

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“This severed head has been bothering me all week, so I clayed it!”

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A Bucket of Blood is the farcical version of House of Wax. The concepts are similar, but this one is more comedic and strangely also more sinister in many ways. Walter is the epitome of the stereotypical “good guy” – he sees himself as sweet, kind, underestimated and misunderstood, but if he’s rejected by someone, or made fun of, he becomes violent and murderous while simultaneously justifying his actions in his head.

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“I’m a famous and celebrated sculptor now, so you must date me. Unless you’re just a bitch and a whore!”

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We loved his first attempt at sculpting Carla’s face, the extremely pretentious Maxwell and the morbidity of the whole film. We also understand perfectly why Roger Corman made so many films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe – it’s a match made in heaven! Or probably hell, to be quite frank.

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“If it’s hell, can I still be king..?” “Of course you can, Mr Futterman.”

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What we learned: It’s not easy being surrounded by (pretentious) artists if you’re not one yourself. And also a simpleton…

Next time: Ben-Hur (1959)

#165 The Fly

Watched: February 19 2018

Director: Kurt Neumann

Starring: David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Torben Meyer

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 34min

So, first of all, we must apologize (once again) for the sporadicness (is that a word..? We’ll say it is.) of the posts lately. We’ve both been very busy with moving, redecorating, and having paying day jobs. Hopefully, the worst is now behind us, and we can get back to more regular updates. On the bright side, we bring you a real treat for Easter! The Fly!

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Somewhere in Canada (the French part), Gaston (Meyer) is having a bad day. He thought he would just have another uneventful day janitoring, but instead he stumbles across the mutilated, crushed body of scientist André Delambre (Hedison) and witnesses Mrs Hélène Delambre (Owens) fleeing the crime scene. Probably not the day he was expecting.

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No one runs like Gaston, no one gasps like Gaston, no one finds mutilated dead guys like Gaston…

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Hélène contacts her brother-in-law François (Price) and while there’s no doubt she killed her husband, she is rich and respected enough to be interrogated by the police in her own bedroom. After a few days of bedrest, with a strange new obsession with flies, she confides in her brother-in-law and recounts the events leading up to her husband’s fatal encounter with the hydraulic press.

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“You’re not going to believe this, but in actual fact it was just like killing a fly! Though a bit more technically complicated. That press isn’t easy to operate.”

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André, a scientist, had been testing out his new invention, a “disintegrator-integrator” with various results (including one that turns their cat into a disembodied meowing phantom). Not content with just transporting things and animals, he decided to test it on himself, as all slightly megalomaniac scientists are prone to do.

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Things went slightly awry…

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As every moviegoer/reader could have predicted, things went very, very wrong, and André’s DNA got mixed up with that of a housefly. Everything pretty much went downhill from there.

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Hélène was not a fan of her husband’s new look

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The Fly from 1958 has a very different approach than Cronenberg’s 1986 version, but we love them both. The title even feels like it might refer to different things in the two versions. This has more of a murder-mystery feel, and there’s less focus on the transformation, although that is still very much present.

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Exhibit A

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We loved the flies buzzing around, the murder-mystery approach, and Vincent Price in all his glory. It’s a lovely, creepy horror film, and a must-see for every fan of the genre. Or of flies. We don’t judge.

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Or even fans of very thick spiderwebs. As we said – we don’t judge your fetish. You do you!

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What we learned: Don’t kill flies without checking thoroughly first.

Next time: Touch of Evil (1958)

#59 Cat People

Watched: November 27 2016

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph

Year: 1942

Runtime: 1h 13min

Note: Cat People was watched only by Sister the Oldest, as Sister the Youngest had once again fucked off to Oslo, this time to do exams. How very selfish of her, trying to get an education when there are films to be watched.

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Irina Dubrovna (Simon) is a Serbian fashion sketch artist working on ideas in a New York zoo when she strikes up a conversation with Oliver Reed (Smith – not actor Oliver Reed). They fall in love and get married despite Irina’s conviction that she is a descendant of a coven of devil worshipping witches who turn into cats when aroused or angry.

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“We cannot consummate our marriage. Or kiss. And you shouldn’t make me angry. But other than that, we’ll have a perfectly ordinary marriage, I’m sure!”

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Now, in Irina’s defence, this is not a condition she wants, but she believes the superstitions of her Serbian village and does not want to risk hurting herself or her husband. She agrees to go to therapy to help save her marriage, but it does not do much to help her, especially since her therapist’s idea of a cure is kissing his patient. Very unhippocratic.

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“It’s a new kind of therapy – all up to code and medically approved, I assure you. Now, take off your clothes.”

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To complicate their lives further, Reed’s colleague Alice Moore (Randolph) is in love with him, and since things aren’t going too well at home, he falls for her as well. Irina suspects an affair and gives in to her inner desires to stalk and prey on Alice, who does indeed seem to be followed by a large cat.

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Even in the pool. How rude!

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As the plot thickens, Oliver and Alice keep treating Irina as a child in one instance, a mentally unstable woman in the next, and then as a dangerous threat. It’s no wonder she becomes a bit unhinged and wants revenge on them for shutting her out and starting an affair. There’s nothing inherently bad about her, but she is never taken seriously or treated as an equal by her husband which causes her to snap.

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And what better way to plot vengeance than in a deserted, foggy New York street

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It’s never really clear whether Irina is right or not. She certainly seems to think she turns into a large, predatory cat when angry, upset or turned on, and Alice and Oliver are eventually convinced as well. The ambiguity is one of the main strengths of the film though, and not having clear answers makes it more intriguing than a straight-forward horror film about a shapeshifting woman. What comes across clearly however, is that no one really thinks of Irina as a grown, independent woman – even her therapy sessions consist of her being put in a trance so she has no memory of what she tells her doctor. Despite the fact that she moved to the USA alone and made a career for herself before meeting her husband, everyone seems to think she’s too fragile to be treated like an adult. Probably due to the fact that (they think) she believes in fairy tales, but still.

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We suppose when you marry a cat woman you’re either looking for a pet or a sex kitten. And when she won’t conform to either – well, it’s time to cut her loose.

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Now, I might be reading a bit much into this (I blame my literature background), but it’s hard not to get analytical about this film. What I’m trying to say is that I loved Cat People and I am looking forward to more Tourneur. Which is coming up very soon in I Walked with a Zombie. Yay!

What we learned: don’t have an affair with a man whose wife might be a murderous shapeshifter. Also, don’t treat your wife as a child.

Next time: Road to Morocco (1942)