Saturday, April 2, 2016

Blood and Flowers

Roger Corman was the master of making fly-by-night movies that became cult drive-in classics, all for chump change.  The two movies in this review were shot for less than $100,000.  That's not $100,000 each, that's both movies together cost less than the amount it takes the average blockbuster to cover 1 days expenses.

Corman was also famous for utilizing talent that would later go on to bigger and better fame.  Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron, and Francis Ford Coppola all got their early careers going under the Roger Corman umbrella.    A Roger Corman movie, The Cry-Baby Killer, was the first appearance of an actor you may know by the name of Jack Nicholson.  As noted in an earlier blog entry, Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern were among the elite list of actors who were given their start by Corman.

Not all Corman movies were Corman directed (hence some of the A-list directors mentioned above), but Corman did direct early on.  And he had a knack for dry wit and horror mixed together as evinced by today's list.  Both of these are very funny if you have the twisted mind to appreciate them.

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a put-upon busboy in a beatnik coffee shop, called The Yellow Door.  His only job is to pick up the empty cups from the tables.  But he is a frustrated artist (aren't we all?).  He is not appreciated by anyone, least of all his boss Leonard (Anthony Carbone), who scowls at him and pesters him to stop fraternizing and just pick up the cups.

Meanwhile, Maxwell (Julian Burton), a pretentious beatnik poet spouts some gibberish poetry on stage.  After he is finished, Walter tries to complement him, but Maxwell acts aloof and dismissive.  As do the rest of the entourage with him except Carla (Barboura Morris).

Walter goes home, where he tries vainly to become a sculptor.  His landlady's cat is stuck behind the wall of his apartment, and, while trying to make a hole for it to get out, inadvertently kills it with his knife.  Rather than get rid of it, or tell his land lady, he covers it with clay, with the knife still in it.  He then presents it to the beatnik group at The Yellow Door, calling his creation "Dead Cat".

Here, kitty kitty!

There is a subplot going on in which an undercover policeman (Bert Convy) is trying to uncover illicit drugs.  He witnesses a patron give Walter a vial and follows him to his apartment, where he confronts Walter with the drugs and threatens to arrest him.  Walter hits him in the head with a frying pan, killing him.  Then Walter covers the body with clay and presents his new sculpture which he calls "Murdered Man".

I've got a screaming headache!

The beatnik crowd declares Walter a new art genius, but his boss discovers the truth.  Although Leonard does not confront Walter directly with what he knows, he does try to dissuade Walter from creating more art.  But Walter is flush with his new found fame, and decides to do a sculpture of his annoying neighbor, a slutty stuck-up blonde (Judy Bamber), which could be called "Strangled Woman".

The beatnik crowd is so impressed with Walter's art they throw him a party.  Walter is the nouveau genius of the art world, and all he has to do to stay on top is kill a few people.

This movie is a no-holds barred satire on the entire beatnik culture, and skewers it in so many ways, it's almost criminal.  Those of you who have no experience with the Beat culture of the time may not get all the humor, but you will still enjoy it.  An almost bloodless horror movie, taken with the second feature this week is sure to be an enjoyable few hours.

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Made on the same set as A Bucket of Blood, with Dick Miller, the star of that movie appearing here as a flower eating patron of Mushnick's Flower Shop, The Little Shop of Horrors  is one of the funniest things to ever come out of the Corman wing of the horror factory.

Flowers for lunch

Seymour (Johnathan Haze) is the twin of sorts of Walter from A Bucket of Blood.  He is an employee of Mushnick (Mel Welles), along with Audrey (Jackie Joseph) in a run down Skid Row flower shop.  The place barely seems to make ends meet, even with the repeat business of the flower-eating Miller character and a woman who seems to have an endless supply of dead or dying relatives she needs to buy flowers for the funeral.

Mushnick is always on the verge of firing Seymour and does so on one occasion, but Seymour pleads with him and promises to bring him a special plant that he, Seymour, created by cross pollinating a butterwort and a Venus flytrap.   The flower he brings however is extremely peaked and looks like it might not survive even the night.  However, through an accident Seymour discovers that the flower (which he calls Audrey, Jr. after Audrey) responds to blood.

Seymour's little dividend

The plant grows immensely overnight after just some drops of blood from Seymour, but he becomes weak from the blood drain.  Meanwhile the plant has acquired speech and demands "Feed me!" and "I'm hungry!". To escape the rantings Seymour goes out for a walk, and while idly tossing a rock at a bottle, accidentally knocks out a man that is subsequently run over by a train.  Seymour gathers up the body parts and takes the back to feed Audrey Jr.

A hand a day keeps the doctor away!

The next day, Seymour, who has a tooth ache, is sent to the dentist.  The dentist, a sadist, tries to bore and remove teeth that don't even hurt, and Seymour, in defending himself, kills the dentist.  Which he takes the body back to feed Audrey Jr.  By this time "Jr." is a misnomer because the damn thing takes up nearly half the shop.  And it draws attention.  Money is coming in to Mushnik's.

But the police, represented by Det. Joe Fink (Wally Campo) and Frank Stoolie (Jack Warford) who are investigating the disappearance of the dentist and a railroad detective (it turns out the other man was not just a hobo) are snooping around.  This pair put on a hilarious parody of the team from Dragnet, that, if anything, is even funnier than the Stan Freberg/Daws Butler audio parody St. George and the Dragonet.

No. I'm Stoolie.  He's Fink.

This movie was remade in the 80's as a musical with Rick Moranis in the Seymour role, and Audrey jr. voiced by Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops).   For a comparison you might watch the two in tandem, but the musical in my opinion pales in comparison.

Well, that's this week's trip with the Plymouth Fury.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Be sure to buckle up and drive safely, kiddies.



  1. So cool, Quiggy, how Roger Corman launched so many amazing careers...I think Ron Howard worked for him, too. Little Shop is a total classic, as is Bucket of Blood...Corman's vision of mixing horror with black humor was a key to his enduring B-movies.
    Loved this post - and it's awesome title - Blood and Flowers, very inspired!!

    1. Thanks, Chris. But I thought the title was kinda lame. But I couldn't come up with anything else. Actually I was hoping to find a 60's psychedelic rock title, but none of the titles I saw worked.


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