Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Beat Generation Classic in the Three-Dollar DVDs





Kathleen and I were at Big Lots this afternoon and we were going through the $3 DVDs when I spotted A Bucket of Blood. She was a little confused about my excitement in finding it, as I don't like violent movies. I explained that it was a Beat Generation classic, filmed in Venice, California. It was an early effort of director Roger Corman, who produced it in five days on a $50,000 budget. Even in 1959 dollars, it was a tiny budget for a film.


The opening scene was well worth the $3 price. Character actor Julian Burton is the poet, and his poem, though a parody, isn't a gross one. Part of it seems to be a parody of Kenneth Rexroth's "Thou Shalt Not Kill: A Memorial to Dylan Thomas," which was a staple of Beat poetry readings and an obvious influence on Allen Ginsberg's Howl: For Carl Solomon.


Some of the coffeehouse scenes were shot at The Gas House, a Venice landmark that was torn down in the early Sixties. For someone who was a bit young to experience the Beat scene in its heyday, A Bucket of Blood is a window on that era.


It's not a great movie, but it's certainly a great period piece. In a later coffeehouse scene, an unknown folksinger performs a creditable rendition of Ewan MacColl's "The Ballad of Tim Evans." Dick Miller, who played the lead role in the film, told writer Beverly Gray that "The story was good, the acting was good, the humor in it was good, the timing was right, everything about it was right—-but they didn't have any money for production values, and it suffered."


It's too bad there weren't some DVD extras about the Beat era and the making of the film. But for three bucks, I can't complain



10 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't think I've even heard of this. Corman did some weird stuff.

Lisa said...

This is pretty funny. It's like a parody of everything I think of when I think about Beat coffee houses and poetry readings. It reminds me of a night many years ago when I was visiting my father, stepmother, and younger sister and brother. We spontaneously broke out into "Beat Night" and sat around the kitchen table with my brother's keyboard (for random musical accompaniment) and we all put on hats and sunglasses and took turns making up nonsense poetry. There are pictures somewhere :)

Olivia said...

*cries* I can't handle the weird weight of this beatnik stuff...!

steve on the slow train said...

Charles--Weird stuff indeed.

Lisa--It's a parody, but the atmosphere is pretty realistic. Only the coffeehouse owner wers a beret, the beats don't all dress the same, and middle-aged tourists are there to take in the beat scene. And the grungiest-looking "beat" is an undercover cop.

Olivia--Good start for a Beat poem. (It would surely be better than the opening poem of "A Bucket of Blood.")

Elizabeth said...

awesome -- what a find

Olivia said...

Haha! Well that's how they make me feel so I guess they've succeeded! I'm just too sensitive.

steve on the slow train said...

Elizabeth--I agree

Olivia--There's some really good Beat stuff out there, honest! Just about anything by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And "Marriage" by Gregory Corso is hilarious. In fact, I think I'll use that in my next post. Kathleen and I joked about using it at our wedding. But we used Shakespeare's "Let me not to the marriage of true minds," which is pretty hard to outdo,

Anne said...

I just watched Bucket of Blood! It was much better than I expected I must say. I was actually rather impressed. I tried to do some research about the folksinger, and I found a site that said that the he was named Alex Hassilev who later joined the Limeliters. I watched some videos on youtube of the Limeliters, and I think it is him for he plays the guitar in the same unusual way. Not sure if you had found this already, but I thought I'd share. This is my first time writing on your blog...

steve on the slow train said...

Anne--Wow--you even created a Blogger ID. I hadn't been able to find out the name of the unidentified folksinger. Thanks for finding it out. I know that Al Kniola, of "The Back Porch" on WVPE, is a big fan of the Limeliters.

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