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