Category Archives: Roger Corman

Blu-Ray Review: A Bucket Of Blood (1959).

Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Cinematography: Jacques R. Marquette
Music by Fred Katz
Film Editor: Anthony Carras

Cast: Dick Miller (Walter Paisley), Barboura Morris (Carla), Antony Carbone (Leonard de Santis), Julian Burton (Maxwell H. Brock), Ed Nelson (Art Lacroix), John Brinkley (Will), John Herman Shaner (Oscar), Judy Bamber (Alice), Myrtle Vail (Mrs. Swickert), Bert Convy (Detective Lou Raby), Jhean Burton (Naolia)

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This is the kind of blog, read by the kind of people, where A Bucket Of Blood (1959) doesn’t require a lot of set-up. It was written by Charles B. Griffith, directed by Roger Corman for AIP, shot in five days for $50,000 (on sets left over from Diary Of A High School Bride), with the great Dick Miller in the lead. The end result is wonderful.

So, 60 years later, we get A Bucket Of Blood on Blu-Ray from Olive Films, part of their Signature series, and it’s incredible. You probably never thought you’d see this movie look like this. I certainly didn’t.

Sure, it’s still a $50,000 movie about a guy that kills people to make statues. But now we get a chance to really appreciate all that’s going on. We see Corman showing some real confidence as a director, displaying some real chops here and there — and turning out one of the better Horror Comedies, a very-hard-to-pull-off sub-genre. Dick Miller makes Walter Paisley both a lovable chump and a creepy killer. And everyone seems to be in on the fun when it comes to showing us how pretentious, cynical and hypocritical the whole Beatnik scene could be. The dime-store set design is really effective and fun to study in high definition.

Olive Films has given A Bucket Of Blood the attention I think it deserves. We’ve seen it looking so bad for so long — from muddy 16mm dupes to crappy PD VHS tapes and DVDs, it’s a bit of a shock to see it so crisp and clean. I found myself pausing it repeatedly to study things.

Along with the movie looking like a million bucks, a big leap from its $50K origins, we get a bucket-load of terrific extras, most courtesy of Elijah Drenner, whose documentary That Guy Dick Miller is a treasure. Drenner provides a new interview with Corman, an audio commentary and a wonderful visit with Dick Miller and his wife Lanie. This package is a joy from one end to the other, and a great way to revisit an old favorite. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, AIP, Charles B. Griffith, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Olive Films, Roger Corman

Blu-Ray News #262: The Beast With 1,000,000 Eyes (1955).

Directed by David Kramarsky
Starring Paul Birch, Lorna Thayer, Dona Cole, Dick Sargent, Chester Conklin

The Beast With 1,000,000 Eyes (1955),  early effort from AIP (called American Releasing Corporation at the time), features Paul Blaisdell’s first monster, was partially directed by Roger Corman (who fired David Kramarsky midway through production) and stars the great Paul Birch.

It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Scorpion Releasing with a new transfer and a commentary by Tim Lucas. Can’t wait.

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Filed under 1955, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paul Birch, Paul Blaisdell, Roger Corman, Scorpion Releasing

Blu-Ray Review: The Shooting And Ride In The Whirlwind (Both 1966).

This was a post I really wanted to get right. There were two previous attempts, which I hated and discarded (to say too much about these movies, in a way, takes away from them). Hope the third time’s the charm.

The backstory. Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson did a couple of pictures in the Philippines for Roger Corman (Back Door To Hell and Flight To Fury, both 1964). When there was talk of doing something else, Corman asked them to make a Western. That became two Westerns to be shot back-to-back — similar to their Filipino arrangement. The budgets were $75,000 apiece, with  three weeks scheduled for each.

Nicholson wrote Ride In The Whirlwind and The Shooting came from Carole Eastman (as Adrian Joyce). Both films were shot in Utah by Gregory Sandor, with Nicholson serving as producer. They share the same tiny crew and Nicholson and Millie Perkins in the casts. The Shooting was done first, with a period of about a week before Ride In The Whirlwind started. The finished films played a few festivals (Montreal, Cannes) and some foreign bookings, but were sold straight to TV in the States (though Variety reviewed Ride In The Whirlwind back in ’66).

There were plenty of ugly VHS releases before VCI brought them to DVD. That was a great day indeed, and these terrific little Westerns started to find an audience. They’ve been given the red-carpet treatment by The Criterion Collection, with an incredible batch of extras. It took quite a while, but they’re finally getting their due.

The Shooting
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Adrian Joyce (Carole Eastman)
Director Of Photography: Gregory Sandor

Cast: Warren Oates (Willett Gashade), Will Hutchins (Coley), Millie Perkins (The Woman), Jack Nicholson (Billy Spear)

The Shooting was shot first (and I saw it first), so we’ll begin with it. Warren Oates returns to his mining camp to learn that his brother killed a boy in town and fled. Then a mysterious woman (Millie Perkins) appears and pays Oates to lead her to the town of Kingsley, for reasons she won’t share. They begin their trip through the desert, trailed by a lone gunman dressed in black (Nicholson).

Ride In The Whirlwind
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Jack Nicholson
Director Of Photography: Gregory Sandor

Cast: Cameron Mitchell (Vern), Millie Perkins (Abigail), Jack Nicholson (Wes), Harry Dean Stanton (Blind Dick), Katherine Squire (Catherine), George Mitchell (Evan), Rupert Crosse (Indian Joe), Tom Filer (Otis)

A group of cowboys (Cameron Mitchell, Jack Nicholson and Tom Filer) stumble upon a cabin where Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton) and his gang invite them in. The next morning, the cabin’s surrounded by a posse — and the three innocents are instantly wanted men.

The idea in The Shooting of the gunman after someone, we don’t know who, is the backbone of Jack Arnold’s No Name On The Bullet (1959) with Audie Murphy. When it comes to Ride In The Whirlwind, there are plenty of innocent men on the run movies. There’s a fatalist, noir-ish feel to some of both films’ dialogue, but that comparison falls apart, too. These were unlike any Western that came before them — or after them, for that matter.

While most of Roger Corman’s young directors showed promise under his leadership, then went on to do great things, Monte Hellman managed to make two great films while still in the Corman camp. These seem to share the same basic approach as his Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) — a deceptively simple, and purposefully vague, situation is established, and for the rest of the picture, we watch the characters react to that situation. In The Shooting, like Oates, we don’t know what the hell is going on, but we’re pretty sure it’s not going to be good. Ride In The Whirlwind lets us share the desperation of Mitchell and Nicholson. And we don’t get to know the characters of Two-Lane Blacktop because there really isn’t anything to know — they just keep going.

There have been complaints over the years that some of the performances in these Westerns are wooden. The leads seem pitch-perfect to me. Millie Perkins and Jack Nicholson are fine in both. Cameron Mitchell was always dependable, no matter what kind of junk he was in. Will Hutchins is terrific. And Warren Oates was simply one of the best film actors ever, incapable of being less than stellar (and Hellman seemed to draw his best work out of him).

The camerawork from Gregory Sandor is stunning. There was no time or money or crew for lights, so everything was done with natural light. The frame of Oates with the coffee cup, above, from a long take in the first few minutes of The Shooting, sums up these movies for me. The lighting seems real, not Hollywood, and the oddball composition is perfectly imperfect. For some reason, that image has stuck with me for over 20 years.

The new 4K masters done for the Criterion release are some of the best I’ve ever seen, for any movie. Both The Shooting and Ride In The Whirlwind really look like film here, and the color seems rich even though everything is brown and dusty. Just as there was no time or money for lights, there wasn’t much for makeup, either. Millie Perkins didn’t feel she was presented very well in either film, though I disagree. She looks exactly how she ought to look.

While the merits of every film on video should hinge on the film itself, Criterion put together a series of extras that really add to your appreciation of these gems. The commentaries by Monte Hellman, Blake Lucas and Bill Krohn are some of the best I’ve ever heard. They cover everything you’d ever want to know about how these pictures came to be. Even if the films were terrible, their combined production history would be fascinating stuff. The fact that they’re absolutely brilliant makes it all the more special. Adding the package are interviews and short documentaries.

Back when these Westerns looked awful on VHS, they were something to be tracked down and studied, especially for those with a thing for Monte Hellman. This Criterion set, presenting both in stunning quality and with a serious stack of extras, is nothing short of essential. My highest recommendation.

A big thanks to Blake Lucas.

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Filed under 1966, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Nicholson, Monte Hellman, Morris Ankrum, Roger Corman, Warren Oates

Blu-Ray News #252: A Bucket Of Blood Signature Edition (1959).

Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Starring Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Bert Convy, Julian Burton

Olive Films has announced their September release of their Signature Edition release of Roger Corman’s A Bucket Of Blood (1959).

Short in five days for something like $50,000, A Bucket Of Blood is an ink-black comedy starring Dick Miller as Walter Paisley. Paisley’s a bonehead who becomes a respected artist among all the hipsters with his piece “Dead Cat,” which happens to be, well, a dead cat. As his fame grows, so does his need for more art — and the bodies his creations require.

Olive is offering up a bucket-load of extras, beginning with a new 4K scan, a commentary, a few interviews, trailers and other goodies. This one’s essential, folks!

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Filed under 1959, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, Olive Films, Roger Corman

Blu-Ray News #236: Target: Harry (AKA How To Make It, 1969).

Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Vic Morrow, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Ansara, Cesar Romero, Stanley Holloway, Victor Buono, Charlotte Rampling

This thing’s been almost impossible to track down over the years — a Roger Corman-directed TV movie deemed too violent for TV and sent to theaters instead (similar to Don Siegel’s The Killers). And now Kino Lorber’s bringing it to Blu-Ray.

This is the only Corman picture I haven’t seen. It pairs Batman‘s Joker and King Tut. It was edited by Monte Hellman and scored by Les Baxter. I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1969, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Monte Hellman, Roger Corman

Blu-Ray News #226: Piranha (1978).

Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski, Paul Bartel, Richard Deacon, Bruce Gordon, Stephen The Swimming Swine

I’m so happy to be putting this post together. Because yet another movie that I love dearly, Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978), is getting a real Cadillac of a Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory this June.

One of the prop piranhas.

It’s often called “the best of the Jaws ripoffs.” But it’s more than that. It’s scary. It’s funny. It parades a terrific cast of veteran character actors across the screen. And it just plain entertains. Released the same summer as Jaws 2 (1978), it’s the better picture by far. After all, what could possibly beat a plot like this — scads of piranhas are released into a river, and at the end of the river lies a kids’ summer camp. Pure genius.

Year ago, I was outbid on a 16mm print of this movie that turned up on eBay. This extras-packed Blu-Ray will certainly help right that wrong. Here’s what you’ll get —
4K Remaster from the original camera negative
New Audio Commentary with Roger Corman
Audio Commentary with  Joe Dante & producer Jon Davison
“The Making Of Piranha” – Interviews with Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski & more
Behind-The-Scenes Footage, Bloopers & Outtakes, Additional Scenes from the TV version
Stills, Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots

All that, and it comes in one of those fancy steelbook packages. I can’t wait sink my teeth into this. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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Filed under 1978, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joe Dante, Kevin McCarthy, New World Pictures, Roger Corman, Shout/Scream Factory

Screening: Piranha (1978) On Shout TV.

Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller

I love Piranha (1978), Joe Dante’s Jaws ripoff — produced by Roger Corman and written by John Sayles. I’ve seen it countless times.

Shout TV has a special event planned to celebrate the movie’s 40th anniversary — August 3 on Shout TV’s Twitch channel. To me, this is certainly a movie worth celebrating.

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Filed under 1978, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Kevin McCarthy, New World, Roger Corman, Screenings, Television, William Schallert