Bonus Reviews: Puppet Master II (1991), A Bucket of Blood (1959), and Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Horror Bulletin Bonus Reviews for week 167
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at THREE weird ones. First, we’ll watch the almost-comedy “A Bucket of Blood” from 1959, then we’ll watch the original, absolutely-comedic “Little Shop of Horrors” from 1960. And We’ll continue on from last week “Puppet Master II” the sequel from 1991.
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content, in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an ebook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The March issue is out now!
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Stars Dick Miller, Barboura Mirris, Antony Carbone
Run Time: 1 Hour, 5 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one is a dark comedy for sure. You might not be sick from laughing as the poster warns, but there are some chuckles for sure. Dick Miller, usually a character or supporting role, does an excellent job as lead here. This is one worth checking out.
Brock, a “beat poet,” prattles on about nonsense as Walter Paisley works in the beatnik coffee shop called the Yellow Door. Walter likes Carla’s drawings of the scenes, but his boss Leonard bullies him. The vice cops have this place staked out; Art, the cop on the scene, wears a cowboy hat and a white knit sweater. Walter knows all of Brock’s poetry and can recite it from memory, something even Brock can’t do. Walter says he’s an artist too, and he’s working on… something.
Walter goes home, and the landlady asks if he’s seen Frankie, her cat. His apartment is a mess, but he does have a big glob of clay that he mushes up like a kid with Play-Dough. Actually, a kid with Play-Dough could do better, as he soon finds out that he’s no sculptor. He hears Frankie the cat stuck in the wall. When he tries to cut the wall open, he stabs the cat to death by accident.
Walter looks at the clay. Then he looks at the dead cat. Before long, he has a statue of a dead cat with a knife in its back. Carla and Leonard think it’s great. “What’s it called?” “Dead cat. Wanna buy it?” The dead cat is a big hit at the beatnik club. Brock and all the others rave over the thing. All the “hip cats” say “Walter’s in!” Leonard is jealous and sends Walter home.
Naolia, a woman at the Yellow Door, says, “I want to be with you. You’ve got a hot light bulb inside of you, and I want to warm myself with it.” Walter goes home alone, but she gives him some drugs. Lou follows him, wanting to know about the drugs. Lou’s an undercover cop and arrests Walter. Walter flips out and kills Lou with a frying pan. As Lou’s blood drips into a pan, Walter talks himself into making more art.
Art reports to the station that Lou has gone missing. Leonard accidentally breaks the cat statue and figures out what’s inside. He asks what Walter is going to make next. Walter says he’s got a new one, a life-size human figure called “Murdered Man.” A collector offers Leonard $500 for the cat statue. Leonard can’t say no to that.
Walter brings Carla and Leonard over to see his new statue. Carla says it’s a masterpiece, while Leonard has trouble standing up straight. Leonard doesn’t want to put that thing in his restaurant, so he suggests that Walter save it for a show; it could take years to make a bunch more statues for a show.
Walter shows up at the club the next night with a beret and orders a cappuccino. He’s a beatnik now; a successful sculptor. Alice, a model, comes up and wants him to do her next. Walter follows Alice home to apologize to her, but she’s rude. He says he wants to “do” her after all. He takes her home, strangles her, and boom- new art! This one isn’t an accident.
He takes his new statue to Brock’s place and everyone is deeply moved. Brock decides to throw a party for Walter at the Yellow Door. Walter gets drunk and talks too much. He wonders what he’s going to do next. He wanders into a woodshop and kills the man there with a rotary saw.
The next morning, Walter takes his new work to Leonard. It’s just a head. Leonard tells Walter not to make any more statues; he knows what’s inside. Leonard decides to have that art show for Walter right away, and everyone's invited.
Walter likes Carla, and he asks her what kind of art she likes. He tells her that he doesn’t want to make any more statues; he wants to marry her. She admits that she doesn’t love him. He decides to make a statue of her next, tonight, at his place.
The art show begins. “This man knows his anatomy. He’s a master of Realism,” says the critic. Carla figures out what’s inside some of the statues. She tells Walter, but he says that’s OK, and that he’ll do the same for her. The other guests soon figure it out as well. The chase is on.
Carla loses Walter, but Art pursues Walter with his gun. Walter runs home, “I’ll hide where they’ll never find me. He covers himself in clay and hangs himself as everyone rushes in. “It’s his greatest work,” someone says.
It’s clearly a parody of both modern art and the whole beatnik movement. It’s definitely a horror film, but it’s so silly as to cross well over the borderline into comedy. This came five years after “House of Wax” was a big success, so the basic plot idea had already been done, but doing it as a comedy of accidents was new. Adding in all the beatnik stuff makes this really unique and especially dated, but in a good way. It’s OK to make fun of something as silly as beatniks, right?
Dick Miller was in hundreds of films, but only really starred in a few. This time out, he’s a shy, nerdy little guy with no confidence. He does really well in a comedic role. The ending was pretty rushed, but the majority of the film flowed well, with a few surprises.
Puppet Master II (1991)
Directed by David Allen
Written by Charles Band, David Pabian, David Schmoeller
Stars Elizabeth Maclellan, Colin Bernsen, Steve Welles
Run Time: 1 Hour, 28 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The Puppet Master himself is back in this sequel, as well as the puppets from the first movie and a new one. There’s killing and mayhem, and it’s very good. At least as entertaining as the first one was.
Someone’s digging in the graveyard. We soon see that it’s little Pinhead, digging up Andre Toulon. He pours in some green slime, and moldy arms reach to the sky from the coffin. Leech Girl, Tunneler, Jester, and Blade watch in amazement. Credits roll.
We are back at the Bodega Bay hotel. It’s all locked up and closed; the place is condemned. Four government “ghost hunters,” Carolyn, Patrick, Wanda, and Lance, come in and set up their cameras and monitors. They look at the plans for the place, and the walls are full of tunnels that are too small for a man to crawl in. The palace was built by a mystic woman. Camille arrives, and she’s a psychic. We see that these five people may not be the only ones in the sprawling old hotel.
The old owner is said to have her brain extracted through her nose. There were also a bunch of psychics who were killed here. The only survivor from that incident (the first film) went insane afterwards. Carolyn reads about Andre Toulon. Camille sees two tiny little people in her room, but the others don’t see anything but a couple of kids’ dolls. Camille says they are all in danger, and she’s leaving the hotel tonight. Instead, we see the puppets tie her up and drag her away.
Later, Tunneler attacks and kills Patcrick, but Lance captures and kills Tunneler. Lance dissects the puppet, and finds that it’s all mechanical inside but without any visible power source..
A man comes in, and says his name is Eric, and he’s all bundled up like the Invisible Man. He says he’s lived here for decades. Michael arrives and Caolyn fills him in on Tunneler and Patrick. He is Camille’s son, and he’s come looking for her. As far as they know, she just took off like she said she was going to.
Over at the neighbor’s house, Blade and Leech Girl sneak in and kill the occupants. Unfortunately, Leech Girl gets burnt up in the wood stove. Suddenly, a new puppet, Torch, appears, and he’s got a flame thrower.
Back at the hotel, Eric, who is obviously Andre Toulon, talks to Jester. “Soon, you will regain your full strength, and we will all be our old selves again,” he reassures him. Blade brings him the neighbor’s eyeballs, but they’ve been cooked, so they’re useless for what Toulon is cooking up.
Toulon looks at an old poster and remembers. He toured the world doing a “Faust” show with his first magical “Stringless” puppet. A man in the audience's eyes glow and the whole stage bursts into flames, destroying the puppets. The man then shows Toulon a living puppet; it’s a much better way to make puppets. Toulon’s wife talks him into learning the process.
Back in modern day, Carolyn and Micheal whine to each other about their lives and start to bond. Toulon talks about restoring the puppets and his dead wife, Elsa, who just happens to look like Carolyn. Carolyn and Michael get even closer in bed that night. Toulon tells the puppets to kill everyone except Carolyn. Blade wastes no time in killing Lance and Wanda.
Carolyn decides to check out “Eric’s” rooms and finds all his puppet-making equipment. She finds two life-sized puppets of a man and woman just as Toulon comes up behind her. Downstairs, Torch tries to kill Michael, but fails. Toulon plans to transfer both his and Carolyn’s minds into the big puppets and then they’ll be immortal. Toulon finally takes off his bandages, and he’s just a rotting corpse under there.
Toulon drinks his formula and then cuts his own throat, bleeding out into the male doll. The doll, now Toulon in a new body, stands up and starts to do the same for Carolyn. Suddenly, he squeals like a pig. One of the dolls brought him a pig organ for the formula. But he laughs it off. He gets arrogant and throws Jester aside. Now that he has what he needs, they mean nothing to him. The puppets then turn on Toulon and kill him.
After Carolyn and Micheal leave for their happy ending, we see Jester eyeing Camille’s dead body and the formula. We soon see that they brought her back in the female doll, who drives them away in a van. They plan to go to a children’s mental institution to torment the patients there. Fun times!
Probably the biggest weakness of the first film was that they killed the actual Puppet Master before the credits even came up. This time, it was all about restoring him; that fails in the end, but at least the puppets are given a chance to continue in the many inevitable sequels.
The cast said the director here was awful, since he was the main animator as well and supposedly didn’t know what he was doing as a director. I didn’t see anything especially bad about the direction here from the audience point of view, and in many ways, this film is better than the original. A step in the right direction for a sequel when so many just steadily go downward from their originals.
Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith, Roger Corman
Stars Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles
Run Time: 1 Hour, 12 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The best thing about this is that it inspired a really fun and entertaining musical. It’s a dark comedy that is really not that great in any way.
We hear a detective narrating the most terrifying case of his career. It all began at Mushnick’s flower shop. Dr. Farb, a dentist, calls and orders flowers for his office waiting room. Mushnick has his worker Seymour prepare the order. Seymour is a clumsy oaf who gets everything wrong. Mr. Fouch comes in to order carnations; he doesn’t need them wrapped, he’ll eat them here. Audrey helps an old woman buy funeral flowers.
Mushnik fires Seymour. Still, Seymour says he’s working on a special plant that Mushnick is going to love. Fouch says places that have the weirdest and most unusual plants are the most successful. Seymour goes home for the plant, and his job depends on it.
Seymour’s mother is a hypochondriac and alcoholic, and she scolds Seymour for being a bad son. He grabs his special plant, but it’s not looking too healthy. Seymour says he got the seeds from a sketchy guy; he calls the plant Audrey Junior. Audrey the girl seems to like Seymour quite a lot. Rouch likes the plant and tells Mushnick that it could be really good for business if the plant gets a little healthier.
He’s given the plant every kind of plant food he can think of, but it's not looking any healthier. He accidentally cuts himself and the plant snaps at the drops of blood from Seymour’s fingers. Before long, Seymour has bandages on all ten fingers and Audrey Jr is nearly a foot tall. People keep coming in to see the new plant, so Muchnick is finally happy.
The plant starts looking weaker again, but now it says, “Feed me!” Seymour is a little surprised to find that his plant can talk. On the way home that night, Seymour watches a train run over a man. Seymour decides to feed the body parts to his plant. Mushnick stops in the shop to pick up some money and spots Seymour feeding the plant.
The next morning, Mushnick goes to his store to find people lined up around the block. The Audrey Junior plant is huge now. The girls are all into Seymour now, but he’s got a toothache. Seymour doesn’t think the plant is going to need to feed again, and Mushnick is making too much money to complain much.
Seymour goes to the dentist for his toothache. Dr. Farb isn’t the gentlest dentist. They end up having a duel with dental instruments, and Dr. Farb is killed. A new patient, Wilbur Force, comes in, and Seymour pretends to be the dentist. Wilbur Force is really into pain, and he gets positively excited when Seymour goes to work on his teeth. Later, Seymour feeds the dentist to his now-giant plant.
The police start investigating, and they all talk like Jack Webb in Dragnet. The two cops, Detectives Fink and Stoolie, are on the case. Seymour promises Mushnick that the plant has eaten three times, so it just can’t need any more. A plant expert explains that Seymour has won a trophy, and she’ll be back in a couple of days when those buds are ready to open.
Seymour and Audrey go home for dinner at his mother’s house. She serves them glasses of cough syrup. Muchnick sits and just watches the evil plant this night. The plant opens up and demands to be fed. Mushnick refuses to feed it, but a robber comes in and holds up the store. Mushnick feeds the robber to the plant.
Seymour’s mother says Audrey is just after Seymour’s money, but he’s broke. She whines and cries as TV mothers often do. The plant starts demanding food again, and this time, Audrey hears it. “Shut up and bring on the food!” it demands. The plant hypnotizes Seymour. It then demands Seymour go out in order to find some real food. Instead, Seymour picks up a hooker and brings her home. He thinks she’s volunteering.
Finally, it’s the day of the big award ceremony. Everyone comes in, including the police. The buds are supposed to open in a few minutes. They do open. The faces of all the dead people are inside the buds. Seymour leads the cops on a chase through Skid Row and into a tire factory.
Seymour doubles back to the flower shop and yells at the plant for ruining his life. He threatens to feed the plant like it’s never been fed before as he dives inside with a big knife in hand. Audrey and Seymour’s mother come in and find that Seymour has been eaten by the plant.
It’s a pure comedy, and not a particularly good one either. The whole thing only took 2-½ days to film in entirety. The thing is that it’s so ridiculously bad that it is hilarious, whether intentionally or otherwise. This was the original, which was later turned into a stage play, and eventually the musical and TV series.
It’s really… something.
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