The Art of Fear: A Bucket of Blood

Who says the art world isn’t scary? The Art of Fear takes on Roger Corman’s classic A Bucket of Blood.

If there’s a better satirical film on the art world than A Bucket of Blood (1959) then I certainly haven’t seen it (Pecker and Untitled come close-ish). Corman’s hilarious jab at the beatnik artist types of the 1950s easily translates into the ridiculousness of today’s contemporary art world. Though made by the ‘King of B-movies’ and reportedly made for a mere $50k, A Bucket of Blood is a thoughtful and provoking look at the beginning of contemporary art as cultural phenomenon. It owes a lot to House of Wax in its relationship to revenge and the frustrating experience of creating artwork whether the artist is deformed as in House of Wax or without talent as in A Bucket of Blood. However, it quite cleverly mimics the capriciousness of the art world. As Sarah Thornton writes in her enthnographic study Seven Days in the Art World, ‘It’s [the contemporary art world] structured around nebulous and often contradictory hierarchies of fame, credibility, imagined historical importance, institutional affiliation, education, perceived intelligence, wealth, and attributes such as the size of one’s collection.’[1] More than fifty years after its release, the satire in A Bucket of Blood is still relevant and relatable.

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The Art of Fear: The Fall of the House of Usher

Family portraits in The Fall of the House of Usher encapsulate the Usher’s ‘plague of evil’.

The second film for The Art of Fear is Roger Corman’s vibrant The Fall of the House of Usher or House of Usher (1960) starring the estimable Vincent Price. Like The Picture of Dorian Gray the film adapts a literary classic, Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of the same name published in 1839. It is the first of eight movies Corman would use Poe, sometimes adding a little H.P. Lovecraft into the mix, and besides The Masque of the Red Death it is the best of the bunch. Paintings actually factor in many of the Corman/Price/Poe movies – remember the watchful painting of the ‘dead’ wife in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and the looming ancestral portrait in The Haunted Palace (1963). Considering Corman’s original A Bucket of Blood (next feature on AOF), perhaps he has an art fetish!

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