What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of something called the Corman-verse Blog-A-Thon hosted by RealweegieMidget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis. Our two hosts have given me a perfect opportunity to show my similarities to Roger Corman. Dubsism certainly has a niche following because it can be exceptionally deranged while hopefully remaining entertaining. But you will be the ultimate judge.
But before you pass judgement on my silliness, be sure to check out all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
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A Bucket of Blood opens at the Yellow Door Café, a fashionable night spot for the beach beatnik crowd in Venice, California. The story starts with busboy Walter Paisley (played by Dick Miller) becoming entranced by poetry recital being done by Maxwell H. Brock (played by Julian Burton). Brock has all the smarmy, self-important stylings one would expect from a poet; for some reason his open contempt for Walter’s dim-witted ways does not dissuade the busboy’s burgeoning admiration.
If it isn’t Maxwell’s words which attract Walter, it’s his friends… the sketch artist Carla (played by Barboura Morris) in particular. There’s also the Yellow Door Café’s owner Leonard De Santis (played by Anthony Carbone). While Walter is trying to work his way into the Yellow Door’s “inner circle,” so are two undercover police officers. The cops Art Lacroix (played by Ed Nelson) and Lou Raby (played by Bert Convy) suspect the café is a haven for dealing drugs.
Walter is growing increasingly frustrated with his inability to get the patrons of the Yellow Door to see him as an artist. One night, when his attempts are failing, he lashes out in anger and inadvertently kills his landlady’s cat. After overcoming his is initial horror, he covers the dead cat with clay, then gives it to Leonard and Carla as a work of art.
Unaware of the horrifying nature of Walter’s “sculpture,” Leonard and Carla are amazed by it’s realism. Leonard puts it on display it in the café. That evening. Walter basks in the adulation of his work from the Yellow Door’s cliéntele… including Maxwell. A customer named Naolia (played by Jhean Burton) , is so moved by the work that she offers Walter a small vial as a gift. Having seen the exchange, Officer Raby puts the tail on Walter. Once they arrive at Walter’s apartment, Raby confronts Walter and demands to see the vial. Raby discovers it contains heroin, at which point he wants to know the name of his dealer.
Two things go wrong for Walter at this point. When Raby tries to arrest him, Walter kills him with a frying pan. Meanwhile back at Yellow Door, Leonard accidentally knocks over the cat “sculpture” and discovers its true origin.
The next day at the café, Walter is greeter by a torrent of sarcasm from Leonard, who is deriding him about his artistic “talent.” Carla and Maxwell spring to Walter’s defense. which encourages him to reveal his latest “work”…something he calls “Murdered Man.” Obviously, this gobsmacks Leonard. He decides he’s calling the cops, but he is interrupted before he can by a wealthy art collector who offers him five hundred dollars for the cat “sculpture.”
With much trepidation, Leonard agrees to the sale. Later, he accompanies Carla to Walter’s apartment, where he unveils his new “work.” Knowing what he knows about the cat “sculpture,” Leonard is suspicious of the new “statue” (yes, it’s Lou Raby’s body covered with clay). As a result, Leonard refuses to display Walter’s new “statue,” the work at the Yellow Door. Carla and Walter question his refusal, but Leonard deflects them by suggesting Walter create more pieces to form his own show. He also advises Walter to move away from realism and try the “free form”style. To encourage Walter, Leonard gives him $50 from the sale of the cat “Sculpture.”
Overjoyed by what he thinks is newfound success, Walter quits his busboy job and goes full “beatnik” with his lifestyle. He joins Maxwell’s table of artists at the Yellow Door. Another new face at the table is a part-time model named Alice (played by Judy Bamber). Unaware of Walter’s ascendance from the status of busboy, she berates him. After hearing enough from Alice, Walter leaves, but he later asks her to pose for his next work. Once he has her in his apartment, Walter strangles her and gives her the “Lou Raby” treatment. The next day, Walter takes his newest “sculpture” to the café for display.
Maxwell is now clearly taken with Walter’s abilities, and after an entire evening of basking in Maxwell’s adulation, a drunken Walter stumbles home, but has a growing fear that his fame may be fleeting. He then spots a man working at a lumber mill; Walter decapitates him with a table saw.
Leonard is again horrified when Walter shows up at the Yellow Door with another “sculpture;” this one a bust. He exhorts Walter to stop sculpting; stating they have enough pieces for a show. Walter agrees, and Leonard puts on all the preparations for the show.
Heady with his success, Walter believes this show will be the pivotal moment in his life. As it is about to happen, he proposes to Carla…who turns him down. Despite the rejection, Carla tells Walter she still admires his work, and Walter asks her to pose for another of his works. She agrees, having no clue what Walter has in store for her.
However, once Carla gives the “Alice” sculpture a closer look, she discovers Walter’s secret and confronts him. Walter responds by quoting Maxwell’s poetry and justifies his crimes by saying he has “immortalized worthless people.” Realizing she’s dealing with a monster who intends to kill her, Carla flees for her life. While Walter gives chase, Lou Raby’s police officer partner Art Lacroix also discovers the truth about Walter’s “sculptures.”
Walter’s facade is crumbling fast; the final failing comes as Maxwell and the rest of the Yellow Door crowd get wise to him. With his world closing in on him, Walter begins to succumb to the voices in his head from his victims which are telling him he’s has gone from adulation to revulsion. He abandoned his pursuit of Carla to take refuge in his apartment. By the time Carla, Maxwell, and Art Lacroix catch up to Walter, he has hanged himself.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
This is a case where the preview except really say it all. Professional wrestling in the 1980s is the perfect example of what sports would look like if it were directed by Roger Corman. His films tend to be quirky quirk, can skew dark, and always brimming with melodrama. That’s also nearly a perfect description of professional wrestling in the 1980s.
Today, professional tends to follow a very corporate model; it’s become highly-polished bit of “sport-o-tainment” and it’s characters have very specifically defined roles and their images are carefully constructed an maintained. Think “movies in the heart of the ‘studio’ era.”
But in the 1980s, just as Vince McMahon was unifying all the various “regions” in wrestling into what would be come today’s World’s Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), it was a time when the transition spawned a search for what would sell. In other words, some of the trial-and-error led to some legendary characters.
To this day, 80s wrestlers are still mythic figures; people still know the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. In my very own collection of t-shirts, you can find homages to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. If this were A Bucket of Blood, those would be the people around Maxwell’s table at the Yellow Door Café. Following that analogy, the wrestling “Walter” trying to get a seat at the table would be Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
Snuka was a popular figure in his own right, and while he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996, he never made into the “elite” inner circle of WWE. He was best known for three things. There were the flying antics which earned him his nickname.. True “old-school” wrestling fans will never forget the infamous episode of Piper’s Pit…which just might play a role in Snuka’s brain injury (that becomes important later.).
But most germane to today’s analogy…like Walter Paisley, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a murderer.
May 10, 1983: shortly after he defeated José Estrada at a WWE (then WWF) television taping at the Lehigh County Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Snuka called for an ambulance from his room at the George Washington Motor Lodge. When emergency personnel arrived, they found a woman with a major head injury. The woman was Snuka’s girlfriend, 23-year old Nancy Argentino. Snuka was eight days shy of his 40th birthday at the time.
EMS transported her to Allentown’s Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead; the cause being listed as “undetermined cranio-cerebral injuries.” The coroner’s report stated Argentino died of “traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object.” There was also documentation that Argentino had over than two dozen cuts and bruises on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs, and feet. Isidore Mihalakis was the forensic pathologist who did Argentino’s autopsy, and his official finding was the case should be investigated as a homicide.
Given the circumstances, Snuka was the only suspect investigated. At the time, no charges were filed. The criminal case was never closed, but Argentino’s parents won a $500,000 wrongful judgement against Snuka in 1985.
However, in 2013 Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced his staff was reviewing the case as it had never been closed. On January 28, 2014, the Argentino case was bound over to a grand jury. Snuka was indicted for third-degree murder.
32 years after Argentino’s death, Snuka was arrested on September 1, 2015. Snuka’s lawyers agreed to forego a preliminary hearing, as the prosecution believed was unnecessary as the grand jury process had already essentially accomplished what the hearing would have. Regardless, the net effect was to speed the process. In response, WWE removed Snuka from the Hall of Fame section of their website.
November 2, 2015: Snuka enters a plea of “not guilty.” However, Judge Kelly Banach ordered a hearing to determine Snuka’s competency to stand trial. By now, Snuka was in his 70s, and the effects of decades of bouncing his brain off wrestling rings around the world was showing.
June 1, 2016: Judge Banach rules Snuka is not fit to stand trial. Eventually the charges would be dismissed as Snuka was now terminally ill. 12 days after the charges were dismissed, on January 15, 2017 Snuka died in hospice care.
The Moral of the Story:
Regardless of the situation, trust your instincts when something isn’t what it seems to be.
FUN FACT: The very same person who plays Lou Raby undercover snitch-cop would later become famous for hosting a celebrity game-show called Tattle Tales. Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Bert Convy has made an appearance in this series.
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I love how you always find a quirky film with a real life link to Sports and this sounds a perfectly bonkers films.. and I would certainly not add you to the deranged blogging list as we have so many great (and quirky) films in common. Thanks for joining the blogathon – and love to co host with you again one day soon x
Well, I have been kicking around an idea for November like the Marine blog-a-thon we did a while back…
Can we do one next year..got joint ones in December and October. But will definitely join if you hold one in November…
That works 🙂
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Cool! Looking forward to the blogathon and next year…
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I’ve never heard of Jimmy Snuka until now, but that was quite the story. Thanks for your interesting post, comparing A Bucket of Blood to the dark side of professional wrestling. Truly food for thought. Thanks for joining the blogathon, as well!
Very clever observations. You are right, Corman movies and the WWA have a lot of things in common!
Interesting article. As a child of wrestling in the 80s, I am familiar with ‘Superfly’ but somehow never managed to hear of his murder indictment. I do, however, know about A Bucket of Blood. It is a darkly fun movie with Dick Miller proving he was more than capable of taking on lead roles.