A talentless artist accidentally kills a cat and covers it up in plaster. He then sells it as a statue, and starts gaining the respect of the snobby group of artist that used to ridicule him. But now he has to come up with more and more statues, so he starts to kill humans and cover them up.
Roger Corman’s quickie masterpiece, much more satisfying than its better-known semi-remake The Little Shop of Horrors, this mixes the old favourite House of Wax business of coating corpses to create artworks with cool satire of the then-current beatnik scene.
Terminally untalented artist wannabe Walter Paisley hailed as a genius by the beatniks who hang out at the café where he works as a bus-boy when he coats a dead cat in clay and is hailed as a great sculptor. Naturally, if he wants to stay a success, Paisley has to find more subjects, turning out works with titles like 'Severed Head' and 'Murdered Man'.
Dick Miller, one of the most prolific bit-players in the movies, gets a rare leading role as a whining, initially good-natured schmuck who so desperately wants to be creative that he’s willing to commit murder and so hooked on acclaim that he becomes a serial killer to keep the masterpieces coming. Also funny is Anthony Carbone as the beret-wearing art dealer who catches on early and is torn between avarice and disgust, but unwilling to turn the killer in to the cops while his gruesome sculptures are making his gallery hot. Screenwriter Charles Griffith has a knack for spot-on beat dialogue, especially when pretentious poet Max Brock composes a hilarious ode to Walter’s genius, accompanied by freeform jazz – 'A master sculptor is in our midst,' Brock tells his acolytes, 'hands of genius have been carrying away the empty cups of your frustrations. His is the silent voice of creation within the dark, rich soil of humility, he blossoms as the hope of our nearly sterile century ... bring me an espresso, Walter.' A near-perfect miniature, shot fast and cheap and imaginative, with a mix of macabre humour and surprising melancholy.
A fun tale from the B-movie basement.