*. This is the first of the collaborations by Roger Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith. It was immediately followed by the better-known Little Shop of Horrors, to which it bears a very close resemblance: the same nebbish hero, the same story structure, and even the same sets and a lot of the same cast.
*. Dick Miller expressed some disappointment at what might have been, had there been more time and money (the film was shot in five days on a $50,000 budget). I wonder. It’s not true that more money always leads to a better film. Some directors do their best work on tight schedules with limited resources. Mario Bava, I think, is one such director. Roger Corman was probably another. I don’t think Corman ever wanted (at least in the sense of “needed”) a larger budget.
*. Say what you will about Corman, but he was at least a competent director and his material was usually offbeat and interesting enough to carry a picture.
*. This is a gentle but effective satire of beatnik culture. The poetry seems spot-on to me, and the foodie-talk still works. In fact, it may be more relevant than ever.
*. Dick Miller is just a fun actor to watch. He always seems smarter than his material, but not in a way that plays down to it. He manages to bring something special out of even minor roles. I’m not sure he could carry the lead in a big movie, but in a little picture like this he’s perfect.
*. There’s something timeless about the story of the failed artist selling his soul for a hit. And Walter’s frustration here is palpable. I love how he tries to work the clay into a face and is reduced to yelling at it to “Be a nose!”
*. In addition to a re-make in 1995 this was also the direct inspiration for Herschell Lewis’s Color Me Blood Red. That was a terrible movie, and highlights the vast gulf that you can find separating genre films occupying the same band of the budget spectrum. A little talent, in whatever department, goes a lot further with less money.