"I refuse to repeat anything. Repetition is death" exclaims the tuxedo and sandal wearing beat poet (after a girl asks him to recite a poem again!). This prompts the admiring but lowly waiter Dick Miller to enter the crazy world of 60s pop youth culture. 'Cool, dude' you might say. But he does so by first by killing first a cat and then people and casting them in creepy poses. Corman's slice of beat era, cafe culture is a time capsule gem of a low-budget movie, if not quite the classic many proclaim.
The hilariously pretentious beat poet's pronouncements on what is and is not worthy are priceless. As are the jibes at the vacuousness of celebrity adoration - something that resonates just as strongly thirty years on. No sooner does former looser Miller present his plaster cast cat than the chicks in the cafe are pressing him for another 'masterpiece'. He rapidly builds up a cult following as the new artiste on the scene but his work soon becomes repetitive and, as we know, repetition is death.
Like so much of Corman's output from this era, this was shot in an amazingly short period - four days in this instance - the finished article is then all the more remarkable for that. The Yellow Door Cafe where much of the action takes place and all the key characters hang provides a simply terrific backdrop to the beard-stroking. Much of the dialogue is laugh out loud funny. At the time of its release it wouldn't have sounded anachronistic but Corman's skill of observation and wit guarantees that he knew what he was doing when enlisted Charles B. Griffith to write it. Consequently, it feels amazingly close to Corman's other counterculture entry from the same era The Little Shop of Horrors, also written by Griffith. Favourite credit: "Sax Solo by Paul Horn". 7/10
Rob Dyer (November 2005)
Crucible of Terror
House of Wax (1954)
Little Shop of Horrors, The (1960)
A-Z of Film Reviews