You gotta conceal the bodies if you wanna make it into the art-house, Roger Corman can dig it. The hulking poet (Julian Burton) in sandals and taped-on beard faces the camera in a Beat peroration ("What is not creation is graham crackers..."), the spotlight pulls back to reveal a busy night at the Yellow Door, a dive thick with smoke and pretension. Stumbling from table to table is the twitchy busboy (Dick Miller) with artistic dreams, at home he flounders as a sculptor until a note from Poe places a skewered feline next to his bag of clay. (Corpses into effigies, cp. House of Wax, the inspiration hits him in the kitchen while a stream of blood drips into a basin.) Undercover narc cleaved by frying pan, bitchy model throttled mid-pose, unlucky laborer with buzz saw—soon the gallery has enough works for an exhibition. Flush with beret, ascot and Zen stick, the murderous dweeb blows the mind of the poseurette (Barboura Morris): "Free-form?! With his talent for realism?" Craftsmen versus creators in Corman's lovingly sardonic thesis on aestheticism, a Polaroid of Greenwich Village swiftly snapped and furiously shaken. (Frank and Leslie's Pull My Daisy is contemporaneous, along with Kienholz's John Doe.) The wannabes and sycophants and frauds of "creative living," its faddish fortunes and morbid epiphanies, Charles B. Griffith's wry screenplay doesn't miss a thing. The schlub crowned hepcat, the bit player made leading man, the exploitation impresario turned satirist. "A film of fear," says Godard of Becker's Modigliani (Montparnasse 19), the auteur-maniac besieged by voices finally grabs noose and plaster for his ultimate masterpiece. "Crazy! What did he say?" "Didn't you hear him?" "Nah, man, I'm too far out." Quite the feast on a low budget, and there's dessert still (The Little Shop of Horrors). With Antony Carbone, Ed Nelson, Bert Convy, Judy Bamber, Myrtle Vail, and Bruno Vesota. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce