Walter (Dick Miller, aka that guy from Gremlins and Demon Knight) is a waiter at a beatnik restaurant who wants to be in on the scene but is a total dork. One day, he accidentally kills a cat with plaster and becomes a popular artist from the results. Eventually, he resorts to homicidal measures to keep his newfound fame.
The set for this movie was reused for Corman's next collaboration with Griffith, The Little Shop of Horrors.
This film contains examples of;
- An Aesop: Be Yourself, which Walter is unable to do. It gets many people killed, including himself.
- Author Avatar: People have speculated that Walter is one for Roger Corman — an artist unable to be recognized by his peers. Corman has laughed it off, and noted that it's possible but wasn't intentional.
- Bad People Abuse Animals: Paisley's first kill in the movie is a cat he covers with plaster and presents as an art piece. Downplayed as its a genuine accident; he was trying to cut him out of the wall and, by chance, stuck the knife in the part of the wall where he was.
- Big Bad: Walter Paisley, a waiter who makes sculptures out of corpses.
- Bloodless Carnage: Despite the title of the movie, the kills aren't particularly graphic. Justified, given the time at which the film was made.
- Driven to Suicide: Walter, unable to bear the guilt of what he's done, hangs himself after covering himself in plaster. Maxwell proclaims it his greatest work, and remarks that Walter would have named it "Hanging Man."
- Gaining the Will to Kill: Walter gets there in an encounter with Lou over a vial of heroin he'd been passed.
- Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death
- Human Resources: Sculptures made of corpses.
- If I Can't Have You : All but stated with Walters asking Carla to model for him after she turns down his wedding proposal.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Walter is a dark example who'll resort to murder to stay in with the beatniks.
- Mad Artist: Walter makes sculptures out of corpses.
- The Sociopath: Walter Paisley, a nerd who is so desperate for recognition that he's willing to kill people and make art from their corpses.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Annoyance Theatre produced a musical in 2009
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Naolia, the girl who slips Walter a vial of heroin is directly responsible for his Gaining the Will to Kill and becoming a murderer.
- Villain Protagonist: We follow Walter, a guy so desperate to make beatnik friends that he kills people and animals to make sculptures from their bodies.
- The X of Y