In the Yellow Door Cafe, beatnik poet Maxwell House is weaving his groovy mojo over the patrons. The busboy, Walter Paisley, clears tables and attempts to share his poetry but is laughed at by everyone except a kind patron, Carla.
Walter goes home to his apartment where his landlady, Mrs. Swickert is looking for her cat. He attempts to create a sculpture of Carla’s face. While lamenting his lack of creative talent, he hears the mewing of a cat stuck within the wall of his apartment. Walter attempts to free the cat by cutting a hole in the wall, accidentally stabbing the kitty and killing it. While fretting over how to handle this development, Walter is reminded of Maxwell’s beatnik poem, encouraging him to create a new piece of work and immortalize the cat.
The next morning, Walter shows the cat to Carla and his boss Leonard. Leonard dismisses the disturbing statue, but Carla is enthusiastic about the work and convinces Leonard to display it in the café. Carla’s boyfriend, Lou, enters with the other regulars and is instantly in love with the Dead Cat.
A rich woman, Mrs. Jones offers to buy it on the spot, solidifying Walter as a profitable artist and Leonard as his representation. Leonard encourages Walter to go make more sculptures. Walter is stopped on his way out by Alice, a local beat chick and girlfriend of Maxwell’s. She gives him some “tea” to help unlock his creative mind. Not understanding he’s just accepted a bag of drugs, Walter happily leaves for home. Lou spots the hand off and makes a hasty exit leaving Carla all alone.
Walter is making teawhen Lou knocks on his door. Lou reveals that he’s an undercover cop and attempts to take Walter into custody for narcotics possession. In a blind panic, thinking Lou is about to shoot him, Walter struggles with Lou over a gun. Lou’s gun goes off and Lou drops dead. When Walter begins to panic again, the same voices begin to manifest and convince Walter to make another statue out of Lou.
The next day, Leonard is examining the Cat statue and notices a bit of clay has come loose. Seeing the dead cat under the clay, Leonard is about to call the police when Mr. Jones, a rich businessman, enters to pay for the cat but Leonard is hesitant. He’s swayed by Mr. Jones who tells him to answer the door when opportunity knocks. Walter enters, bringing in his latest creation, “Murdered Man”. Everyone is in awe of Walter’s sculpture except for Leonard and Maxwell insists that his next piece must be a nude. Mr. Jones says he’ll pay top dollar for that and Alice volunteers to be his model. Remembering that Alice was the one who was always mean to him and that she gave him the drugs which lead to Lou’s death, Walter accepts.
In Walter’s apartment, the voice of Lou comes to him, begging him not to kill Alice, saying that he’ll cross the line if he does. Walter is interrupted in arguing with Lou when Alice arrives and continues to insult him while getting ready to pose. After putting her in position, Walter strangles her to death, claiming that after this, no one will laugh at him anymore.
In the Yellow Door, Maxwell is performing a poem in praise of Walter Paisley and his ascent to artistic heights. Leonard is attempting to book a flight to flee to Brazil. Carla enters and interrupts to tell Leonard she was just at the police station, answering questions about Lou. She’s shocked to learn that he was an undercover cop and he’s disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She announces that she’s off to see the finished sculpture of Alice and Leonard tries to stop her when Mr. Jones walks in. Mr. Jones gives Leonard more money for the sculpture of Alice and asks if she’s available for an affair. Mr. Jones leaves and Leonard is left with a travel agent on the phone.
Carla and Walter are in his apartment, looking over the Alice sculpture. Carla is moved by his artistic genius and there is a genuine connection before Mrs. Swickert barges. Jealous of the attention he’s receiving from Carla, Mrs. Swickert shoos her away and breaks a picture of Carla. Enraged by her cruelty and prodded on by the dead Lou and Alice, Walter lashes out and kills Mrs. Swickert.
Maxwell is lost without his lady, Alice. He improvises a beat poem about his loss while Mr. and Mrs. Jones prepare a party celebrating Walter’s achievements. In the alley outside the Yellow Door, Walter and Carla connect over art. Walter reveals that he loves her and Carla explains that while she does love him, she doesn’t love him in the same way. Dejected, they enter the party but Leonard stops Walter to tell him to stay away from Carla. The Jones’ announce that they are going to buy the Yellow Door and turn it into a museum dedicated to Walter’s greatness. Everyone rejoices except for Walter who, heartbroken, sings of his rejection by Carla. Everyone is in awe of him and Walter asks Carla if she will let him sculpt her. She agrees.
That night, the statues mock Walter in his apartment while he waits for Carla to arrive. There’s a knock on the door but instead of Carla, Leonard walks in. He tells Walter that he knows how the statues are made. That outburst at the party worried Leonard who stands to become a very rich man. He tells Walter that he’s got to keep calm and keep making statues or he’ll go to the cops. Walter lashes out at him causing Leonard’s heart to act up. Walter kicks Leonard’s heart pills out of his reach and Leonard dies in front of him. Walter hides Leonard’s body poorly as Carla enters. Carla begins to pose and tells Walter that she’s had a change of heart, Walter decides to not kill her and it looks like a happy ending when Leonard’s poorly hidden body flops out dead on the floor.
Carla puts the whole scheme together and tries to flee. The statues whip Walter into a panic and Walter strikes Carla over the head with a sculpting hammer, killing her. Walter is alone once more with the statues of all the people he’s killed. The statues convince him that all is lost and the only thing left to do is kill himself. Walter is about to shoot himself with Lou’s gun when Maxwell comes in and grabs it from him. Walter confesses to Maxwell and attempts to justify his actions by quoting Maxwell’s poem. Maxwell is distracted when he sees the statue of Alice, Walter sees his change and lunges for him. Maxwell shoots him dead in cold blood.
Mr. Jones runs to the door and takes in the whole situation. Gun in hand, Maxwell asks him he’ll call the cops. Mr. Jones says he can smell an opportunity.
Months later at the opening of the Walter Paisley Museum, the Jones’ introduce Maxwell, the new artist in residence and his premiere sculpture. Maxwell removes a cover to reveal a dead Walter, covered in clay.