Monday, September 5, 2016

Who Is "That Guy Dick Miller?"

Dick Miller is one of the most recognizable character actors of the last 50 years. Even if you don’t recall his name, you definitely know his face. He played the curmudgeonly Mr. Futterman in Gremlins and the gun shop clerk in The Terminator, among a host of other scene-stealing supporting roles. If you’re a fan of 1950s and 60s sci-fi and horror films, I’m sure you remember him from his many appearances in the films of writer-director Roger Corman, including It Conquered The World, Not Of This Earth and the original Little Shop of Horrors. The 2014 documentary That Guy Dick Miller is an enjoyable look at the career of this talented performer. The film features interviews with Miller, his wife Lainie and a host of fans, friends and collaborators, including Corman, film critic Leonard Maltin, actors Robert Forster, Jonathan Haze, Mary Woronov, and director Joe Dante.

It’s an engaging story, which covers Millers journey from his days as a working actor (and a member of Corman’s circle of regulars) to being one of the most in demand character actors of the 70s and 80s. The portion of the film that recalls his early work is fascinating. It’s an affectionate look at how B-movie casts and crews quickly and efficiently made low budget movies back in the 1950s and 60s. No one thought these "B" films and genre pictures would be remembered and celebrated so many years later. But an entire generation of young filmmakers were influenced by these sci-fi & horror movies, including Dante, Francis Ford Coppola, Allan Arkush and Martin Scorsese. All of these artists worked for Corman in their younger days. Many of them later cast Miller in their own films; in fact Joe Dante has featured Miller in all of his movies, and is one of his biggest fans & supporters.

The movie is chock-full of clips from Miller’s stellar work, including his lead role as Walter Paisley in Corman’s A Bucket Of Blood. It’s one of Miller’s best-known parts and he’s used the character name in other films over the years, including for the bookstore owner in Dante’s The Howling. There’s even a glimpse of a deleted scene from Pulp Fiction featuring Miller and Harvey Keitel, as well as a clip of Miller with Robert DeNiro from Scorsese’s New York, New York. All of Miller’s colleagues, family and friends obviously have great affection for him, and the interplay between Miller and Lainie his wife in their interview segments is a lot of fun. Miller is an appealing guy, and he's clearly thankful for his success, though he feels a great deal of it came from "being in the right place, at the right time."

Lainie acted as a producer on the film, which was written & directed by Elijah Drenner. This is a marvelous look at the career of a wonderful actor who’s given us a lot of memorable performances over the years. Whether the film he's acting in is good, bad or mediocre, Miller is always excellent. I think you’ll really enjoy this well produced, loving tribute to this iconic actor. That Guy Dick Miller is available for online viewing at Amazon, and the movie can also be purchased online at the film's website: http://www.thatguydickmiller.com. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSKTIe-HRG8.

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