hear Dick Miller tell the tale, had the upholstery school offered night classes
the world might have been denied some of cinema history’s finest moments.
Fortunately, they started bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the early a.m., but
the acting school next door was more accommodating. This is the creation legend
of cult actor Dick Miller, the man who ate the flowers in Little Shop of Horrors, got run over by a snowplow in Gremlins, sold Schwarzenegger a shotgun
in Terminator, and tried to explain
the plot of The Terror to Jack
Nicholson. You might not know his name, but whenever he pops up a movie, it is
a sure sign of awesomeness to follow. The Bronx-born character actor gets his
overdue ovation in Elijah Drenner’s That
Guy Dick Miller (trailer
which opens this Friday at Anthology Film Archives, in conjunction with their
mini Miller retrospective.
first big break came in Roger Corman’s Apache
Woman, where he found himself playing both a cowboy and a native character.
Thus began a long association that would include classics like Little Shop and the deliciously astute
beatnik satire Bucket of Blood. That
film would launch his Walter Paisley alter ego, who would periodically
re-appear in considerably different incarnations in films helmed by Corman and
his protégés. Arguably, Miller is even more beloved by Corman alumnus like
James Cameron, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, and particularly Joe Dante, than
the dean of indie genre filmmaking himself.
is pretty clear right from the start, with Miller, what you see is what you
get. He is a tough talking industry survivor, but has an appealingly goofy
sense of humor and stills enjoys bantering with his wife Lainie. Drenner nicely
brings out a sense of their personalities and the dynamics of their
still-going-strong relationship in a number of relaxed interview segments.
also scores revealing sit-downs with Miller’s brothers, Roger and Julie Corman,
and a number of their old Corman machine colleagues, including Little Shop co-star Jonathan Haze.
However, one person comes out of That Guy
not looking so hot. That would be Quentin Tarantino, who cut Miller’s scene
from Pulp Fiction (inadvertently
inspiring Agnieszka Kurant’s short film The
Cutaways, which also screens at AFA with Bucket).
Guy is just a ton of fun. The clips alone deliver a
wildly eccentric nostalgia trip. However, there is something rather inspiring
about Miller’s resiliency and his generally positive attitude. This is a film
that needed to happen, so hats off to Drenner for fully getting it. He maintains
a brisk pace and obviously shares the audience’s affection for the films under
discussion. With Lainie Miller and Julie Corman on board as co-executive
producers, you can have confidence it will all be done right. Hugely
entertaining and even somewhat “feel-good,” That
Guy Dick Miller is highly recommended (along with the entire Dick Miller tribute
series) when it opens this Friday (4/3) in New York, at Anthology Film
Labels: Dick Miller, Documentary, Roger Corman