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SXSW Review – THAT GUY DICK MILLER

Review by Todd Sokolve
Directed by Elijah Drenner   
Starring Dick Miller, Lainie Miller   
Featuring Allan Arkush, Julie Corman, Roger Corman, 
Joe Dante, Fred Dekker, Ernest R. Dickerson,
 Corey Feldman, Robert Forster, Zach Galligan, 
Larry Karaszewski, Leonard Maltin, Fred Olen Ray, 
Adam Rifkin, William Sadler, Mary Woronov        

If you’re a true fan of film, you need no introduction to legendary character actor Dick Miller.

If you’re a fan of Dick Miller, you know it’s about damn time someone made a documentary about him.

THAT GUY DICK MILLER started out as a possible German DVD extra for War of the Satellites, but thanks to funding from a Kickstarter campaign, director Elijah Drenner was able to expand on the concept.

Although the film does dip into DVD extra territory in style a tad much, it’s never short of being entertaining.

I had a smile on my face from start to finish in the same giddy glee of my inner 13 year old flipping through a new issue of Fangoria.

The documentary covers the 85 year old actor’s career not so much as a chronological tale, but crafted as a series of interviews with key players in Miller’s life.  As expected, you get a ton of amusing stories from Hollywood colleagues, but its the unexpected insight into the man that’s full of surprises.

The film is also executive produced by his wife Lainie, who is obviously an essential part of Dick’s life.  Smartly, the majority of the interviews with Dick are conducted in the couple’s home, often with Lainie by his side.  Cutting to personal photos and home movies, as well as interviews with family, you get more of a back story behind the man many people assume is actually like the characters he portrays.  It’s evident that one of his famous on-screen characters, Murray Futterman from the Gremlins movies, may be a case of art imitating life imitating art, but he assures us he’s nothing like his characters, only to be met with a fantastic glare from Lainie.

Of course, actress Jackie Joseph, who played his on-screen wife twice, but shared the screen numerous times with Dick is one of many folks interviewed for the doc.  The interviews add up to a satisfying portrait of the man, albeit mostly from his on-screen history.

Occasionally, the film does try to dig a little deeper into Miller’s personal life, asking about the drawer full of unproduced screenplays or his obvious natural talent for portrait drawing.  But there’s not a sad story of roads not taken that comes about. Miller comes across as genuinely content with his career – no complaints and no major gripes (although a tad bitterness over his deleted scene in Pulp Fiction).

Dick Miller is the real deal, and you’ll get a pretty good sense of that from his persona “off camera.”  One of the many highlights for me was an outtake from Joe Dante’s misunderstood The ‘burbs, which follows a fairly lame attempt from Corey Feldman to explain his drug induced perforamce.   Not having any of Corey’s antics during a particlar sequcnce between the two actors, Miller basically serves the young punk his ass.

The heart that went into making this film is evident, and there’s a lot to like about the end product, but you’ll be left to truely admire the man.

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