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THAT GUY DICK MILLER (DVD review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Executive Producers Julie Corman, Jonathan Kaplan,
Jeffrey Schwarz, Tino Zimmermann
Produced by Elijah Drenner, Lainie Miller,
Michael J. Heagle,
Jim Kunz, Stephanie Paris, Elle Schneider
Written and Directed by Elijah Drenner
Featuring Dick Miller, Lainie Miller, Gilbert Adler, 
Allan Arkush, Meiert Avis, Belinda Balaski, Ira Steven Behr,
Kent Beyda, Steve Carver, Julie Corman, Roger Corman,
Joe Dante, Jon Davison, Fred Dekker, David Del Valle
DVD Release by Indiecan Entertainment
Extras: LA Premiere Footage, Dick’s Home Movies, Outtakes,
Interview with Rick Baker, Photo Gallery, Classic Trailers

Dick Miller pretty much exemplifies the term Character Actor.

While handsome, he never really had leading-man looks or stature (though he did have a couple of leading roles during his Roger Corman years).

He has held the screen confidently, even while sharing it with the likes of De Niro, Schwarzenegger, Nicholson, Boris Karloff, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, John Goodman, Kurt Russell and Tom Hanks (to name but a few), and in many cases, has stolen scenes outright from A-list talent. 

His brash, rat-tat-tat, seen-it-all delivery is beloved by fans, many of whom first came to recognize Miller as a recurring player in the films of Joe Dante (most notably in The Howling and the Gremlins films) and by his memorable cameo in the first Terminator.

The new documentary, That Guy Dick Miller, is a highly entertaining look at the life and career of Miller, with commentary and reminiscences from Dante, Corman, Leonard Maltin, Robert Forster, Allan Arkush, John Sayles, Mary Woronov, etc. as well as Lainie Miller, his beloved wife with whom he has been affectionately bickering (much to the amusement of Dante and, it’s readily apparent, themselves) for decades.

I’ve been a fan of Miller’s since seeing him in the early Dante films, but there are films covered here I’ve never seen, and several I’ve never heard of.  For example, Miller’s first film, Apache Burn.  His slow-burn reveal in the first clip shown here is a howl; as is the revelation that Miller played both a cowboy and an Indian in his first film.

We hear a great deal about his early life from his brothers, who fill us in on the somewhat distant relationship Miller had with his dad. We see some of Miller’s artwork and drawings (he’s a very accomplished portraitist, and delights in drawing a certain part of the female anatomy).

There are a great many laughs here, some due to Miller’s sharp, funny mind and delivery, and many due to some terrific anecdotes told along the way (‘BITE THE MONKEY’ is a standout). There’s also a very funny outtake from The Burbs during which Miller berates Corey Feldman for being a smart-ass (something the grown-up Feldman readily admits to).

I was also impressed by just how many memorable Miller moments were ad-libbed, or flat-out rewritten by Dick.

Even if (especially if..?) you’re a diehard Miller fan, That Guy is mandatory viewing. 

But it would be really great if up-and-coming, or hell, even veteran character actors give this a look. That Guy really hammers home the importance of casting each role in a film, no matter how small, with the best person for the job.  And the importance of the person cast in that role to do his or her very best, to elevate sub-par material and to honor exceptional material. 

There can be true nobility in acting, and while the unpretentious, no-bullshit Miller would probably be the first to dismiss this notion, That Guy makes the case that he actually embodies it.

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