Friday, February 1, 2019

R.I.P., Dick Miller

It saddens me to report the death of the Bronx's own Dick Miller, one of the most beloved and recognizable character actors in American film history, and one who was as seemingly ubiquitous in 20th Century B-movies as car chases, rubbery monsters, or karate chops. From his star-making turn in Roger Corman's A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) to his cranky gun salesman in THE TERMINATOR to an "animal trainer" in Sam Fuller's WHITE DOG to roles in blaxploitation classics like TRUCK TURNER and DARKTOWN STRUTTERS to his appearances in seemingly every single Joe Dante film through 2014's BURYING THE EX, he contrasted his gruff, cantankerous, and occasionally sleazy exterior with a lovable inner life. This was a man who could lend profound, nuanced grace notes to an under-five role as a heckler, a pizza deliveryman, "man in bed," or a thankless security guard.

He had several roles that were so iconic he reprised them: BUCKET OF BLOOD's "Walter Paisley" ends up in CHOPPING MALL, THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROCK, THE HOWLING, and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. His role in GREMLINS, "Murray Futterman," even manages to cheat death for a triumphant return in GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH!

We've seen him corrupt Mark Hamill, play David Carradine's brother in a movie that already had Carradine's real-life brother in it, put down riots begun by P.J. Soles and the Ramones, play a crabby trucker who name-drops Joe Dante, swig hobo wine and share a scene with a demonic Billy Zane-as-Hunter S. Thompson, and shill for a fictionalized William Castle––he truly did it all. In his 90 years on this planet, he was in so many films (almost 200!) that there was something inherently reassuring about his presence. This was only intensified by the fact that he, like Harry Dean Stanton, seemed to remain the same age (around 50?) for nearly sixty years. Well, here's to you, Mr. Miller, and all the joy and drama and absurdity and comfort that you gave your audiences across the decades.

3 comments:

Mike Bradley said...

Hear, hear

Dallas said...

You might enjoy the new Miller biography "You Don't Know Me, But You Love Me: The Lives of Dick Miller" available on Amazon and elsewhere!

Sean Gill said...

Thanks for the info, I'll have to read it!