Archive for Dick Miller

The Obligatory Dick Miller

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2016 by dcairns

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When my school friend Robert and I first became aware of Dick Miller, being impressed by him in AFTER HOURS (“He said the title!”) but realizing that somehow we already knew him from many films, we had trouble remembering his name. It seemed too ordinary for him. So we called him The Character Actor.

One thing we quickly realized is that The Character Actor nearly always turned up in Joe Dante films, as a kind of Added Treat.

Here he is (left)  making his obligatory appearance in Joe Dante’s excoriating satire THE SECOND CIVIL WAR, the timely subject of this fortnight’s edition of The Forgotten. Now THAT’S character!

The Character Actor

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 26, 2014 by dcairns

Bucket of Blood

THAT GUY DICK MILLER is, as you would expect, what is called an affectionate tribute to character player DM — and why would you want it to be anything else? A lot of the talking heads use the expression “that guy” to describe their first impression of Miller — if you see af American movies, you will sooner or later see that guy turning up again and again in various guises, generally consistent — down-to-earth, laid-back yet intense, REAL — yet able to impersonate a wide variety of types, binding them together with the instantly recognizable air of a guy doing a job. My best pal Robert and I spotted him in AFTER HOURS, where he gets to say the title, then started noticing him in Joe Dante films and all over. We didn’t call him that guy, and we didn’t call him Dick Miller because it was too normal a name to remember. We called him The Character Actor.

All Hail Dick Miller!

Guests at EIFF tonight will be treated to a special live interaction with Mr M via Skype. Still, in his ninth decade, the epitome of no-nonsense muscular affability, a firm handshake in human form.

That Guy Dick Miller still 2

Van Cleef & Arkoff

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by dcairns

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I’d always wanted to see IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, ever since seeing images of the monster, who seemed to resemble a prize marrow with a face and pincers, and ever since reading Roger Corman’s magnificent memoir How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (one of the truly wise books about cinema) which recounts how star Beverly Garland appraised her extraterrestrial co-star coolly, uttered the words “So you’ve come to conquer the world, have you?” and then felled the short-arsed visitant with a single kick to the forehead.

“Lesson one,” writes Corman, “Always make your monster bigger than your leading lady.”

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Lee Van Cleef plays a rogue scientist who befriends a Venusian who wants to invade Earth. Van Cleef thinks this is a swell idea and makes all the arrangements, communicating via a kind of ham radio, though the monster speaks only in a serious of musical parps and whines. Van Cleef understands every word, prompting Fiona to compare this with Charlie Brown’s conversations with his teacher in the animated show.

Fiona is fascinated by Van C’s tiny forehead. Kudos to Corman for avoiding typecasting the scientist role.

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The movie is centred on two couples, Van Cleef & Garland, who have a lovely dysfunctional relationship (“I’m going into town and when I come back I pray you’ll be sane,” she says) and the Peter Graveses, who keep dropping by. It’s sort of a WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? with a space alien in the role of the little bugger.

The Venusian “It,” known to fans as “Beulah,” is vaguely conical (and more than vaguely comical). “He” has floor-length skin ending in a trimming of tentacular tassels. When he is angry or aroused, space-bats come flying from under his fleshy skirts. He lives in a cave with a hot spring because it reminds him of Venus.

The title, like the title of Roger’s book, is a lie — IT doesn’t at any point conquer the Earth, but it does cut off all electricity. So IT CAUSED A POWER OUTAGE would be a more accurate title. Somehow it also stops everybody’s watch from working, which seems unlikely and has no effect on the plot. When hero Peter Graves jumps on a bicycle, I half-expected the wheels to refuse to turn. “The swine!” Graves would cry, shaking his fist. But no.

The space-bats stick implants into the back of people’s necks to control them, like in INVADERS FROM MARS. I guess Venusians have been studying the Martians’ techniques.

There’s a good bit Fiona spotted of townspeople fleeing for the hills (we never see them again): one of them is clutching a saxophone. So at least they’ll have music, wherever they go.

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Note also the woman left-of-centre smiling at the camera. She may be fleeing for her life, but she isn’t going to let a little thing like that spoil her day. Shades of REPTILICUS, whose terrified refugees had a kind of carnival atmosphere to them.

There’s more recognizably deliberate comedy from Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze as bumbling soldiers. Miller is always welcome, but Haze’s lame-brained Mexican act is appalling.

Strange dialogue, from Samuel Z. Arkoff’s brother-in-law and/or an uncredited Charles B. Griffith: “Your hands are human but your mind is enemy,” Graves tells Van Cleef. Ye-es.