Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Elijah Drenner
Written by: Elijah Drenner
Starring: Dick Miller, Lainie Miller, Gilbert Adler, Steve Carver, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Fred Dekker, Ernest R. Dickerson, Corey Feldman, Robert Forster, Zach Galligan, Leonard Maltin & William Sadler
If you watch a lot of movies, then you’ve likely noticed small recurring actors. You may drive yourself crazy trying to remember what you’ve seen them in before and ultimately realize that they’ve been side characters in a ton of movies. These performers are what some people refer as “That Guy” as in “Oh that guy. He’s in everything.” Some modern examples of “That Guy” include Brian Cox and Dylan Baker. However, there’s one “That Guy” who trumps them all. From the mid-1950’s to the present, Dick Miller has acquired nearly 200 credits to his name. Though he’s only received the leading role in two of his films, you’re more than likely to recognize Dick Miller from somewhere. He’s the neighbor in GREMLINS. He’s the psycho-killer in A BUCKET OF BLOOD. Now, he’s the subject of this remarkably entertaining and insightful documentary.
THAT GUY DICK MILLER takes the viewer through Dick Miller’s career in the film industry. The documentary weaves together interviews with co-workers and friends as well as tons of clips from Miller’s bit parts in various films. We are also given details about his personal life that you would never have any clue about. For example, Dick wasn’t planning on becoming an actor and originally wanted to be a screenwriter. He has a full drawer of screenplays that were never made into movies and has officially written three films (two of which he seems to be embarrassed by).
This documentary will definitely play big for genre buffs who are more than a little familiar with who Dick Miller is, but should also serve as a fascinating experience for newbies who had no idea about this actor’s many roles. Through one-on-one interviews, you get the sense that Miller always injects a little of himself into each performance (as small as that performance might be). He’s such a unique individual that you can’t help but love the man. That spirit and sense of enjoyment is omnipresent through this entire documentary. Miller discussing the many problems that occur on various sets is especially entertaining. One piece about how money was tight during spots of his career (even though he had filmed five movies in one year) and him constantly waiting by the phone for his livelihood is a bit of brutal honesty that you don’t hear a lot of in Hollywood. I felt like giving the man a round of applause, because he very much seems like a dedicated individual.
Besides examining Dick Miller’s career, the movie simultaneously sheds light on how very different the filmmaking scene was during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Miller thrived in the world of exploitation cinema and B-movies. They were his bread and butter. Though he’s also appeared in THE TERMINATOR and was sadly cut out of PULP FICTION, Miller serves as a bit of a genre icon for many. I would love to see a documentary examining the rise of exploitation movies and B-flicks in the Hollywood scene as well (though I’m sure a handful have already been made) from director Elijah Drenner because he clearly has a solid grasp on what he’s doing and how to present this information. If there is one complaint to be had from me, it comes in a 5-minute segment focusing on Miller’s friendship with Joe Dante that seems to lean a tad too much on Dante’s filmography as opposed to Miller’s role in it. At any rate, it’s a minor gripe and is still interesting nonetheless.
Overall, THAT GUY DICK MILLER is a fascinating, oddly heartwarming documentary that highlights a significant piece of genre filmmaking history. That piece being the recurring character actor with nearly 200 credits to his name. Much like BEST WORST MOVIE and SPINE TINGLER!, THAT GUY DICK MILLER should serve as a hugely enjoyable time for genre buffs and equally fascinating for people who don’t necessarily know a lot about exploitation cinema. This comes highly recommended!