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SXSW 2014 Review: That Guy Dick Miller
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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That Guy Dick Miller at SXSW

That Guy Dick Miller
Director: Elijah Drenner
Cast: Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, William Sadler, Corey Feldman, John Sayles, Mary Woronov, Robert Picardo, Zach Galligan
World Premiere | End Films
Not Rated | 91 Minutes
Release Date: March 7, 2014 (SXSW)

Dick Miller is the last of the great American character actors. Whether sharing the screen with Nicholson, Hanks, Schwarzenegger, or The Ramones, Dick has been stealing scenes since his screen debut in 1955.

Miller has worked with some of the great directors: Scorsese, Corman, Dante, Cameron, Demme, and more. If you’re an avid moviegoer, you definitely know his face, but few know his name and even fewer know his story: an aspiring writer turned accidental actor.

Directed by Elijah Drenner, That Guy Dick Miller documents Miller’s funny and unexpected story, featuring interviews from the directors, producers, co-stars, and friends who have helped make him Hollywood’s leading “that guy.”

If you’re into cult cinema, you’ve probably seen Drenner’s first documentary feature, American Grindhouse, which chronicles the history of exploitation cinema in the United States. While researching for American Grindhouse, Drenner became fascinated with how actors like Dick Miller popped up again and again, yet remained relatively unknown outside the cult film community.

You know him as Murray Futterman in Gremlins, Don Pascal in V: The Final Battle, and the guy who sells Arnold Schwarzenegger his Uzi nine millimeter in The Terminator. You’ve also seen him in cult classics like Chopping Mall, The ‘Burbs, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and Piranha.

That Guy Dick Miller is a perfect companion piece to American Grindhouse and other cult docs like Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (which also features Miller). Drenner’s documentary celebrates film and the people who bring our favorite movies to life. Through Drenner we’re given access to the private lives of Dick and his wife Lainie, confirming that the guy who made a living playing blue-collar characters was so good at it because he was a working man himself.

Who can forget Miller’s role as Walter Paisley – Bookstore Owner in The Howling, a fast-talking occult expert who doesn’t believe a lick of what he’s selling. The character’s name is actually a reference to one of Miller’s earlier films, Roger Corman’s 1959 classic, A Bucket of Blood.

In that film, Paisley is an awkward, uncool busboy who becomes a hip beatnik artist by killing his subjects and covering them in clay. In 1976, a character named Walter Paisley popped up again — this time as a talent agent—in Hollywood Boulevard, a Corman production directed by Allan Arkush and Joe Dante.

Dick Miller has been in every Joe Dante film, actually – a collaboration on the level of Scorsese and De Niro, but with way more monsters and weird shit going on. Basically, if you grew up on films like The ‘Burbs, Gremlins, and The Terminator, you’re going to really enjoy Drenner’s documentary. Film geeks love movies about movies – works that reflect our own love and affection for the art form – and like American Grindhouse, That Guy Dick Miller reminds you of why you fell in love with movies to begin with.

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