Tuesday, June 19, 2012

(30) Stars of Summer - Day 19: Dick Miller

Today's entry is a guy who has been in SO MANY MOVIES, many of which were directed by Roger Corman or Joe Dante. So he's awesome.

Here are the rules. Check out this list of all the month's actors with links to what's available on Netflix Instant. If you're not a Netflix subscriber, maybe this will help.

Day 1: Jimmy Stewart
Day 2: Catherine Deneuve
Day 3: Christopher Lee
Day 4: Bette Davis
Day 5: Nicolas Cage
Day 6: Diane Keaton 
Day 7: Orson Welles 
Day 8: Catherine Keener 
Day 9: Kurt Russell
Day 10: Pam Grier
Day 11: Clint Eastwood
Day 12: Susan Sarandon 
Day 13: Cary Grant 
Day 14: Barbara Stanwyck 
Day 15: Keith David 
Day 16: Frances McDormand 
Day 17: Gary Oldman 
Day 18: Marilyn Monroe 


  1. Beach Ball (1965)

    Silly musical about a band's efforts to keep their instruments from being repossessed. There's an impressive lineup of musical performers in the movie, including The Supremes (doing a surf song!), The Four Seasons and The Righteous Brothers, but otherwise the movie is draining. The plot has been cobbled together based on what stock footage is available, and much of it plays like the worst episode of The Monkees. I actually really like '60s beach movies, but this was a total drag. Dick Miller shows up for a couple of scenes as a cop, because a brother's gotta eat.

  2. WHITE DOG (1981) for the first time.

    Sam Fuller's last Hollywood movie (shelved from distribution until '91 and only available on DVD recently through Criterion) was meant to be a "Jaws"-like exploitation flick (i.e. "Cujo") about a hit-and-found dog trained to hurt and kill black people. That's what then-Paramount young turks Michael Eisner and Don Simpson wanted, but in Fuller's (and co-screenwriter Curtis Hanson's) hands it turns into a psychological battle of wills between stubborn humans (Kristy McNichol, Paul Williams and a very disoriented Burl Ives) and a white german sheppard for the soul of the latter. This being a Fuller studio movie though we get some pretty boss sequences, including an unbelievable dog-through-a-glass-window stunt and a giant dome cage that I'm sure inspired George Miller to design the one in "Mad Max Beyond Thundermdome." Dick's cameo (literally with a monkey on his back) comes and goes but, even when slumming in "Lifetime Movie of the Week" territory (back when that meant melodramatic stuff with at least the semblance of ambition), the Fuller-isms (Burl Ives dumping on "Stars Wars" for ruining the trained animal trade is priceless) and cast committment to the material make "White Dog" both compelling and an odd curio. Worth seeing, IMHO.

  3. A Bucket Of Blood

    Kinda great. Miller's a nebbishy coffee-house worker who dreams of being accepted by the pretentious beatniks who spend all their time there, and turns to murder to further his artistic dreams. It's terrific to see a dependable character actor like Miller take the lead, and he remains oddly likable despite being a murderous beret-worshipper. Also, it's only about an hour long so you've got no reason to skip it!

  4. A Bucket of Blood (1959)

    I must admit, I never knew who Miller was other than the "you can go pump, or auto" guy from The Terminator. He's in fine form in this Roger Corman cheapie as a shy, simple-minded busboy who discovers an unorthodox method of sculpture. You'll also see a young "Burt" Convy.

    SPOILERS - Given the subject matter of the movie, I wonder if it was the inspiration for the X-Files episode "Gargoyles."

  5. A Bucket of Blood (1959): All movies should be 66 minutes long. Really enjoyed this fun, FAR-OUT movie. My wife predicted the "Twilight Zone" ending a half hour out, but still a dark turn. Dick Miller is great!

    1. What would a 66-minute "Boogie Nights" look like? Or a 66-minute "Magnolia"? A 66-min "Grindhouse"/"Kill Bill"/"Pulp Fiction"/"Jackie Brown"/"Inglorious Basterds"? Be careful what you ask for Doug; the Gods of cinema are reading, and they're mighty peevish pranksters.

  6. THE PREMATURE BURIAL. Corman's Poe films are a world apart from the rest of work, aren't they? It's here that we get Corman the filmmaker, and not just Corman the low-budget exploitation guy. It's a darkly comic flick about a guy so afraid of being buried alive that he builds a special tomb for himself, one with numerous escapes built into it. To say any more would be spoiling the fun. Dick Miller is barely in it as a skeezy graverobber, but skeezy he is. I liked this one. It's a good old fashioned "fog-shrouded woods" movie.