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Thursday 29 January 2015

Burl reviews That Guy Dick Miller! (2014)

Ha ha, hello! Yes, it’s Burl, and I’m here to review a documentary about my favourite actor, Mr. Dick Miller! It’s marvelous and amazing to me that such a movie even exists, so I do have to admit that, for me, this picture is starting with a distinct advantage right off the hop, and complete objectivity is nigh impossible!
On the other hand, I know quite a bit about Dick Miller, so any ninety-minute movie which attempts to present his life and career also operates at a disadvantage, since I’ll inevitably, and through no real fault of the film or its makers, think to myself “Ha ha, why didn’t they mention that fascinating aspect of Dick Miller’s life or career?” So maybe these two preconditions cancel one another out! Ha ha, it’s impossible to say, but caveat lector nonetheless!
As anyone reading these reviews will surely already know, Dick Miller was born in the Bronx in 1928, and spent many years trying out different careers before relocating to Hollywood in the early 1950s, where he eventually met Roger Corman and began acting in pictures like Apache Woman (his debut, in which he played both a cowboy and an Indian, ha ha) and Gunslinger and It Conquered the World and, of course, the mighty and unassailable A Bucket of Blood!
He eventually branched out from the Corman fold, though never very far! At a certain point he just figured his career was over, because Corman wasn’t directing movies anymore and Miller himself had become both middle-aged and thick about the middle! But, after a few fallow years, Miller was taken up by a group of younger directors who had long admired his work and were glad to give him a career renaissance! Joe Dante is the most closely linked to Miller (Piranha, Gremlins, Explorers, etc. etc. etc.!), but Jonathan Kaplan and Allan Arkush certainly did their bits too; and other Corman fans, people like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino, also hired him! Ha ha, he’s had quite a career!
That Guy Dick Miller covers all of this, and reasonably well! There are plenty of familiar and interesting faces interviewed, along with, of course, Dick Miller and his firecracker of a wife Lainie! Ha ha! The picture relies a little too heavily on jokey sound effects and kooky little animations, and the tone is breezier than I believe it should be! Ha ha, there’s something about telling a person’s life story that ought to invite at least a few moments of serious consideration, but this is for the most part hagiographic goofballitry, with but a precious few moments of introspection salted in!
Still, it’s all very well done, with terrific interviews, sharp cutting, some great archival material and plenty of well-chosen clips! And the subject matter simply can’t be beat! If I, Burl, would have taken a different approach, is that really something I should blame on the picture? Well, in my own review column, I suppose I can! But let me tell you this: whatever this movie’s petty deficiencies, it’s got more Dick than any movie since A Bucket of Blood, and that makes up for just about anything! I’m going to give That Guy Dick Miller three gag phone calls!

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