A bulky muscular man drifts into a gun shop. Cold, unmoved, his accent rips, “The 12 Gauge auto-loader.” A man behind the counter hands it to him. “That’s Italian. You can go pump or auto.” The stranger answers, “The 45 longslide with laser sighting.” The seller replies, “These are brand new, we just got them in. That’s a good gun”, as he points at it. Mr. Olympia picks it up and racks it aiming the laser. The owner adds, “Just touch the trigger, the beam comes on and you put the red dot where you want the bullet to go. You can’t miss. Anything else?” “Phased plasma rifle in a 40-watt range.” “Hey, just what you see, pal.” “The Uzi 9 millimeter.” “You know your weapons buddy. Any one of these is ideal for home defense.” “So uh… which will it be?” “All.” “I may close early today.”
That was Dick Miller. A face in so many movies. Talking with a Terminator. When I think of him, I think of this. Lingering, wondering, hoping for a sale. Not realizing he’s about to die. He’s this regular guy. You see him everywhere. New York, New York (1977), Piranha (1978), 1941 (1979), Used Cars (1980), The Howling (1981), Gremlins (1984), After Hours (1985). Plain, gruff, attitude, you could imagine Dick anywhere. The man next door, an office clerk, a biker, a soldier, the owner of a shop. Barking orders, selling silver bullets, he’s always got an angle and we’re buying. Sculptures, teenagers, his soul, he steals the scene. One look and he’s golden.
Uncle Willy, Vic the Garbageman, the many forms of Walter Paisley, like Buck Flower Miller is a moment unto himself. Instant recognition, a lifetime of cameos, over a hundred appearances, he’s a good luck charm. Corman, Dante, Cameron, Scorsese, even Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction (1994). Serving in the Navy and earning a PhD in Psychology, he became a writer before turning to acting. First Broadway, then pictures, Dick began working for Roger Corman. Apache Woman (1955), The Oklahoma Woman (1956), It Conquered the World (1956), Naked Paradise (1957), Not of This Earth (1957), The Undead (1957), Rock All Night (1957), Sorority Girl (1957), Carnival Rock (1957), the lead in War of the Satellites (1958) and A Bucket of Blood (1959). And the roles kept rolling.
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Premature Burial (1962), The Terror (1963), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Wild Angels (1966), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), Big Bad Mama (1974), Death Race 2000 (1975), White Line Fever (1975), Crazy Mama (1975), I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), Corvette Summer (1978), The Lady in Red (1979), Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), White Dog (1982), Police Squad!, Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), All the Right Moves (1983), Explorers (1985), Chopping Mall (1986), Night of the Creeps (1986), Project X (1987), Innerspace (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Unlawful Entry (1992), Matinee (1993), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Demon Knight (1995), Small Soldiers (1998). He lasted forever. Even making it to MST. That Guy or “An American Tradition”?