The 10 Greatest Roles of Dick Miller

By Fred Topel in Daily Lists, Movies
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 6:00 am

5. The Terminator

Now come on, you remember this scene. In the original Terminator, after the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) appears naked on the street, he gets his clothes from a gang of punks and then arms up. When he goes to a pawn shop, who is there selling him guns but Mr. Dick Miller himself?

The clerk has no reason to think anything is wrong. An Austrian bodybuilder just happens to be in quick need of some inexpensive weaponry. This was the '80s when gun laws were probably even more lenient than they are today. The Brady Bill instituting mandatory background checks wouldn't be passed until 1993, though the attempted Reagan shooting that inspired it had happened three years before The Terminator.

This was also before there was a Terminator 2, Terminator 3, Terminator: Salvation or Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time so it was a surprise to the audience when the Terminator refused to pay for the guns and shot the poor clerk. Well, I guess no one should have been that surprised. It is called The Terminator, after all.

4. Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

What's that, you say? You don't remember Dick Miller in Pulp Fiction? I mean, I know there was a huge cast. Not just John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis, but Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette and even Julia Sweeney. Surely, Dick Miller must have been in there somewhere.

Actually, Dick Miller's scene was cut from Pulp Fiction. Remember when The Wolf (Keitel) takes Jules (Jackson) and Vincent (Travolta) to Monster Joe's junkyard to dispose of the bloody car? Miller played Monster Joe. The scene is included on DVDs and Blu-rays of Pulp Fiction along with Tarantino's regrets for deleting it. However, Miller says he didn't find out until he got to the premiere. Miller says Tarantino was surprised to even see him there, and never gave him an explanation why the scene was cut. At least Miller could watch the DVD if he really wants an answer.

3. A Bucket of Blood

Everyone in That Guy Dick Miller agrees that A Bucket of Blood was Miller's seminal Roger Corman movie. Running a mere 66 minutes, it has Miller playing Walter Paisley, a local artist who creates marvelously lifelike sculptures. It turns out Paisley's been pouring plaster over dead bodies to make his magnificent sculptures.

Walter Paisley made such a big impact that Corman conceived The Little Shop of Horrors as a sequel to A Bucket of Blood. Imagine if Seymour Krelboyne had been Walter Paisley, moving on from art to horticulture and feeding his plants blood? Alas, Miller didn't want to repeat himself, and he now regrets turning down the lead in Little Shop. He did still do a cameo, playing a customer who eats the petals off a plant.

Joe Dante would lovingly name three of the characters Miller played for him Walter Paisley, though he was not intended to be the same Walter Paisley in Hollywood Boulevard, The Howling or Twilight Zone: The Movie. Jim Wynorski also named Miller's character Walter Paisley in Chopping Mall. It's Dick Miller's own "I'll Be Back" or "See You Next Wednesday."

2. Gremlins

Okay, now you all must have seen this growing up, and you remember Dick Miller as the neighbor, Mr. Futterman, whose house gets bulldozed by some rampaging gremlins. Futterman even complains about gremlins before any gremlins appear in the movie, but as a kid I didn't understand that he was talking about World War II legends. Pilots and mechanics would blame mechanical failures on mischievous gremlins.

Mr. Futterman was also spared a mortal fate by the gremlins at the last minute, when producer Steven Spielberg decided there was already too much killing in Gremlins. A news report at the end of the movie was recorded to say Mr. Futterman and his wife were recovering in the hospital. Good thing too, because that led to the number one Dick Miller movie...

1. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

It's Mr. Futterman's revenge! Murray Futterman and his wife (Jackie Joseph) visit Billy (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates) in New York. Murray is still appropriately traumatized by his encounter with actual live gremlins at Christmas in 1984. When a genetically mutated Bat Gremlin escapes the Clamp Center, it attacks the Futtermans. This time, Murray fights back and dunks the Bat Gremlin in some conveniently placed wet concrete. After this, Murray sneaks into the Clamp Center to join the fight against gremlins.

Honestly, I did not find out until I was a grown-up that Gremlins 2 was considered a failure. For me it was the most anticipated movie of 1990 and I assumed everyone else realized how awesome it was. It was also my red pill moment when it blew my 13-year-old mind. The gremlins actually stop the movie and Hulk Hogan has to make them put it back on. For crying out loud, Leonard Maltin reviews Gremlins IN Gremlins 2!

Most importantly, though, Dick Miller gets a bigger role as Mr. Futterman and finally gets some justice.

Previously By Fred Topel

10 D&D Tips From Dan Harmon And His Dungeon Master

The 10 Hottest Scenes From SXSW's Sexiest Movies

The 10 Nerdiest Things At SXSW 2014

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