The Top 9 Nerdiest Cinematic Roles of Dick Miller


?Dick Miller. Thespian. A treasure of the silver screen. One of our greatest living actors. While the casual film junkie may not know his name, chances are they’ve seen Dick Miller. And if you’ve seen Dick Miller, I’d be willing to wager that you’ve most certainly enjoyed his work.

Despite appearing in literally hundreds of films and television programs, Miller has also been a screenwriter, a television director, voice actor (including for the DC animated universe, at that), commercial artist, disc jockey and even played semi-pro football (not to mention a stint as a prize fighter).
Miller has had the distinction of working for directors like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg to name but a few. He’s done voice work from every thing 
But perhaps Miller’s most fruitful collaboration began in the mid-seventies as he formed an alliance with ace director Joe Dante who has since used the actor in nearly everything he’s done, calling him “my good luck charm.”

What follows is an abbreviated chronicle of some of Miller’s most choice appearances in films pertaining to films of the nerd persuasion. So without further ado, it’s Miller time.

9) Walter Paisley in Twilight Zone: The Movie

It seemed like a pretty good idea to bring Rod Serling’s classic television series to the big screen under the direction of four of Hollywood’s most promising rising talents. Sadly, the 1983 film was destined to be forever marred by irresponsible tragedy, as actor Vic Morrow and two children would be horrifically killed during the filming of John Landis’ first segment.
And wunderkind Steven Spielberg churned in an overlong, sugary second episode that lulled most viewers to sleep, if not boredom.

But all was not lost. Upstarts Joe Dante and George Miller managed to deliver the goods with the final two segments of the movie. Dante’s episode, “It’s a Good Life” would of course include the obligatory Dick Miller cameo (which begins at 4:35 in the above video). Here Miller is Walter Paisley — a name many of his characters would have — a salacious diner owner who ogles lost traveler Kathleen Quinlan. Can’t say I blame him.

Signature Line: When a young boy is having trouble with a videogame that isn’t functioning properly, Miller quips, “I don’t fix the machines, I just keep the quarters. Stick another quarter in it, kid. Maybe it’ll work better.”

8) Walt in Night of the Creeps


?Fred Dekker’s 1986 cult favorite is a love letter to the exploitation films of 1950s. It deals with slugs from outer space which inhabit the brains of the dead… re-animating them and thus, creating ghastly zombies. Sublime stuff, yes?

Miller makes a glorified cameo in the role of a police ammunitions officer… named Walt. He shared the screen with none other than Tom Atkins and the result is nothing shy of nerd cinematic gold.
The rapport between Atkins and Miller is first rate and a highlight of the film as Atkins forces Miller supply him with some much-needed artillery against his wishes. You’ll wish that somebody would have cast these two in a buddy cop picture. With zombies.

Signature Line: “Flamethrower? Whatsamatter? The old snub-nose ain’t good enough for you no more?”

7) Pawnshop Owner in The Terminator

1984 was a rough year for Mr. Miller. When he wasn’t battling malicious hordes of ugly Gremlins, he was facing none other than Arnold
Schwarzenegger in his star-making role as The Terminator.
A key scene in this classic sci-fi action flick features Miller as an unnamed pawnshop owner (wanna bet it’s Walt?) who outfits Arnie’s unstoppable killing machine with L.A.’s finest weaponry. Is it any surprise that he gets blasted to smithereens for his trouble?
Dick Miller’s triumphant cameo aside, the film remains writer-director James Cameron’s best cinematic effort to date. It boasts a tight, well written script, lean and mean editing and not a trace of CGI masturbation whatsoever.

Signature Line: “You sure know your weapons, buddy,” Miller says as he hands Arnie a semi-automatic gun. “Any one of these is perfect for home defense.”

6) Uncle Willie in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

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?The concept behind bringing HBO’s successful Tales From the Crypt series to the big screen was to jettison the short anthology format of the show (based on the notorious E.C. Comics of the 1950s) and present larger, stand-alone stories. The plot concerns a drifter who carries the last of seven ancient keys, which contain the blood of Christ and were scattered across the universe to prevent the forces of evil from taking over. In hot pursuit of the drifter is a sinister “collector” and his demonic minions who corner him in a small no-where town populated by a colorful group of yokels.

Dick Miller is featured in the role of a lovable old drunk called Uncle Willie who eventually gives into demonic temptation via booze and a gaggle of beautiful, bikini-clad babes.
Uncle Willie of course, pays for his transgression. Once under the demon-kind’s possession, poor Willie really loses his head — literally — in a grisly, over the top special effects sequence. It’s good fun.

Signature Line: “You wouldn’t hurt your old uncle Willie, would ya, baby?”

5) Vic in The ‘Burbs


?In Joe Dante’s classic tale of suburban paranoia, Miller turns in an amusing cameo as garbage man Vic alongside the terrific Robert Picardo. They encounter local suburbanites (Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun) at their most hysterical, convinced that their new neighbors are quite actually the neighbors from Hell.

It’s Miller’s garbage man who attempts to serve as the voice of reason while the suburbanites dump garbage all over the street in search of “evidence” that will prove their new neighbors are some sort of Satanists… or worse.
Miller makes the most of his limited screen time here, leaving a lasting impression Tom Hanks’ character and turning up later in the film in Hanks’ twisted dream sequence.

Signature Line:: “I hate cul-de-sacs. There’s only one way out and the people are always kinda weird.”

4) Buck Gardner in Piranha

Steven Spielberg supposedly called Piranha the “best of the Jaws rip-offs.” But Piranha is really an affectionate send-up of not only Jaws, but all the killer animal/monster movies of the past.
Miller has the plum role of Buck Gardner — small-time real estate mover and shaker. He’s opening up a brand new “Aqua-rina” resort on Lost River Lake… where a massive school of genetically altered piranha have accidentally been released.

Each and everyone of Miller’s scene in this picture is a gem. Whether he’s berating lazy construction workers, hob-knobbing with the mayor, passing off second-hand amusements as new or reacting in horror at the attacks of carnivorous fish on his resort patrons, you can rest assured it’s B-movie gold.

Signature Line: “Arnold the Swimming Swine is straight from Atlantic City. He’s piece of true Americana.”

3) Murray Futterman in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Ah, Murray Futterman. Everyone’s favorite xenophobe. He’s a veteran of WWII and if experience has taught him anything, it’s that you gotta look out for the gremlins.
After surviving a run-in with the nasty little buggers who commandeered his trusty Kentucky Harvester snowplow in the original, a slightly kinder and gentler Futterman returned for the underrated sequel.

In the surreal sequel, Futterman found himself on the mend and visiting the Big Apple… just in time to get caught up in another gremlin outbreak. He plays a pivotal role in suppressing the would-be gremlin outbreak in NYC. In fact, would mealy-mouthed Billy Peltzer have been able to save the day without Futterman at his side? I think not. Don’t mess with Murray Futterman!

Signature Line: “Goddamned foreign cars!”

2) Walter Paisley in A Bucket of Blood

The original Dick Miller as Walter Paisley movie. In Roger Corman’s enlightened beatnik black comedy, made in 1959, Paisley is an out-of-place nerd who works as a bus-boy at The Yellow Door coffee house, a joint haunted by hipsters, poets, artistes and all around hep-cats. Walter is desperate for love, for friends, and to fit in. It isn’t until he discovers his penchant for sculpting — and murder — that he finds the acceptance among the snobs he’s been looking for.

Signature Line: “Art is an obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of life.”

1) Walter Paisley in The Howling

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?Joe Dante’s satirical werewolf picture is still one of the best made on the subject and Miller is terrific in it. Miller himself cites this as one of his favorite roles. This time out it seems that the Walter Paisley owns an occult bookstore in L.A. While he’s clearly interested only in making an easy buck, Paisley proves to be a wealth of info on the subject of werewolves or, as he prefers to call them, shape-shifters. Paisley claims the beasts are harder than “cock-a-roaches” to get rid of. The look of irritation on shop keeper Miller’s face is absolutely priceless as he watches a pair of nuns peruse his demonic merchandise.

Signature Line: “The Manson people used to hang around here and shop-lift. Buncha dead-beats.”