All my life, I’ve had the sense that there’s something going on I don’t know about. Some vast cosmic plan, ticking away behind all our lives, with only the merest hints visible to us. Like rocks covered by the sea, the tips of which are only visible at high tide.
Patterns occur throughout all our lives – we’ve all experienced deja vu, met someone who reminds us of a friend who is long gone, or embarassingly mistaken a small boy for a female friend in Lancaster town centre. But as I enter my 36th year, I realise that there has been one recurring constant throughout my life, one face that is always there, just out of reach behind a TV screen, usually visible over a gunshop counter, bar, or from the back seat of a taxi.
That face belongs to Dick Miller, or as I like to call him, “That Bloke From That Thing.”
Who can forget his performance as Garbageman #1 in 80s Corey Feldman tragi-documentary; “The Burbs”. Or as Gangster Dressed As A Cop in “The St Valentine’s Day Massacre”. Not to mention his star turns as Cab Driver in Martin Short gurn-a-thon “Innerspace” and the pivotal character of Pawn Shop Clerk in James-Cameron-Before-He-Was-Shit’s “The Terminator”. Or as Mr Futterman in Gremlins – that rare movie where Dick Miller plays a character who actually has a fucking name.
But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps a Dick Miller character doesn’t NEED a name. You see Dick Miller’s face, and you should know exactly what you’re going to get. A grizzled world weariness. A working class schmo who’s just doing his job. Sure, he might act impatient, get a little grumpy, but this guy’s simple, he’s honest, and he just wants to get home in time to watch the game, so hurry up and pay for your beer. Or your cab. Or the Uzi nine millimeder. Dick Miller characters transcend simple labels.
He surfaces periodicaly, like a kind of background sitar drone which occasionally and barely perceptibly changes key behind the melody of life. Appearing briefly and teasingly, he is like some well planted recurring clue in the story arc of a TV show, building up to the unveiling in the final 2-parter. What’s his purpose? Is there some pattern to his repeated appearances as low paid members of the service industry? What, ultimately, will Dick Miller come to mean?
I believe that Dick Miller serves a far higher purpose, and that his frequent appearances in blink-and-you’ll-miss-me cameos are affectionate waves at us, the loyal children whom he watches over. Like a caretaker, seldom seen but essential, he flits through our lives, keeping us from harm.
As long as I see Dick Miller in movies, I know thing are going to be OK. I live in perpetual fear of the day I stop seeing his grizzled face peering out from the screen. But I know that day will come. One day, old age will find me frantically fastforwarding through endless old VHS tapes, looking for that weatherbeaten brow, listening for that distinctive seen-it-all drawl. But on that day I will find nothing. And on that day, I know my time will be up.
Also, Dick, if you ever see my words, why was Mr Futterman in Gremlins 2 when it is HEAVILY implied that he is killed in Gremlins 1 when the Gremlins drive a JCB through his house? It’s never directly shown onscreen, but I thought he was dead as a kid when I saw that movie and it upset me. You didn’t need to put me through that, knowing that the bit where melty Stripe was going to jump out of the fountain and make me drop my doughnuts was coming up. You twat. In fact, fuck you Dick Miller.