Elijah Drenner's (AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE) movie is like a love letter to famed character actor Dick Miller. Seeing it a year after Miller's passing gives it even more poignancy.
Miller racked up almost 200 film and TV credits over his six decade career, but, with rare exceptions early on, they were mostly in supporting and bit roles. Miller's ability to make his few minutes on screen memorable was both a blessing and a curse. His career sustained for all those years, but, it he relegated to the background. At one point, Miller is quoted as giving a backhand compliment to a "nice small" role. Emphasis on small. Miller reveals that at a low-point, he earned all of $1,500 one year. Even in the 60s, hardly a livable salary.
Miller is extensively interviewed and doesn't reveal much bitterness, and seemed accepting of his lot in Hollywood. His co-star, literally, is his wife Lanie Halpern Miller. An actress herself, Lanie gives as good as she gets (she is still alive). Roger Corman testifies for Miller, and other interview subjects include filmmakers like Joe Dante, Jonathan Kaplan, Jack Hill, Jon Davison and Fred Dekker and they relate stories of how Miller always made his scenes (or scene, singular) count. Fellow actors Mary Woronov, Belinda Balaski, Corey Feldman, Robert Forster (who talks about being another "that guy" type) and others give insights from the in front of the camera POV. Miller's brothers, Leonard Maltin, Larry Karaszewski, Michael Schlesinger, Chris Walas and more provide additional commentary.
Drenner's movie isn't a formal investigative Doc as such (Miller's wife is a co-producer), but it does highlight a lesser known aspect of Miller's career - that of a writer. Indeed, Miller intended writing to be his calling card with Corman, but, sort of 'fell' into acting. Still, Miller did get a few scripts produced including an ill-fated collaboration with Jerry Lewis (WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT). His script was drastically re-written and Miller had to fight to get a credit.
Even though I know quite a few of the people interviewed here, I only got to personally meet Miller once - at a party at Director Fred Olen Ray's house (Ray is interviewed). When that door opened and in walked Miller, it definitely was...Look! It's THAT GUY DICK MILLER!