Category Archives: Dick Miller

Screening: Piranha (1978).

Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski, Paul Bartel, Richard Deacon, Stephan The Swimming Swine

A 35mm print of Joe Dante’s wonderful Jaws ripoff Piranha (1978) will be run as part of the festivities at the Hudson Horror Show on Saturday, May 20th at 7:55 and 10:40PM.

The Empire South Hills 8
1895 South Rd, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

One of the prop piranhas by Phil Tippett. How cool is that?

Piranha‘s a real favorite, and I’d love to be there. This was one I never caught in the theater.

The Hudson Horror Show’s entire lineup is in 35mm. God bless ’em!

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Filed under 1978, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Kevin McCarthy, New World, Roger Corman, Screenings

Blu-Ray News #114: White Line Fever (1975).

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Starring Jan Michael Vincent, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Don Porter, R.G. Armstrong, Dick Miller

Growing up in the South in the 70s, White Line Fever (1975) was a very big deal. It seemed like every kid I knew was crazy about either White Line Fever or Jaws (1975) — or they hated their moms for not letting them see them.

Jonathan Kaplan was clearly (and admittedly) inspired by Sam Peckinpah here, and it shows, especially in the cast: Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong. This thing was a huge hit, with every redneck kid in the fifth grade wanting a Ford cabover truck like Jan Michael Vincent’s Blue Mule.

Mill Creek’s bringing it to Blu-Ray as part of its Payback Time Triple Feature. The other two are Chuck Norris in Silent Rage (1982) and Blind Fury (1989) with Rutger Hauer. I worked in a few video stores in college back in the 80s. If I had a nickel for every time someone rented Silent Rage, I’d be trying to buy that Bullitt Mustang from the previous post.

Not sure why, but the CED Videodisc seemed like the perfect image for this post.

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Filed under 1975, Chuck Norris, Columbia, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Sam Peckinpah, Slim Pickens

Blu-Ray News #89: The Film Detective’s Roger Corman Collection.

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The Film Detective has gathered up three Roger Corman pictures and repackaged them on Blu-Ray at a special price. Sounds like a good idea to me.

The Terror (1963)
Directed by Roger Corman (along with Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Jack Nicholson)
Starring Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, Dick Miller

A crazy patchwork quilt of a movie. Boris Karloff’s scenes were shot as the wonderful sets for Corman’s The Raven (1963) were being torn down. The rest was made up, with a script by Leo Gordon and Jack Hill, and shot later by a revolving door of cast and crew. It all comes together much better than you’d think, and with repeat viewing almost starts to make some sense. Almost. The Film Detective has this one looking good — and in 1.85 (which AIP called Vistascope).

Dementia 13 (1963)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring William Campbell, Luana Anders, Patrick Magee

With just $40,000 and nine days, Francis Ford Coppola made one of the best Psycho ripoffs, even though you can feel the fact that it was written in a hurry. However, Coppola the director saves Coppola the writer.

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A Bucket Of Blood (1959)
Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone

A goofy/funny/scary little gem of a movie with a rare lead role for Dick Miiler. Of course, he’s terrific. The Film Detective offers it up 1.85, the way it oughta be.

It’s easy to recommend this set. I grew up on these things, and it’s great to see them treated with the respect some people (like me) feel they deserve.

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Filed under 1959, 1963, AIP, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, Francis Ford Coppola, Leo Gordon, Monte Hellman, Roger Corman, The Film Detective

DVD Review: Not Of This Earth (1957).

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Produced and Directed by Roger Corman
Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna
Photographed by John Mescall
Music by Ronald Stein
Titles by Paul Julian

Cast: Paul Birch (Paul Johnson), Beverly Garland (Nadine Storey), Morgan Jones (Harry Sherbourne), William Roerick (Dr. Rochelle), Jonathan Haze (Jeremy Perrin), Dick Miller (Joe Piper)

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Beverly Garland is one of my favorite actresses, thanks to terrific performances in movies like this. Sure, she was capable of much, much more, as she proved later. But Beverly was such a pro, and so good, she can pick up a cheap picture like Gunslinger (1956) or The Alligator People (1959) and carry it on her back for 60-plus minutes. In Not Of This Earth (1957), Paul Birch is on hand to help out, and the two of them helped Roger Corman knock out what is probably the best of his early monster movies.

Not Of The Earth LCPaul Johnson (Birch) requires a lot of medical care, so he hires a nurse (Garland) to tend to his ongoing need for transfusions. Turns out, he’s from the planet Davanna, whose populace is dying of a blood disease, and he’s come to check out the earth as a possible supply.

Of course, this is pretty silly stuff, but Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna’s script really works, the cast puts the dialogue over (Birch somehow makes the alien’s stilted lines feel natural), location shooting in real homes and around Griffith Park add some production value, and it leaves us with a genuinely creepy ending. Good stuff.

Then there’s Paul Julian’s titles. He was a world-class background artist for Warner Bros. cartoons, and his work for Corman really classes things up. They’re so cool, so simple and so effective. Also worth noting is the beautiful advertising art by Albert Kallis — one of my favorite posters ever.

Not Of This Earth is available as part of Shout Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature. The other two pictures are Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957) and War Of The Satellites (1958). We get crisp anamorphic transfers for Earth and Attack, while Satellites is full-frame — but nice and sharp. You’ll never pull these movies out to show off your spiffy new TV, but Shout Factory has ’em looking better than you ever thought they would.

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Allied Artists sent out Attack Of The Crab Monsters and Not Of This Earth as a double feature. Watch them back to back — it’s only a little over two hours. Recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Beverly Garland, Dick Miller, Monogram/Allied Artists, Roger Corman

Blu-Ray News #22: 1941 (1979).

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Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring (in more or less the order I could remember them) Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Elisha Cook, Jr., Dub Taylor, Dan Aykroyd, Robert Stack, Ned Beatty, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eddie Deezen, Nancy Allen, John Belushi, Lorraine Gary, Dick Miller, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Susan Backlinie, Lionel Stander, Sam Fuller, Bobby Di Cicco, Perry Lang, John Landis, Penny Marshall, Treat Williams, Wendie Jo Sperber, Lucille Bensen, James Caan

Is there a movie you like more because everyone else seems to hate it? For me, that’s Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (1979), a movie I dearly love and will lift up till the day I die. But saying that, I also understand, and even agree with, many of the complaints about it. Sure it’s big, it’s loud, it’s stupid, it’s disrespectful — and those are all completely positive things in my book.

It’s also coming to Blu-ray in May as a stand-alone disc (it was already part of a snazzy Spielberg set) — with both the two-hour theatrical cut and the longer, expanded thing. I’ve always preferred the theatrical version — I feel it has a better rhythm to it, even though it offers less Slim Pickens, Dick Miller, etc. Speaking of those guys, how could a movie that boasts Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Elisha Cook, Jr., Dub Taylor, Dick Miller, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee and Toshiro Mifune not be a treasure?

1941 is also the movie that made me really realize there was some guy named John Milius that I needed to learn more about.

Mifune Spielberg Lee 1941

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Filed under 1979, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Caan, John Milius, Steven Spielberg, Warren Oates

Blu-Ray News #15: Four From American International Pictures (And Olive Films).

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Olive Films has announced four terrific titles from American International Pictures (AIP) for February release on Blu-ray.

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Muscle Beach Party (1964)
Directed by William Asher
Starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Luciana Paluzzi, John Ashley, Don Rickles, Jody McCrea, Dick Dale, Candy Johnson, Morey Amsterdam, Buddy Hackett, Little Stevie Wonder

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Directed by William Asher
Starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley, Harvey Lembeck, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Donna Loren, Linda Evans, Timothy Carey, Don Rickles, Paul Lynde

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The Wild Angels (1966)
Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Michael J. Pollard, Gayle Hunnicutt, Dick Miller

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Psych-Out (1968)
Directed by Richard Rush
Starring Susan Strasburg, Dean Stockwell, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Adam Roarke, The Seeds, The Strawberry Alarm Clock

This is some of the stuff that rotted my brain as a kid. Essential.

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Filed under 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, AIP, Annette Funicello, Buddy Hackett, Dick Miller, Don Rickles, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frankie Avalon, Olive Films, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Fonda, Roger Corman, Timothy Carey, William Asher

DVD Review: M Squad: The Complete Series (1957-60).

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Lee Marvin was an established heavy before taking on M Squad, thanks to memorable turns in solid pictures like The Wild One, The Big Heat (both 1953), Violent Saturday (1955) and Seven Men From Now (1956). And while he was sick of doing the show by its second season, it helped him make the transition from bad guys to leads.

The show follows Lieutenant Frank Ballinger (Marvin) of M Squad, “a special detail of the Chicago police.” Each week, Ballinger tackles a different type of case — murder, corruption, organized crime, etc. — depending on where he’s assigned. It’s a pretty slick way to set up a cop show, avoiding the “another week, another murder” setup that can get stale. That, along with narration by Marvin covering the points they don’t have the time or money to show, makes it seem a bit like Dragnet on the surface. But the resemblances end there. M Squad hops the line between a strict procedural and an attempt to channel Mickey Spillane (which was happening with Darin McGavin at the same time on Mike Hammer).

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What sets M Squad apart is, of course, Lee Marvin. Whether he’s shooting a nut-job killer, slapping a mobster around or chatting with a female witness, he adds his own brutal energy, as he did to just about everything he did. As Ballinger, Marvin may be on the right side of the law here, but’s he as unhinged and violent at times as, say, Liberty Valance. And the show is better for it.

1231085080_1TV of the 50s is a great place to follow the work of some of genre filmmaking’s greatest actors and directors. Some saw the small screen as slumming, others just saw it as work. William Witney, John Brahm and Earl Bellamy were among the veteran directors who worked on the show. It also provided fairly early credits to Don Taylor, Boris Sagal and Robert Altman. But no matter who’s at the helm, the show has a stripped-down, claustrophobic noir aesthetic, helped along by some real heavyweights in charge of the cinematography: Ray Rennehan, William A. Sickner, Lionel Lindon and Bert Glennon, to name just a few.

At the same time, future stars and established character actors are featured each week: Luana Anders, Morris Ankrum, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Ted de Corsia, Angie Dickinson, John Doucette, Penny Edwards, Jack Elam, Virginia Gregg, James Griffith, Stacy Harris, DeForest Kelley, Tom Laughlin, Ruta Lee, Betty Lynn, Mike Mazurki, Howard McNear, Dick Miller, Leonard Nimoy, Burt Reynolds and Yvette Vickers. The combined cast list is incredible.

The point here is that Marvin, who was one of the producers of the show, made sure he was surrounded by top talent. He may not have liked the rigors of a weekly TV series, but he made sure he did it right. With so much talent on both sides of the camera, how could it not be great?

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Speaking of top talent, Count Basie provided the theme for M Squad‘s later seasons. John Williams (credited as Johnny) and Benny Carter scored some episodes, providing a perfect jazzy complement to the hard-boiled hipster dialogue. The soundtrack LP is terrific. (That’s Lee Marvin, Count Basie and music director Stanley Wilson above.)

Timeless Media Group gives us all 117 episodes of M Squad, in order, spread over 16 DVDs, with a bonus disc of various Marvin TV appearances. The quality varies from episode to episode. Most look fine, some are pretty rough. But the show’s so good and Marvin’s so cool, quality becomes secondary to having the show’s entire run.

This is essential stuff.

marvin print

M Squad earned an odd footnote as one of the inspirations for the Police Squad and The Naked Gun TV and movie franchise starring Leslie Nielson. The music and opening credits for Police Squad are clearly patterned after M Squad. (M Squad does not feature a “hunchback at the office.”)

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Filed under Angie Dickinson, Charles Bronson, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Robert Altman, Television, William Witney