Tag Archives: Gremlins Cameos

Deadly Movies Cameos: Roger Corman in The Howling (1981)

Roger Corman Cameo The Howling

Director Joe Dante started off his filmmaking career under the guidance of B-movie supremo Roger Corman, getting his big directorial break with the Corman produced Piranha (1978). Dante gives Corman a brief, but lingering, appearance at the beginning of The Howling as an impatient man waiting for Dee Wallace to finish a call in a phone booth. Dante fills The Howling with nods and winks to horror’s past including TV footage from The Wolf Man (1941), a sketch of Lon Chaney Jr in full Wolf Man makeup, and there’s small roles for Corman regular Dick Miller and B-movie leading-man icon Kenneth Tobey. Dante would up the cameo ante in Gremlins (1984) with Steven Spielberg, Robby The Robot, HG Wells’ Time Machine, and animation legend Chuck Jones all getting a little screen service (see all Gremlins cameos here).

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Time travelling with Spielbergo and Robby the Robot

Deadly Movies Cameos | Steven Spielberg and others in ‘Gremlins’ (1984)

The cameos, nods, winks, references, and self indulgent love-in’s that litter Gremlins (and other Spielberg produced and/re directed movies from the 80s) can become a real headache to piece together, and are worth further exploration in a Deadly Movies Connections article one day. This particular cameo is wonderful for its sheer self indulgence, yet it’s handled with huge pinches of salt by the filmmakers, as well as a displaying a great sense of timing. While Gremlins awaken in his attic, inventor, and Mogwai purchaser extraordinaire, Randall Peltzer calls home from a convention centre, allowing us to see his fellow entrepreneur’s going about their conference business. This gives filmmakers Dante and Spielberg the ideal narrative vehicle, and plot segway, to throw in as many in-jokes and cameos as possible in the space of 30 seconds.

Spielberg's Cameo in 'Gremlins': Spielberg in the foreground, Goldsmith in the stupid hat, and the Time Machine in the background (right)

So you get Senior Spielbergo ridding some kind of recumbent bike (sitting down bike to me and you) around in circles, movie score legend Jerry Goldsmith in a phone booth wearing a ridiculous hat, Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (1956) being escorted across screen, and best of all, the Time Machine from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen revving its Victorian engine in background. Fabulous deft comic timing is at hand here, because when we cut back to the Peltzer house, and then again back to the convention centre, take a look as to where the Time Machine was – it’s now gone leaving nothing but bewildered delegates and a puff of smoke. Genius stuff. A sort sharp scene, filled with gags, taking place away from the action so as not to distract the viewer too much.

Enter Robby the Robot, and in the background the Time Machine has vanished

And if that’s not enough for you the in-jokes and cameos in Gremlins go on and on.., and on. Here’s a couple more: In school the students are watching ‘Hemo the Magnificent’ (1957), starring Marvin Miller, who also voiced the aforementioned Robby the Robot. Then there’s this little gem; sitting next to Billy at the bar, watching him sketch, is none other than Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones. As Billy gets up to leave the bar he says, “excuse me Mr Jones”. Throw that all in with further references to The Howling, E.T, Indiana Jones, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and It’s a Wonderful Life (and I’m sure I’ve left more out) and your Spielberg, Dante, Columbus, and Zemeckis nerd’o’meter starts blowing steam.

Chuck Jones (right) cameo in Gremlins

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