Best Rance Howard Movies You've Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we take a look at some of the best movies starring Rance Howard that you’ve probably never seen.)

Rance Howard passed away over the weekend at the age of eighty nine years old. In addition to friends and family – including sons Ron and Clint – he leaves behind a filmography consisting of hundreds of feature films and television roles. Quick, name your favorite film of his. Most of us probably can’t think of one because he almost never played major characters and instead lived in a world of supporting turns and cameos. It’s doubtful that moviegoers sought out his work, but it’s a guarantee that audiences have seen him many times over. He’s there in films as diverse as Nebraska, The Lone Ranger, Joe Dirt, and the Psycho remake, and he was also a steady fixture in Ron’s films from Grand Theft Auto to The Dilemma.

While those are all widely known titles, the vast majority of his appearances were in far smaller productions. Many are forgettable – he pops up in a lot of low budget horror movies for some reason – but there are gems amid his lower profile titles well worth seeking out. His roles are sometimes blink and you’ll miss them fast, but he’s there all the same.

Keep reading for a look at the best Rance Howard movies you probably haven’t seen.

where the lilies bloom

Where the Lilies Bloom (1974)

The Luther family has lived in the North Carolina mountains for decades, but difficult times and an ailing father mean the children may soon be on their own. He makes them promise two things. First, that his eldest daughter will continue refusing the advances of their landlord, who’s been pursuing her hand in marriage. And second, that they’ll keep his passing a secret so that they can continue living together as a family.

Another film actually released the same year (as a made-for-TV movie) with a vaguely similar plot, but while All the Kind Strangers found suspense in its tale of parent-less kids looking for new guardians, Where the Lilies Bloom is more content focusing on the drama of the situation and characters. These kids are just trying to survive, but after their father dies, the days that follow make it clear just how impossible that task will be. They’re able to keep the illusion going, but poverty is no less harsh on the young and leaves the family barely scraping by. Their struggle is the core of the film, and it’s played against two possible outs.

The first would be strictly for one of the daughters, as her writing sees her teacher convinced that she could make a career of it if only she could escape this community. The second, though, would benefit them all, and only requires that the eldest agrees to marry the land owner (played by Harry Dean Stanton). The film’s about the choices that need to be made and how desperation is rarely an ideal motivator, but more than that, the movie finds value in family and in the effort to hold theirs together.

Where the Lilies Bloom is not currently available.

Mr No Legs

Mr. No Legs (1978)

A detective’s sister is found dead, leaving him understandably motivated in his pursuit of those responsible. He and his partner investigate and soon find a trail of drugs, bodies, and mayhem, but they also cross paths with a kingpin and his most-feared enforcer…Mr. No Legs.

To be clear, the character of Mr. No Legs (Ted Vollrath) is exactly what you expect, but also so much more – he indeed has no legs, but he’s also a crazy ass-kicker. He rolls through scenes in his wheelchair, dealing death at every turn with shotguns hidden in his armrests and throwing stars attached to his wheels. The unlucky ones, though – like the half dozen thugs who make the mistake of trying to kill him poolside – meet their end through Legs’ wicked karate moves involving chops, chokes, and “kicks.” It’s a mesmerizing fight scene for reasons right, wrong, and everything in between.

This is a glorious piece of cinema that shouldn’t exist, and in today’s world, pretty much doesn’t. It’s worth seeking out, though, for the above shenanigans, some glorious dialogue choices, and the presence of ’70s genre stalwart Richard Jaeckel. The movie is a gift that keeps on giving leading up to a twelve minute car chase – twelve minutes! – that miraculously features neither the deadly Mr. No Legs nor the detectives working the case. It’s bonkers! Twelve minutes of some other bad guy being chased by dozens of nameless/faceless cops.

Mr. No Legs is not currently available.


Creator (1985)

A young man’s arrival at college sees him challenged by classes and female classmates, but it’s an eccentric professor who challenges him most. The man is a widower with plans to clone his dead wife, and he’s enlisted a young woman to assist both in spirit and with her ovaries. Science is the focus, but love finds a more natural way.

The legendary Peter O’Toole gives life to the mad scientist, and the clear affection he feels not only for his lost wife but also for the student (Mariel Hemingway) aiding him adds real sweetness to the tale. He can’t bring himself to see beyond the loss, but the film moves his story toward acceptance and a realization that his refusal to budge on the subject has made him blind to what’s in front of his eyes. Sure, there’s some cliche to it all, but the specifics of the plot combined with the cast make it more engaging than expected.

O’Toole and Hemingway are the heart of the film – he the wily veteran, she the spunky newcomer – but they’re not the only draws here. Vincent Spano is the wide-eyed young man, and his coming of age (of sorts) sees him learning about love both by watching the professor’s journey and living his own with another student (Virginia Madsen). The film finds conflict in O’Toole’s unrealistic plans, but more comical friction comes courtesy of David Ogden Stiers as a competing professor. It’s ultimately little more than a romantic comedy, but it’s one that asks a few questions most others don’t.

Buy Creator on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

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