SO RODNEY Dangerfield's movies weren't exactly going to give Brando a run for his money. There was that unforgettably dark turn as a sitcom dad from hell in Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers." And "Caddyshack" and "Back to School" had their share of laughs. But most of the time, he was doing roles like, well, Lucifer in Adam Sandler's "Little Nicky."
But it's not as an actor we should remember Rodney, who died in Los Angeles Tuesday, after a heart operation. It's for those great one-liners, coming from the comedian who looked as though he'd perspire into a puddle, as he yanked feverishly at his tie, eyes bigger than rutabagas. His big lament? "No respect." From anyone.
"I went to see my doctor," he said. "I said, 'Doctor, every morning I get up and look in the mirror, I feel like throwing up. What's wrong with me?' He said, 'I don't know, but your eyesight is perfect.' "
He came home early from work one time. Saw a man jogging past, complete naked. "I said to the guy, 'Why are you doing that?' He said, 'Because you came home early.' " "My uncle's dying wish," Rodney told us, "was to have me sitting in his lap. He was in the electric chair."
Even as a kid, he got no -- you know.
"I was such an ugly baby," he claimed, "my mother never breast-fed me. She told me she only liked me as a friend."
"I remember the time I was kidnapped," he'd say. "And they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof."
It never stopped, this terrible childhood. His bath toys? A toaster and a radio. And then there was the time his parents were missing, and an anguished Rodney asked a policeman for help.
"I said to him, 'Do you think we'll ever find them?' He said, 'I don't know, kid. There are so many places they can hide.' " No hiding from our loss. But Rodney, you got our respect.
MEGAPLEXES ARE MULTIPLYING
This month, there are even more new screens in and around town. They join the burgeoning crowd of newbies such as the Majestic 20 in Silver Spring, the Muvico Egyptian 24 at Arundel Mills Mall, the AMC Hoffman Center 22 in Alexandria. (According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, about a third of the country's movie theaters have been turned into megaplexes in the past seven years.) This weekend marks the opening of the 12-screen Magic Johnson Theatre, the first in Maryland and part of the Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. It's at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo, former home of the Wizards and Capitals. It's a stone's throw, too, from FedEx Field, the Washington Redskins stadium.
In addition to the customary stadium seating and digital Dolby sound, the theater features modern deco styling and a large atrium lobby with murals depicting creator Earvin "Magic" Johnson and photos of important figures in the African American community, national and local, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Dominique Dawes and Martin Lawrence.
Also, there's the Gallery Place Stadium 14, which opens Oct. 22 at 707 Seventh St. NW. It's part of Regal Entertainment Group in Knoxville, Tenn., which boasts it is the largest motion picture exhibitor in the world and which includes Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres, totaling more than 6,000 screens in about 40 states and more than 20 percent of domestic box office.
And you thought the national election was starting to heat up.
A LITTLE ITALY IN WASHINGTON
Giancarlo Giannini, who can be seen in "Incantato" (see film review on Page 46) at the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre, will be a special guest at "Washington, Italia -- the Italian Film Fest." It's a free, six-day festival of new and classic Italian films at Loews Cineplex Georgetown (3111 K St. NW) Tuesday through Oct. 17.
Giannini will lead a seminar Oct. 15 at 4 at the Catholic University's Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, 620 Michigan Ave. NE. The topic will be contemporary Italian cinema. He is expected to attend some of the fest's screenings, as are actors Danny Aeillo and Dennis Farina, and comedian Dom DeLuise.
The festival, which offers more than 25 films that are recent or classic, gets underway Tuesday at 3 with Massimo Troisi's "I'm Starting From Three." It's followed at 5 by Michele Placido's "Another Life." At 7, it's the Washington premiere of "My Father -- Rua Alguem 5555," a fictionalized story of a son's hunt for his Nazi father, Josef Mengele. Directed by Egidio Eronico, the movie stars Thomas Kretschmann ("The Pianist") as Mengele's son and Charlton Heston as Mengele. (The film repeats Wednesday at 11 a.m.) Davide Ferrario's "After Midnight" screens at 9, followed by "The Soul Keeper," by Roberto Faenza.
The festival also includes movies by filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Lina Wertmuller, Michael Radford, Pupi Avati, Sergio Castellitto and Vittorio De Sica. Admission is first-come, first-seated; screenings run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For more information and the schedule, visit www.washingtonitalia.com.
-- Desson Thomson