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Mike’s Note: Even though we’re done with daily Cheers caps, it doesn’t mean we’re done with Cheers entirely! There will be Cheers-related posts, such as this one about a little known John Ratzenberger role. If you like it as much as Norm likes beer, then check out and follow Powered Pop! and Mike Does Movies for similar pop culture content!
When you watch a film, sometimes, you’ll come across a minor character that, for some reason or another, captivates you. Whatever scene or scenes they are in, how brief it may be, will grab your attention, whether it is because of the strangeness of the actor’s performance or the surprising nature of the character’s actions or words in relation to the film as a whole. This installment’s focus is Bill Towner from HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (1987).
First and foremost, you can get your chuckles right out of your system in regards to the title of this article, because we’re going to be focusing on some mind-meltingly serious badassery. “How badass?,” you ask. Badass enough to give a big middle finger to the laws of grammar and the English language by creating the words “mind-meltingly” and “badassery.”
HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY is the strange, kid-friendly horror-comedy sequel to the film HOUSE. The only connection between both films is the setting and concept of haunted houses with extra-dimensional capabilities. The first film is worth some recognition for being a pretty solid genre outing directed by industry veteran Steve Miner (FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 2 & 3) from a story by the great Fred Dekker (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, MONSTER SQUAD). The second film? Not so much…except for Bill Towner.
The second film concerns itself with Jesse, a young guy who moves back into his family’s old house and the subsequent mishaps and incidents that occur when he and his friend, Charlie, dig up Jesse’s great-great-grandfather and ancient, mystical crystal skull buried along with him. Sounds neat, right? It certainly does, especially with character actor extraordinaire Royal Dano (GHOULIES 2, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE) as the undead cowboy Gramps, but it never seems to find its proper footing. The gang goes from one weird dimensional encounter to the next, but the toned down approach leaves something more to be desired, and the cutesy prehistoric pets they acquire don’t satisfy.
That’s where Bill Towner comes in.
Bill Towner operates highly sensitive equipment
For seemingly no reason what so other than a call back to the first film, Bill Towner is introduced. You see, Harold was a character in HOUSE, and he was portrayed by George Wendt, who is most well-known for playing the immovable and lovable bar fly, Norm Peterson on CHEERS (aka the greatest sitcom ever created). Bill Towner is portrayed by John Ratzenberger, who played Norm’s compadre, know-it-all postman Cliff Clavin.
Bill Towner is an electrician who shows up to the house and, in typical Cliff Clavin fashion, proceeds to carry himself with a buffoonish air of authority as he smashes antiques and tears wiring from the walls, but there’s something off about him. He uses strange sensory equipment which could “blow us to Milwaukee,” which we can write off over-exaggeration, but he’s seemingly not fazed when he alerts Jesse and Charlie that it, “looks like you have some kind of alternate dimension in there or something.” Probably because he’s been through this kind of thing before —wait, what?
Before one can even process the randomness of Bill Towner’s introduction and actions, he nonchalantly pulls a sword out of his tool box!
A necessary part of an electrician’s tool box
Yup. This guy packs a freakin’ swash-buckling cutlass in his goddamn tool box. That’s how you know that Bill Towner is not kidding and comes prepared for some high-adventuring at the drop of a hat. Y’know, in case zombies come shambling up behind him while he’s in your basement, checking out the fuse box.
As soon as he sees that Jesse and Charlie are venturing into the alternate dimension he discovered in the wall, Bill pulls out his sword and follows suit. If the on-hand sword wasn’t already an indicator that he’s done this before, he leaves a spool of twine at the entrance so they can find their way back. He’s clearly been around the block.
The guys and Bill come across a mystical Mayan ritual (complete with the attempted human sacrifice of a young, nubile damsel) and the stolen crystal skull. Jesse and Charlie launch themselves into action and Bill proceeds to kick ancient South-American ass, dual-wielding a sword and hammer, firing kicks and throwing ‘bows.
Proficient in all forms of weaponry/home improvement
The guys steal back the skull, rescue the beautiful maiden and make their way out, with Bill holding down the rear so they can make their escape. “I gotta get home. It’s my kid’s Little League night,” he says as they leave the chamber. Even while he’s laying the smackdown, Bill is conscious of his fatherly responsibilities.
Just when they think they’ve left the heroic Bill Towner to a noble demise, sacrificing himself for the group’s greater good, the gang emerges to find Bill standing in the living room, polishing his glasses. I mean, we’ve got solid evidence as to Bill’s badass legitimacy, and his uncanny ability to make it back before everyone else is what you’d think would be the final exhibit, but, oh ho ho, you’d be dead wrong.
Best Business Card Ever.
That is the business card he hands Jesse as he leaves. ADVENTURER. How many people do you know who have A. the confidence to include that as a business title and B. the proof back it up? One, and his name is Bill Goddamn Towner.
He arrives. He kicks ass. He leaves. Even for a film about dimension-hopping, it’s baffling, and it leaves you wanting more of this mysterious “electrician & adventurer” and his other escapades, but unfortunately, these few brief moments are all we have to share of the Legend of Bill Towner.
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