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Michael Gross as Burt Gummer in Tremors 2: Aftershocks.
|First appearance||Tremors (1990)|
|Last appearance||Tremors: The Series (2003)|
|Portrayed by||Michael Gross|
|Occupation||Survivalist, weapons expert|
|Spouse(s)||Heather Gummer (divorced)|
Burt Gummer is a fictional character, played by actor Michael Gross, from the Tremors film series and the short lived SciFi Channel TV program of the same name. Appearing in Tremors, Tremors 2: Aftershocks, Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, and most episodes of the TV series, Burt Gummer is a firearms enthusiast and a paranoid survivalist. He and his former wife, Heather Gummer (played by Reba McEntire), were the first persons in the film series to directly kill a Graboid. He has an "overkill" approach to trouble and takes himself deadly seriously. Although he is only the central character in Tremors 3 and the TV series, his eccentric personality has made him a favorite among Tremors fans and the de facto star of the franchise, along with the vicious Graboids who oppose him. His ancestor, Hiram Gummer (also played by Gross), appears in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins.
In an interview, when asked, "Did you ever think that Burt would become part of a franchise?" Gross replied, "I knew it was an intriguing character." The actor goes on to assert, "Well, I love Burt. You know, there's a little scene in the third movie that is quintessential Burt. Burt is so fear-driven that he's a paranoid, ultimately, but a comic paranoid. And there's a scene in which he goes up to his house to punch in his keycode on his pad. But before he does, he takes a good look around and stands in front of the pad - there's nobody there for miles! - but he blocks the keypad with his body. Because Burt would rightly assume that there's somebody in the hills with a high-powered telescope who wants his keypad information, wants the code. Now that's the level of paranoia. Does it get funny? Yeah, because it's just so over the top. I love that. I love that about him. It's inherent in the fact that he has no sense of humor. It's because he doesn't consider life funny that we find him funny and his extremes which are so marvelous in human behavior....And one of the great things I love about Burt and what the writers do with him is he will prepare himself in certain ways and then we find out that, once again, he's not prepared because the animals have mutated in such a way that they've found a way to get around his best defenses. He couldn't possibly plan for every contingency and he thinks he has."
Although very little is known about Burt's past, he is known not to have been involved in the military, but does possesses extensive knowledge of military history, tactics, and protocol. Burt has also had an affection for guns since middle-school, evidenced by his telling Desert Jack that he "converted [his] BB gun to automatic by the eighth-grade." While he is very fond of his firearms, he is also strict about personal safety and care in the handling of firearms.
Burt settled in the town of Perfection with his wife, Heather (Reba McEntire), sometime before Tremors, a site they chose tactically due to its geographic isolation. It was later revealed in Tremors 4, however, that his ancestor Hiram Gummer (again played by Gross) inherited a silver mine in the town (which was named "Rejection" at the time), and went on to marry the local town-mistress. Stampede Entertainment's official website states that Hiram and his wife left in 1902 for San Francisco after a disagreement with Nevada bureaucrats over the date of the town's founding, and never returned (which may hint at the origins of Burt's anti-government sentiments). It may also simply be that Burt inherited the land, and given the choice, Burt & Heather located themselves in Perfection for the "geographic isolation".
Whether there is any direct connection between these events and Burt's choice to move to Perfection is unknown, but prior to the events of Tremors 3, Burt did possess an inheritance of silver bars from Hiram's ownership of the mine (as referenced in Tremors the Series). This massive inheritance also explains Burt's extensive weaponry and supplies, though some of the weapons may have been inherited as well, as Hiram developed a fondness for firearms over the course of Tremors 4.
In the first film, Burt was shown to be paranoid about surviving "World-War III", and his main cause as a survivalist. He had spent all of his years preparing for the possibility, building a stock of several years' worth of food and provisions in his home's underground bomb shelter. After the Graboid attacks of Tremors 1, Burt instead begins to worry less about World War III (possibly owing to the collapse of Soviet Russia, after which he sank into a deep depression as seen in Tremors 2), and becomes obsessed instead with Graboids, growing more obsessed with each new installment of the series, even having a massive underground concrete wall built to protect his compound. This actually saved his life as in Tremors 3 Desert Jack killed a Graboid that had swallowed Burt by tricking it into ramming into the wall, allowing him to rescue Burt. These obsessions and possibly the fear of the Graboids eventually cause his wife to divorce him sometime shortly before Tremors 2.
His regard to the final surviving albino Graboid from the end of Tremors 3 and the subsequent TV series, El Blanco, who is protected by his endangered species status (and inability to spawn the far more dangerous Shriekers, making him the only stable Graboid specimen ever found), is as something of a nemesis (their relationship was once compared to be somewhat like Captain Ahab & Moby-Dick), as Burt must balance his survival tactics with efforts to intentionally avoid harming the Graboid. Despite his animosity towards El Blanco, Burt has saved the Graboid's life on a few occasions, in the series premiere even begging the driven insane Graboid not to make him kill it, before destroying the machine driving it nuts. El Blanco also, if inadvertently, saved his life from an Ass Blaster when Desert Jack tricked it into eating the creature as it was about to kill Burt.
Burt has had many firsts and unique experiences with Graboids, having been the first to directly kill one via weaponry (the first was killed when it accidentally collided with a concrete wall at high speed), as well as being the only person to ever survive being eaten by a Graboid, having been eaten while inside a barrel; the Graboid was subsequently killed and cut open, allowing Burt to escape and survive. Burt has also probably killed more Graboids and their offspring than any other person, having taken out one in the first film, many of them with explosives in Tremors 2, having defeated an entire group of shriekers by himself during Tremors 2, another group of Shriekers at the start of Tremors 3, a number of the ass-blasters in Tremors 3, and a number of Shriekers in Tremors the Series. Recognized for his skill and expertise in the matter, W.D. Twitchell of the Department of the Interior often enlists Burt to deal with Graboid hatchlings in various populated areas of the United States when they occur.
Reception among Tremors fans
Burt was a popular character after the first Tremors movie, garnering enough popularity to be one of the only two original cast-characters to make a return in the second movie, and the only character to make an appearance in every Tremors movie, as well as the TV-Series, and the only character to retain the same actor throughout all appearances. (Although Burt himself didn't appear in Tremors 4, his grandfather Hiram did, a character with a similar but initially toned-down personality that plays off of Burt's nature, and thus is often regarded among fans as if it were another appearance of Burt.)
Many fans enjoy the character's over-the-top paranoia of the government, and his seriousness virtually always being used as humor in context of the plot. Some fans also take note that the character is seen wearing assorted Atlanta Hawks baseball caps in almost every appearance. His consistent behavior and portrayal throughout the series is regarded as one of the greatest strengths of the entire series.
Additionally, while Burt's role in the first film was as a side character and his role in the second was still secondary, many find him to be the star of the franchise thanks in part to his "mucho gusto" appearance in Tremors 2, escalating the situation greatly upon his arrival in the film, and his subsequent starring roles in later appearances were received very well by most fans of the franchise.
- As quoted in R. Scott Bolton, "BURT'S BACK! An Interview with Michael Gross, star of "Tremors," "Tremors 2: Aftershock" and now...," Rough Edge.