Film Buff Read: TCM Underground – 50 Must-See Films from the World of Classic Cult and Late-Night Cinema

Based on the TCM Underground series that ran on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), TCM Underground – 50 Must-See Films from the World of Classic Cult and Late-Night Cinema is a movie lover’s guide to 50 of the most campy, kitschy, odd, shocking, and truly weird cult films. Authors Millie de Chirico and Quatoyiah Murry, both experienced television programmers, spotlight the cult films that most impacted them, inspiring a passion for what has become late-night cinema. The two explore a diverse roster of films primarily from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s offering insightful movie reviews, behind-the-scenes stories, actor spotlights, intriguing film trivia, and genre connecting sidebars. They also include their OMG and WTF moments gleaned from these outrageous films. No two films are alike in this compendium offering surprises and amusement for film fans.

Our classic couple exclusive interview with TCM Underground authors Millie de Chirico and Quatoyiah Murry follows.

Classic Couple:  Who is this book for? How do you want your readers to experience it?

Quatoyiah Murry

Quatoyiah Murry: It’s for anyone who considers themselves a movie fan and likes watching offbeat, quirky films. The best way to experience it is to just flip through and read based on which entry piques your interest. The hope is that it’ll give readers new movies to add to their watchlist that can become new favorites and that maybe they’ll find interesting factoids to share at a dinner party. 

Classic Couple: Please provide your mini explainer of what a cult classic film is—that elevator speech you give about your passion for late-night cinema. 

Quatoyiah Murry: To me, a cult classic is a film that generally was overlooked, panned, or underseen by audiences during its release but has since found a renewed praise among a different generation of movie goers who spread knowledge about it through word of mouth.

Millie De Chirico: I think late-night cinema, too, is anything that television would tend to put on after prime-time, which were/are primarily genre films, anything with content issues, and anything that was traditionally cheap to license, a.k.a. b-movies.

Millie De Chirico
Credit: April Richardson

Classic Couple: Some of the films—not all—in the book have callouts for OMG moments. What makes an OMG moment worthy of noting? How does it differ from a WTF Moment?

Quatoyiah Murry: An OMG/WTF moment are the same. I think when writing the book, it just depended on what emotion came through for those moments that determined if OMG or WTF got typed out. A worthy OMG/WTF moment is a moment that transcends the film. The moment that is unforgettable, outrageous, and manages to sear itself into your brain and live “rent free” in your head, as they say. If you’re with a friend, or even alone watching it, it’s the moment you’d literally yell either OMG or WTF, then rewind that moment immediately to watch it again.

Classic Couple: In the book’s introduction you note that you split the 50 films among you. Was it evident how to divvy them up? How did the process inform the categories you placed the films into?

Quatoyiah Murry: It was easy to split them up because we had a big list of films that have aired on TCM Underground throughout the years to choose from. We combed through that list and picked the 25 we wanted to spend time discussing, and it just so happened to be a very a diverse list that complemented each other’s picks. 

Millie De Chirico: The categories came later, after we looked at all fifty titles together. I think we both went for the titles we wanted and then figured out a way to organize them after the fact.

Classic Couple: Yes, we want you to pick favorites. What are the three films you each enjoyed most researching and writing about for this book—the ones providing you with ah-ha moments?

Quatoyiah Murry: For me, Xanadu, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, and The Brood. I’ve been in love with I’m Gonna Git You Sucka since I was a child, so it was truly a kick getting to rewatch it from a slightly more elevated mindset and researching it. I love the themes present in The Brood and have written extensively about it before on my site The Cinephiliac. I even made it part of my master’s thesis this year. Xanadu was really hard to be objective about. I have a deep devotion to that movie and my first draft was basically a love letter to it because I watched it for the first time during a really hard and dark period, and it uplifted me out of my depression. The editors came back and were pretty much like, um there’s too much “I” and “me” in this. Tone it down.

Millie De Chirico: My favorites were Secret Ceremony, Remember My Name, and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. The first two are just really rich texts to me and it was great getting to live in those worlds for a while. Doing hard research on the latter movie was so stupidly fun. I caught myself watching the scene where one of the Garbage Pail Kids farts a man’s mustache off his face in frame-by-frame slow-motion while doing research and I was like, “What is life right now?” I had a blast.

Classic Couple: You selected 50 films to feature out of a vast catalog of cult movies. Do you each have a number 51? The one you really wanted to include and would in your next book?

Quatoyiah Murry: I’m gonna cheat a bit here but I really wanted to talk about Troll 2 but it’s never aired on TCM Underground, so I couldn’t write about it. Two movies I would have loved to write about were River’s Edge and Heathers. Unfortunately, they had missed making the cut because they hadn’t aired on TCM Underground at the time we were writing the book. I rewatched Heathers recently and it’s such a special movie that deserves all the praise and glory it gets and even then, that’s still not enough!

Millie De Chirico: Yeah, I would have loved to written about The Loveless but it aired after we’d already started the book. I think I would have had tons to say about that movie!

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