Kool Kat of the Week: Cult-Film Fanatic and Queen of the TCM Underground Millie De Chirico Bloodies it Up with the Buried Alive Film Festival Family at 7 Stages

Posted on: Nov 14th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crewuse
Managing Editor

Millie De Chirico, co-creator and exclusive Programmer for Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) weekly late-night cult movie showcase, “TCM Underground,” returns to Buried Alive Film Festival’s (BAFF) bloody ranks as a hand-picked and well-sought after  juror for BAFF’s Sinema Challenge, a horrorific and spooktacular extra added to this year’s festival! Competitors’ films for the 13-day filmmaking competition will screen Nov. 16 at 7 Stages (7 p.m./ 9 p.m.), kicking off the 11th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival (Thursday, November 17, 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday, November 18, 6:00 p.m. – 2:05 a.m.; Saturday, November 19, 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Sunday, November 20, 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.;  7 Stages; Tickets $12 per screening block / $120 all access pass [includes film blocks and special events]; Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)!

De Chirico, a Georgia State University (GSU) film major and cult-classic connoisseur has been a member of TCM’s Programming Department for over a decade. While TCM Underground is her cult-film love-child, she’s also spearheaded several successful TCM initiatives, including TCM’s Summer of Darkness featuring films of the noir persuasion; Condemned, “A festival of films Condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency”; and the TCM Imports Showcase. De Chirico is no fledgling when it comes to independent film, as she’s sat on juries for Austin’s Fantastic Fest and Buried Alive. Recently, she held a week-long programming residency at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. And in 2016, De Chirico was given an enviable opportunity to be involved with programming content for TCM/Criterion Collection’s new streaming service, FilmStruck!

ATLRetro caught up with Millie De Chirico for a quick interview about her cult cinema obsession, especially obscure films showcasing girl gangs and basically ladies who kick ass; being a part of the Buried Alive Film BAFF Film Challenge LogoFestival family; and exposing rare and bizarre films to the masses via “TCM Underground”!

ATLRetro: “Queen of the TCM Underground”! What a killer title! Can you tell our readers how you earned such a moniker and how you helped create TCM’s late-night cult movie franchise, “TCM Underground” in 2006, originally hosted by Rob Zombie?

Millie De Chirico: Well, becoming the “Queen” was incredibly easy because I’m the only person who works on it! There was another person involved in the very first year, a guy named Eric Weber who no longer works at TCM. We worked on it together at first. After he moved to another department at Turner, I was the only one left to do it, and that’s how it’s been for the past 10 years.

Stanley Kubrick was sort of your gateway drug into the land of cult film at the tender age of nine, with his 1971 classic, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Besides Kubrick, who influenced you the most in your love of cult cinema? And why?

Russ Meyer‘s FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!  was probably the biggest influence on me. It totally blew my mind when I first saw it. I can’t tell you how amazed I was to see Tura Satana, a half-Asian woman just like me, being such a dynamic badass. I’d never seen anything like that before. After that I really fell into the rabbit hole. John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis movies were also my early cult cinema education. They are canon at this point, but will always be influential to me.FasterPussycatKillKillFeb2014LCS

Your job is a dream come true for cinephiles the world over. As a kid, did you ever imagine you’d get the opportunity to educate the masses on the wonders of the most obscure films? What’s a day in the life of Millie De Chirico like?

As a kid I had no idea you could even have a job doing something like this. When I was a kid, jobs were like firefighters and whatever you learned in elementary school, and women were always secretaries. Every day I go into work and get to talk about and think about movies, so I’m very fortunate. I see what I do less about educating and more just about sharing movies with people. Anyone that gets paid to share what they love with others is a very lucky person.

Do viewers get to request films to be screened for “TCM Underground”? If so, what is the most bizarre request for programming you’ve received?

I love to hear ideas from viewers. I think everyone in the Programming Department at TCM does. I don’t know if I’ve gotten a single bizarre film request; it’s more that the people making the requests are the interesting thing. For example, I learned recently that TCM Underground has a pretty big following among prisoners. They’ve sent a lot of letters and I have to say, the requests are really interesting and a lot of times actually underground, like DEEP stuff. Also, I sat down with John Carpenter once a few years ago and he mentioned he’d seen Underground, and image1then rattled off a bunch of movies he wanted to see. My brain pretty much exploded after that.

How exciting to be a part of TCM/Criterion Collection’s new streaming service, FILMSTRUCK. Can you tell us a little about the service what it means to you to have opportunity to help with the programming and content?

I think I’m most glad I get the opportunity to flex a different programming muscle with FilmStruck. A lot of people assume I just like cult movies and that’s it. I’m actually a fan of lots of different types of films. I still program for the network and love classic Hollywood movies. With FilmStruck I get to program foreign, art house, and indie, which are all genres I greatly enjoy. Plus I get to work really closely with the folks at Criterion Collection, a company that I’ve had a crush on since I was in college when they were only making laserdiscs — it’s basically a dream come true.

You’ve been a juror for several film festivals across the country, including Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX and Atlanta’s own home-grown horror film festival, Buried Alive Film Fest (BAFF). I’m going to assume it’s nerve-wracking, but what’s it like getting to judge the creative harvest of filmmakers across the world?

It’s pretty thrilling to get to see really new movies, by people who’ve never made one before a lot of the time. You’re kind of there at the creative gun blast, which is very cool! The year I did Fantastic Fest I was on a jury that got to watch IT FOLLOWS and SPRING and a bunch of other movies that were unknown, but ended up being big hits.

What is your favorite American cult film? Foreign cult film? Favorite cult film genre?

You should know better than to ask film people about a single favorite movie! Admittedly I have about fifty and they change daily. But if I must choose, my favorite American cult film would be the aforementioned FASTER Switchblade SistersPUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is a very close second); foreign cult film would be THE ROAD WARRIOR. Favorite cult genre would be anything involving girl gangs, like SWITCHBLADE SISTERS or DARKTOWN STRUTTERS. What can I say; I love ladies who kick ass.

Can you tell us how you got involved with Buried Alive Film Festival and the killer Kool Kats running the show?

I went to film school at GSU with Blake, one of the founders, and I’m friends with most of the people who run it. Atlanta’s film community is fairly tight knit and I’m always happy when we get to work together in any way.

As one of the judges for BAFF’s Sinema Challenge, how does the competition look? Anything horrific and exciting you can tell us at this time without giving anything important away before the BAFF opening screenings on Nov. 16?

I actually haven’t seen them yet. I have no idea what to expect but I know I’m super excited!

What are you looking forward to most at BAFF 2016? Anything fangtastic we should know about?

I think everyone should see the shorts. They are always a blast and the BAFF folks always put together really great shorts programming. I’m also really looking forward to seeing SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, the documentary about the Process Church of the Final Judgment (I will basically watch any documentary about cults or religion). And they’re doing a screening of CARRIE, an all-time favorite of mine, which I’m sure will be super fun.

image4What exciting and cinematically cultish things do you have planned in the near future?

I’d really love to do screenings in Atlanta. I’m always jealous when I go to cities like L.A. or Austin that have really cool, interesting cult or repertory film scenes, partially due to the fact that they have so many theaters that will do them. I’ve been talking to folks in town about this for a long time, so maybe something will finally happen…

What obscure piece of cult cinematic history can our readers look forward to in upcoming “TCM Underground” programming?

I’m really excited to be playing TERMINAL ISLAND by the great Stephanie Rothman, one of the only women who directed cult films and worked for Roger Corman for many years. I got the chance to meet and hang out with her last year and she is unbelievably nice with amazing stories to tell.

And last but not least, what question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Question: Who my favorite cult actor or actress? My very quick answer is: Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s and 1970s. She made some really bizarre movies during this period and I’m kind of on a quest to get everyone I know to watch them.

Photos courtesy of Millie De Chirico and used with permission.

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Surf’s Up at the Plaza Saturday as Blast-Off Burlesque Throws a Taboo-La-La BEACH PARTY

Posted on: Jul 22nd, 2011 By:

BEACH PARTY (1963); Dir: William Asher; Writer: Lou Rusoff; Starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 23; 10 PM; pre-show antics include Twister in the lobby, live music by Grinder Nova, cupcakes by The Sugar Dolls, guest star The Chameleon Queen; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

Before Blast-Off Burlesque take off on their World Tour Sept. 9 and 10, these crazy kats are heading to the beach for some Twister, hula-hooping, surfing and flirting. Yes, it’s Taboo-La-La time once again Sat. night July 23 at the Plaza Theatre, and keeping in the summer spirit, the movie is BEACH PARTY (1963) starring Sixties America’s favorite surf couple Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. And per usual, it’s not just a rare chance to see a cult classic in 35 mm on the big screen, it’ll be a party like only Blast-Off can throw. We checked in with the sensational Sadie Hawkins for a sneak preview of the fun they have in store…

BEACH PARTY seems pretty tame for a Taboo-La-La after SHOWGIRLS and FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, but I’m guessing you’re thinking behind all that semi-bare flesh and adolescent hormones, there’s some sexy behind-the-scenes actiongoing on. How did Blast-Off decide on this movie?

Well, it’s summertime, and what better time for a beach movie? And BEACH PARTY is the one that started the whole beach movie craze. It may seem tame, but really, it’s a pretty weird movie that spends a lot of time lingering on adolescent/post-adolescent sexuality.

When did you first see BEACH PARTY and what do you personally love about it?

I first saw it on teevee when I was a kid. I loved Frankie and Annette. Seeing it as an adult, though, I’ve come to love the completely strange fabricated world in BEACH PARTY. It’s a lot of fun. It’s totally goofy—I mean, the motorcycle gang is astoundingly white bread.

Without spoiling any surprises, what can you share about the pre-show and how did you pick this month’s guest stars?

The pre-show is kind of Blast-Off’s take on a Beach Party, only inside the Plaza. We’ve got a couple acts of our own and some fun contests in the theme of the movie—hula hooping, twisting. We’re really excited to have Grinder Nova back for another show—this time, they’ll be playing a larger part of the pre-show. And we’re absolutely delighted to welcome our good friend, The Chameleon Queen, who will be performing as A’Lotta Wood. That act is awesome.

There’ll also be beach party action in the lobby, right? Did I hear something about Twister?

Yep! We’ll have Twister in the lobby and cupcakes from The Sugar Dolls [Read a scrumptious sneak preview of the delicious delights they’ll be bringing here].

When should beach partiers arrive at the Plaza and what should they wear have maximum fun in the sun?

The show starts at 10, so if folks get there a bit before that, they’ll have time to play a little Twister and have some cupcakes and chat a bit. We always encourage people to dress to the theme—we’ve got our swimsuits ready, and I know there will be some Hawaiian shirts on display.

What can we tease out of you about Blast-Off’s WORLD TOUR?

It’s shaping up to be a totally insane trip. Seriously, there’s some kooky stuff in this show. I think this may be my favorite Blast-Off show so far. Well, every one is my favorite, but really: it’s going to be a lot of fun. So, we’re really excited to share it with people. It’s going to be September 9 and 10 at 7 Stages. Tickets are available at blastoffburlesque.com.

Finally, gotta ask what’s new with the lovely Miss Sadie Hawkins and where else can we see you hanging around this summer?

Well, I teach lyra classes four days a week and I’m performing quite a bit. After Taboo-La-La, the next burlesque event at which I’m performing is Bellissitease: Film Noir, July 29 at Bellissima. I tend to keep myself pretty busy, between private events and fundraisers, regular aerial/fire work at night clubs and myriad other stuff. Also, the second weekend in August, I’ll be at the Pinups for Pitbulls fundraiser at The Graveyard, Man Day at Twain’s and Mon Cherie’s Burlesque With A Hitch at Masquerade. I try to keep my Website (www.sadiehawkins.net) pretty up to date with what I’m up to.

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I Want a Cupcake in the Sun! Baking for a Beach Party with The Sugar Dolls

Posted on: Jul 22nd, 2011 By:

By The Sugar Dolls
Contributing Bloggers

Beach Party! Who doesn’t wanna be at the beach?!  Who doesn’t want to “dissect those crazy kids” to figure out how we all relate or perform relations in a happening way? We have those conversations all the time in the kitchen. Who doesn’t love a good Rat [for the uninitiated: the baddies in 1960s beach party movies almost always were from biker gangs whose names had “Rat” in the title]!?  WE DO!!!

One of our favorite pastimes is watching Retro movies with a beach or tropical theme. It relates you, connects you and creates memories that just can’t be let go. I remember watching BEACH PARTY (1963), or even half-naked Amazon ladies in the beginning of KING KONG (1933)with my Meme and my mom as a little girl, and oh, what fun we would have! Not to mention how cool is it to see the ol’ Mickey Mouse Club couple [Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello] grabbing the surf and living and learning. It exudes our Sugar Dolls motto, “have a good time!” The Plaza Theatre and Blast-Off Burlesque really know how to bring back that charm in the best ways.

Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon.

BEACH PARTY is such a good time, be it the music or the shakin’ or the fact that the old Mickey Mouse Club crew is there being nutty, and Blast-Off are just the folks to take this not just to the next level with a sensual exciting night full of burlesque, live music, games, contests and cupcakes!  When Blast-Off asked us to be a part of their last Taboo-La-La movie event FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL! starring and celebrating Ms. Tura Satana, we jumped at the chance to create the perfect cupcakes to match that movie’s action and sexuality. We had such a blast selling “boobalicious” cupcakes to accent the Taboo-La-La spirit and were so thrilled to hear that BEACH PARTY would be next flick that we clamored to bake for them again and they were sweet enough to oblige.

Wrestle cakes by The Sugar Dolls.

We dames at the Sugar Dolls love perfecting our combos for every event we attend. It was easy as cake to figure out how we were going to get people really glassy at this Saturday’s Taboo-La-La screening of BEACH PARTY at The Plaza. We knew we wanted to change your developmental taste buds, so we decided it was finally time to debut our zingy Lemon Drop! You’ll pucker up for this sweet and sour treat that will definitely be the most refreshing cupcake you’ve ever had.

Then we wanted finish it off with something really sensual and breezy. We wanted to make sure the chocolate lovers weren’t left out, so we also whipped up our Chocolate Coconut Cupcake, which will leave you shakin’! We would be lying if we said it wasn’t inspired by the mocha coconut [Starbucks] Frappuccino coffee that often keeps us going in a tasty kinda way.

Zingy Lemon Drop!  Chocolate Coconut! BEACH PARTY! So you can be ready to bring out the pendulum and start swinging!

Want the Sugar Dolls to bake some cupcakes for your beach party or other Retro-fantastic special event? You can reach ’em through their Website or Facebook page.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Talking Taboo-La-La, Tura Satana, Travel, Truckin’ and The Rapture with the Beautiful “Barbilicious” Hays of Blast-Off Burlesque

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 By:

ATLRetro wishes Blast-Off Burlesque would put on a few more full shows— these seven delectable dolls and one groovy guy are way too much clever and creative to be on stage just twice a year now and we miss them at the Silver Scream Spookshow. But this talented ensemble is thankfully tiding Atlanta over with Taboo-La-La, a sexy vintage movie series with extras, at the Plaza Theatre. They kicked off with SHOWGIRLS in March, but this month’s show on Saturday May 21 is even more of a special treat as they present a rare chance to see exploitation classic FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! on the big screen (read ATLRetro’s exclusive review by Mark Arson here). Of course, it’s a Blast-Off production, so that’s just the tip of the fun from Tura Satana lookalike, beefcake boy and all-girls arm-wrestling contests to a shrine to recently deceased B-movie siren Satana and a silent art auction fundraiser for a documentary celebrating her life.

Dickie Van Dyke and Barbilicious. Photo credit: Derek Jackson.

To find out more, ATLRetro asked Barb Hays, aka Barbilicious, for a sneak peek behind the naughty plans and got her to spill a few sexy secrets. If you’ve been to a Blast-Off Burlesque performance—and shame on you, if you haven’t—you know each has a unique personality. For Barbilicious, it’s her big smile and a certain mischievious glint in her eyes that’s likely to grab your attention first. She’s the wacky comedienne who adds that extra “oh, my,” whether in an ensemble dance sketch where everyone is dressed in banana suits or steering a giant plastic bubble around stage in homage to Jane Fonda as Barbarella in the company’s Sci-Fi-A-Go-Go show last year.

 

Barb also drops a few tantalizing hints about future happenings involving an all-Blast-Off photo shoot next week, Blast-Off’s September show, her punk band LUST and the debut of Burt and the Bandits, her newest collaboration with the multitalented Jon Waterhouse (read ATLRetro’s profile of Jon here), at the East Atlanta Beer Festival also this Saturday.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Retro Review: FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!: Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Violence!

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 By:

By Mark Arson, Contributing Blogger

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965); Dir: Russ Meyer; Writer: Jack Moran; Starring Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. May 22; 9:30 PM; pre-show antics include a Tura Satana costume contest, beefcake contest for guys, all-girl arm wrestling, live music by Grinder Nova, a chance to leave an offering at the Tura Satana shrine, a silent auction of Tura art and memorabilia to raise money for Varla Films to help complete a documentary on the recently deceased actress, and super special prizes & surprises; age 18 & over only.

When describing FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, I’m tempted to describe it as an orgy of fast cars and violence. I can’t really say that though, and those of you familiar with director Russ Meyer‘s other work will know why. Most of his films resembled incredibly well-made porn, but I believe the correct term is “Sexploitation.” This film, however, doesn’t have any nudity or actual sex, though the actual sexuality in the film is plenty ratcheted-up. The focus here is on action, treachery, and, of course, cars. For my money, this is one of the best exploitation films ever made, it’s never boring, and its (mostly) sleazy characters revel in their spider-web of bad intentions and revenge.

Varla (Tura Satana) leads a threesome of go-go dancers who are out in the desert to blow off some steam when one thing leads to another and they end up having to run from the scene of a murder. The first 20 minutes of the film are pretty much nonstop, and it only becomes more deliberately paced when the ladies find their way onto a farm with a creepy old man in a wheelchair (Stuart Lancaster) whose fortune they intend to acquire one way or another. This part of the story bears an interesting resemblance to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, except there are bad intentions on both sides. To complicate things, the three have abducted a girl (Susan Bernard) whose boyfriend met an unfortunate end at the hands of Varla, and the old man might want her more than they do.

The entire cast does a great job (except for maybe the gas station attendant, but hey, he’s not supposed to be smart, right?), but make no mistake, this is Tura Satana’s film. As Varla, she not only is responsible for most of the (bad) things that unfold, but she has the screen presence to back it up. Gender equality is something that we’re more or less used to these days, even if it does have a ways to go, but in 1965, this film must have been pretty shocking. Varla does what it takes to get what she wants and won’t hesitate to kill a man with her bare hands in a fair fight, an unfair fight, or with her car. Her friction with the old man, himself a literal representation of male oppressiveness and lechery, is plenty poetic as well. Satana is both alluring and terrifying here, to the characters in the film as well as the viewer. When Billie (Lori Williams) gives her trouble, you can’t help but wonder when Varla is just gonna go ahead and kill her.

Russ Meyer was a master director and editor, and FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! stands with his finest work. This was also one of the few times that he didn’t feel the need to include excessive sex in a film, and you will hardly miss it…..maybe. But there’s plenty of action, fast cars, and off-the-wall slang to satisfy your urges, and you probably will still want more. FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! is both a relic of a bygone era and a timeless work of art. Movies that take place in the middle of nowhere are good like that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go watch it again.

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