Friday night at the home drive-in: Evil Judgment (1984)

I bought this movie on VHS many years ago. I had never heard of it, but it looked like something that I might enjoy. The first time I watched it, I was surprised by how different it was from what I had imagined. It was not a slasher film. It was not a vigilante film. It was a strange mix of things, including gangsters, prostitutes, cops that seem to be involved in a conspiracy, and several giallo-like scenes involving a black-gloved killer whose identity is kept secret for the majority of the film. It was also set on and around The Main, Montreal’s iconic Boulevard St-Laurent. Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Why? Because it was different. It was hard to decide what exactly it was; what genre it fit into. I wasn’t sure whether to put it on the shelf with my horror films, or somewhere else. And I liked that.

Watching the movie again now, it comes across as campy and hilarious in places, but oddly effective in others. There is some legitimate suspense mixed in with the unintentional (and perhaps sometimes intentional) humour. And the convoluted plot manages to keep the mystery alive.

Evil Judgment features singer Nanette Workman in a supporting role. She was born in New York, raised in Mississippi – spent some time in England, where she sang back-up on Rolling Stones records – but has spent most of her career based out of Montreal. I did not know who she was when I first saw this movie, but at some point I became a fan and started collecting her records. It is now an added bonus to see her in this movie.

And that’s one more reason why Evil Judgment has become a #NotQuiteClassicCinema fave!

Not Quite Classic Cinema

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweet “Friday night at the home drive-in… #NotQuiteClassicCinema” I say may have seen because, let’s face it, if you follow a lot of people, you probably only see about 1% of them in your feed. I know I followed people years ago that I haven’t seen since. It’s a problem that I’ve been trying to rectify – but that’s a subject for another blog post…

If you’ve seen my Friday night tweets, you may have asked, “What is Not Quite Classic Cinema?” The answer to that question is the subject of today’s blog post.

“I sometimes worry that when I use the hashtag #NotQuiteClassicCinema someone will get the (wrong) impression that I am insulting the movie….”

When I was young, I discovered a TV show that aired late on Saturday nights. It was called Not Quite Classic Theatre. Perhaps ‘show’ isn’t the right word for it. It was a time slot during which the TV station would air old B-movies. At first (at least when I first saw it), they were showing black and white monster movies from the 1940s and ’50s, and there would always be three of them. The first would start at 10:00 PM, the next around midnight, and the last one at about 2:00 AM. I would watch the first one closely, glued to my seat. During the second one, I might get up and pace around the room, still watching but feeling energized, thinking about how I might tell the stories differently. The third one would play in the background while I wrote down notes and ideas for my own movies; movies I hoped I would get a chance to make one day.

I wish I could remember the titles of the movies I saw on Not Quite Classic Theatre, but it’s been so long that most of them are forgotten. One movie that I remember distinctly (although I didn’t know the title until I rediscovered it many years later), is Monster on the Campus (1958).

I saw this movie late one Saturday night on Not Quite Classic Theatre.

Monster On The Campus (1958): I saw this movie late one Saturday night on Not Quite Classic Theatre – and I loved it.

Another one that sticks out in my memory is The Monolith Monsters (1957).

The Monolith Monsters (1957): I paced around the room excitedly while this one lit up the TV screen.

The Monolith Monsters (1957): I paced around the room excitedly while this one lit up the TV screen.

I looked forward to these late-night delights all week long. Watching those old monster movies inspired and excited me in a way that no other movies had. I loved them, and I loved that they gave me ideas and made me want to write.

Like all good things, it didn’t last. First, they cut back from three movies to two. Then they dropped the second feature. But still, one cool monster movie a week was better than none, right?  I’ll never forget the night I tuned in and discovered that they weren’t showing an old black and white monster movie at all. Instead, it was a 1970s cop movie (to this day I can’t remember which one). I was very disappointed.

In retrospect, I probably would have liked the ’70s cop movie if I had given it a chance. ’70s movies are among my very favourites now. But this was the 80s, and I guess the ’70s didn’t seem all that exotic and interesting at the time.

I lost interest in Not Quite Classic Theatre after that, and it wasn’t too long before the whole show disappeared. Now I can hardly find any proof that it ever existed. So far, the only concrete evidence I know of is an old TV promo that someone kindly uploaded to YouTube. Check it out here (thanks retronewfoundland).

Not Quite Classic Theatre circa 1987.

Screenshot from Not Quite Classic Theatre circa 1987.

This promo was clearly from the later period of the show (after I stopped watching). But I’ll be damned if doesn’t make me want to to tune in to see Casino starring Mike Connors – from 1980?!

Several years ago, I decided to recreate the magic of Not Quite Classic Theatre with my own library of films. Every Friday night I would watch an old black and white horror or sci-fi movie. But after a while, much like the TV show, I started to expand my programming to include drive-in movies from the 1960s and ’70.  And then ultimately I chose to include movies that I first discovered by renting VHS and Beta tapes back in the 1980s (an activity that someone once said had taken the place of going to the drive-in).

When I joined Twitter, I decided to tweet about my Friday night movies. I typed “Friday night at the home drive-in” – and to pay homage to the TV show that got me started, I added the hashtag #NotQuiteClassicCinema. I chose “Cinema” as opposed to “Theatre” because I had spent a lot of years working in theatre (as a playwright, producer and director) so I wanted to be clear that I was talking about film, not my theatre exploits (many of which were not quite classics, either).

I sometimes worry that when I use the hashtag #NotQuiteClassicCinema someone will get the (wrong) impression that I am insulting the movie. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of my Friday night choices are movies that I love – some of them are personal favourites of mine. This is why I sometimes use the phrase “A #NotQuiteClassicCinema fave!” – but I don’t always have space to include those extra words, and this is what made me decide to write this blog post thingy…

So, if I’ve ever called a movie you love #NotQuiteClassicCinema, please take no offence, and rest assured that I am likely as big a fan as you are.