Millie De Chirico is known as the queen of TCM Underground, the Friday late-night show that spotlights cult classics and other hard-to-find, under-the-radar fare. 

The longtime programmer, who has been extolling the virtue of such films for almost 20 years now, has partnered with Quatoyiah Murry for the new book TCM Underground: 50 Must-See Films From the World of Classic Cult and Late-Night Cinema,  in which the authors highlight some of their own selections and discuss why these particular movies deserve special attention. 

De Chirico will read from the book and show clips from selected films November 29 at 1:30 p.m. at Kennesaw State University’s Carmichael Student Center. 

TCM Underground
Millie De Chirico grew up in Atlanta and developed a passion for cult films.

Released in October, TCM Underground runs the movie-lovers gamut, from John Waters’ Polyester to the roller-skating extravaganza Xanadu to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie to Bill Gunn’s vampire film Ganja & Hess.

ArtsATL caught up with De Chirico recently to ask about the origin of the project, her own tastes and some of the titles in the new book. 

ArtsATL: How did the book come about? 

Millie De Chirico: Since 2006, I have been programming this late-night cult-movie franchise. It’s a place for people to watch movies that would not appear on TCM during the normal hours — weird stuff, horror stuff, things with more salacious content. At the beginning of the pandemic, TCM, who has been publishing books under the TCM brand for a very long time, came to me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a book about cult movies. 

Quatoyiah Murry was a co-worker in marketing and she came up to me the first week after she started and said she liked cult movies and would be interested in doing something together. We became friends and she likes really cool movies. When the idea came around, I think both of us were of the “two heads are better type of thing” when it comes to the book. She had left Turner and moved to France and was in film school. I was doing a lot with another job and doing a podcast. Things were crazy with the pandemic and we decided to collaborate. 

ArtsATL: How did you develop your particular taste in films? 

De Chirico: I went to film school for college but even as a child I gravitated towards weirder films. I was always into movies, all kinds. Growing up in Atlanta I’d go to the LeFont theaters and the old video stores. I gravitated to genre pictures — action, horror, things that were offbeat. All teenagers want to rebel and are into transgressive things or stuff that is shocking and titillating. That is how it began and I’ve developed a fondness for those kind of movies. 

ArtsATL: In the foreword, Patton Oswalt asks if any film that is beloved can be a cult film? What constitutes a true cult film? 

De Chirico: What it comes down to is that cult-movie audiences have a specific love for film. Films that are rejected (as) a normal box-office hit or by critics kind of come back into circulation by cult-movie fans. It’s basically a group of people who have taken a film and found something they enjoy. There are movies that are beloved but cult-movie audiences are specifically seeking out films that maybe need a second (life). 

ArtsATL: How did you two go about collaborating? 

TCM UndergroundDe Chirico: We decided early on that we wanted it to be anchored by the franchise. Since 2006, there have been 400 titles to choose from. We pretty quickly didn’t want to just pick the greatest cult movies of all time. That is such an obvious choice. This should be about TCM Underground. We had a huge list to choose from. We took that list and we took 25 each and said — let’s talk about why we like them, why they are important and why people should give them another look.

ArtsATL: Any surprise titles? 

De Chirico: I do feel like there are a couple of titles that a lot of people have not heard about. There is a movie I wrote about called Wild Seed. It’s essentially a teen-drama film. At first glance, it’s like a Rebel Without a Cause rip-off. Michael Parks is the star and he was brought in as a heartthrob, a Montgomery Clift type. It’s a coming-of-age film but also about train jumpers. That subculture definitely feels underground. It’s not a huge horror-genre film or a camp classic, but I feel it belongs in this world. It’s an interesting film. 

ArtsATL: I grew up watching Little Darlings (the 1980 comedy with Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol) and have always loved it. Why did you two include it?

De Chirico: The interesting thing about that movie is we picked separate titles but that is one of the ones we both chose. It was on HBO all the time. It was a teen-girl film and about camp but it handled sex in an interesting and realistic way, especially in the way the Kristy McNichol character evolved. You have this female competition but neither of the girls got what they thought they would get. I saw it in my late teens and thought this is a lot more than people assume it is. To this day, it’s still not out there much. 

ArtsATL: Would you consider another edition of the book? 

De Chirico: I am completely open to the idea of doing a second volume. We had so many titles and there are more titles that have aired since we pulled that initial list. If they will have us, we’ll do it.


Jim Farmer covers theater and film for ArtsATL. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he has written about the arts for 30-plus years. Jim is the festival director of Out on Film, Atlanta’s LGBTQ film festival. He lives in Avondale Estates with his husband, Craig, and dog, Douglas.

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