For a while now I've been seeing weekly listings for River City Classic Not So Classic Movie nights, intrigued at the concept of showing nothing but cheesy "B" movies in a diner, albeit one not exactly close to home.
But once I looked it up, I saw that River City Classic Bar & Grill was right across from the Amtrack station, a place I know well. Hey, I can do this.
Walking in, I liked it right away because one of the owners was friendly and funny and because amongst the variety of seating at the bar were two leopard print bar stools. Leopard! Now that's something you don't see everywhere.
I sat down at a booth directly in front of the screen and ordered an antipasto salad, pleased when they began showing previews to other cheesy movies on two screens.
Stuff like "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" "Humanoids from the Deep" and "Blackula." Good times, bad movies.
Meanwhile, a four top arrived, announcing to no one in particular, "The Johnny Cash fans have arrived." It was a practically full house for 1961's "Five Seconds to Live" starring the man in black and Ronny Howard (touted in the preview trailer as "the delightful new child star").
As we listened to Johnny sing the theme song he penned (and not for the last time) to the black and white movie, I spotted the negligee credit. That must be some major lingerie to get its own listing.
Johnny is a guitar-playing fugitive who hides out in suburbia, which he hates ("This suburb life ain't for me") where he meets a fellow bad guy at a bowling alley (where boys reset the bowling pins, not a machine) and they decide to rob a bank with Johnny holding the bank man's wife hostage.
When little Ronny made his first appearance on screen, everyone in the diner let out a collective "aww." Before long he tells his Mom that he's lost his bite plate. Apparently that's '60s speak for retainer, which he scooped off the rug and returned to his mouth without rinsing, causing some in the room to groan in disgust.
There was lots of commentary from the peanut gallery during the movie as we took in the Hollywood version of what suburban life was like circa 1961. Family breakfast. Hungover Dad telling Mom what was best. Kid focused on baseball.
We got our first taste of lingerie when the suburban Dad left for the bank but stopped by his mistress' house on the way. She was wearing an elaborate dressing gown to eat breakfast, the kind people never wear in real life to eat breakfast.
Once he and the kid are gone, Johnny insinuates his way into the house and takes the Mrs. hostage, strumming his guitar in between terrorizing her. He's just killing time waiting for his partner in crime to call and tell him whether or not he has to kill her.
But Johnny's a real man and he gets annoyed by how frumpy she looks, directing her to, "Remove the artillery," meaning the clips in her hair. "I like my broad to look sharp," he snarls.
And that's the thing. At no point in this film did Johnny Cash play anyone except Johnny Cash. Did he even pretend to play a two-bit thug? He did not.
When he forces her into the bedroom, she tries to make up the bed until he stops her saying, "I like a messy bed," and instructs her to put on the negligee he finds in the closet.
Of course, she's never actually worn it. Hubby bought it as a joke for her ten years ago (so pre-little Ronny) and it's been hanging there ever since.
That's when she decides to use her wily, womanly ways and play along with his amorous advances, letting him kiss and maul her without complaint, so he won't off her.
"I guess you girls are all alike when Johnny steps on your starter," he says in his most predatory tone. But he's right, we girls do like to have our starters stepped on.
Over at the bank, the other bad guy is trying to convince her husband that if he doesn't cash the bogus $70,000 check, Johnny will kill his wife at home.
The husband explains to the guy that he has a girlfriend and was planning to run away to Vegas with her that night. "Then I'll be doing you a favor," Bad Guy retorts.
Oh, no, will Hubs let Wifey be Johnny's next victim?
"Now we got a movie," the guy in the booth next to me cackled.
Back in suburbia, Johnny is alternating breaking decorative household pieces to upset his hostage ("I saved for a year to buy that!" she shrieks when he shatters a vase on the mantle) and strumming on the ole guitar.
"Johnny Cash, killing 'em with chords," a guy at the bar observed as Johnny sang "I've Come to Kill," another of his own upbeat compositions, to his victim.
I wouldn't think of ruining the big ending because everybody needs to see "Five Minutes to Live" once but I will tease you by saying that people get shot (and die) and Johnny wears a vest the entire movie.
Before going to see this not so classic movie, I'd messaged a film buff friend who said he'd seen it and that it had been fun.
Fun doesn't begin to describe it. Talking to some people I met tonight about the movie, the best they could do was, in one guy's words "awesome" and in another's," way better than I expected."
Are you guys word-challenged or what? That movie managed to skewer 1960s America's growing white middle class ennui and titillate with negligees while providing copious screen time for Johnny Cash to snarl and sing!
Translation: I will be back for another cheeseball, not so classic film as part of the weekly descent into the bottomless pit under the basement of the crypt of forgotten and forlorn "B" movies.
How can I not? The bar was set so
Now we got a movie series.