April Movie Thon Day 29: The King of Friday Night (1985)

The Monarchs — like Eddie and the Cruisers and the Wonders before them — went from Nova Scotia obscurity to a Canadian chart-topping hit, until, as it usually does, it all fell apart. Unlike the Wonders, who never regrouped, and like Eddie and the Cruisers, who eventually did (sort of via the ‘ol Part Duex), the Monarchs reunite for a performance — as the story flashes back to their bygone days of troubled fame.

Hey, what did I know back then: Cannon has their logo on this video-taped spooler and that studio’s rock anthems for the retarded home video rental population: The Apple and Playing for Keeps (okay, the latter is Miramax, but you get the point) worked out okay. Well, not really. But really: this is worse. Way worse. And yes, Incident at Channel Q — which is padded with rock videos spun by a controversial VJ whose TV stations is under seige by the Christian Right — is better. For what’s it’s worth: let that be your critical barometer.

This Canadian television production made its way to U.S. home video shelves for unsuspecting rockers like this writer to rent. So, yeah. There goes another three bucks, wasted, that would have been better spent on a Ron Marchini flick (if only Arctic Warriors had been released to U.S. shores back then) or any Philippines war romp (Hey, did you enjoy our two-part “Philippine War Week” blow out)?

So, yeah. This won seven international awards — including The Banff TV Festival “Best Picture” award?

So, uh. Okay, then.

Courtesy of meps69/eBay. The Cannon U.S./U.K. version is preserved at videocollectoruk.

Well, maybe The King of Friday Night is better than my opinion dictates. “Critics’ opinions are divorced from those of the public,” so it has been said. Look, back in my youthful days of yore, “rock flicks,” for me, were analog horror slabs like Rocktober Blood and Blood Tracks and other “No False Metal” ditties that assured me that I was one Iron Maiden-spin away from eternal damnation (that any member of the public with a lick of common sense or quality, wouldn’t like).

Anyway, this “award winning” production is based on writer John Gray’s hit, Canuck stage play, Rock ‘n’ Roll, which tells the story of the real life, Truro, Nova Scotia, band, the Lincolns. Yes. They are a real band. Sadly, this filmed-stage play doesn’t do their career justice. Perhaps the stage play did. Maybe that theatre piece was a grand production like Broadway’s Jersey Boys*, you know, the one concerned with the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. While the Seasons made their Billboard chart bones with “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” the Lincolns — well, the Monarchs, had theirs: “The King of Friday Night” topped the Canadian charts. (*Remember that Clint Eastwood brought us the artistically successful, but box office bombing, 2014 film adaptation of that 2005 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Maybe if the story of the Lincolns was under the eye of Clint or the group was given the dramatic-treatment of Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, we’d have a more engaging narrative.)

However, like Eddie and the Cruisers, there’s no memorable rockin’ rave-up like “On the Dark Side” (or the Wonders’ “That Thing You Do!”) to hold our interest: just lots of doo-wopin’ and finger snapping and synced dance steps that could be entertaining — but then there’s that pesky, odd special effects-film tinting to the ambitious shot-on-video proceedings that capture cardboard stage-production set dressing back drops. Yes. This wasn’t shot on location, but on television blue-screened sets mixed with theatrical backdrops.

It’s all very odd in a dreamy, French ’60s surrealist kind of way — only not as good as a French ’60s surrealist film, even though Canada’s roots are back in France.

The whole reason for this review — besides it having “Friday” in the title, is to expose you to a well-made, out-the-way You Tube rabbit hole discovery (back in November 2021) of award-winning author A. J. B. Johnston’s micro-documentary companion piece to his book, The Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns.

You can learn more about the Lincolns with their entry at Nova Scotia Classic Rock. There’s more with these 2018 articles at Saltwire and CVT News. Sadly, according to this CBC News obituary, we lost the Lincolns’ founder, Frank Mackay, in 2019.

Hey, don’t go, yet!

I just remembered another ’80s rockin’ doo-wop’er made by the guy who made our October 2020 “Slasher Month” entry, Don’t Go in the House (1979), itself a “U.K. Section 2 Video Nasty” entry.

No. This is a true story from the days of incessant HBO replay: After riding the ’80s Slasher wave surfed by John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham with his own, twisted in version of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Manhattan writer-director Joseph Ellison, for his second — and what would be his final — effort, decided to reminisce his rock ‘n’ roll roots with Joey (1986): a tale about an ’80s rockin’ teen (per the soundtrack, he’s into Scandal, E.L.O, the Polecats, and the Ramones; there’s an Elvis Costello poster on the wall) at odds with his washed-up, ’50s rocker dad (per the soundtrack, “real music” is the Ad Libs, the Cleftones, the Coasters, the Devotions, the Duprees, the Elegants, the Limelights, and the Skyliners). They finally discover common ground when Joey, Jr. helps Joey, Sr. regroup his old band, Yesterday’s Today, for a retread of their big hit, “Moonlight Love,” which isn’t that bad of a faux-hit — but it’s still no “On the Dark Side” or “That Thing You Do” to wow you to doo-wop your sweet bippy into a 23 Skidoo.

So, if you have a doo-wop hankerin’, there’s your double feature: The King of Friday Night and Joey. Yes, Joey is the better movie, courtesy of solid performances by Neill Barry (from the awesome O.C and Stiggs) and James Quinn (who reminds of James Remar — and should have done more films) in the Jr. and Sr. roles. Hey, make it a triple: Martin Davidson, who directed Eddie and the Cruisers, returned the genre with Armand Assante as a washed-up doo-wop’er wallowing in the past in Looking for an Echo (2000).

There’s no rips of The King of Friday Night, but there’s a ten-part rip of Joey on You Tube.

As you can see from the banner, above, there’s more rock flicks to be had with our three-part “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” series. And there’s more shot-on-video films to be discovered under our ’80s SOV tag.

— R.D Francis