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  Payday Bad Ol' Boy
Year: 1973
Director: Daryl Duke
Stars: Rip Torn, Ahna Capri, Elayne Heilveil, Michael C. Gwynne, Jeff Morris, Cliff Emmich, Henry O. Arnold, Bobby Smith, Dallas Smith, Richard Hoffman, Walter Bamberg, Eleanor Fell, Clara Dunn, Linda Spatz, Earle Trigg, Winton McNair
Genre: Drama, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Maury Dann (Rip Torn) is never going to be one of Nashville's big time country musicians, but he does well enough to get by touring the South of the United States. selling his albums and performing in clubs with his band. Tonight is much like any other, they play his songs, meet their adoring public, then retire to the comfort of the nearest motel to party the night away, but not before Maury enjoys a liaison with a young girl in the back seat of his car. Never mind that he already has a girlfriend, groupie Mayleen (Ahna Capri), but this evening he will meet someone who will cause him no end of trouble...

If you're the sort of person who isn't keen on watching Raging Bull because you don't see why you would want to spend even two hours in the company of such an unpleasant man, then Payday will doubtless hold little appeal for you. But it is worth watching for those fond of character studies, although its failing is that while there may be plenty happening, director Daryl Duke handles practically every scene in the same laidback manner, coolly observing its lead in his trip towards damnation. It's fortunate, then, that Torn appears to know precisely what to do in order to sustain your interest.

Maury is not much to be proud of, but the film, made by people in the music industry originally, has patently been fashioned by those who know the landscape of the smaller time end of the business. For that reason you're never in any doubt that Maury couldn't have been one of the country artists who never quite broke through, and the world created around him is an authentic one with its wrangling with radio stations to get them to play your material, or finding fans in unlikely places - such as a traffic cop who goes easy on Maury when he realises who he is.

Maury spends his time offstage womanising, drinking and popping pills. Oh, and writing songs, as there's a brief bit late on where we see him composing his latest opus as if to say, look, he's dedicated to his craft as well as the debauchery, he's a serious musician despite all that you have seen. The storyline is largely made up of vignettes, as if ticking boxes of life on the road clich├ęs, from sleeping around to the drink and drugs that are an inseparable part of the experience, all leading up to a somewhat abrupt ending that acts as a sick joke.

There is an element of humour here, but it's of the caustic variety so that you're laughing at these people and their bad behaviour rather than laughing with them - see Maury supplying his mother with speed to get her out of bed. Some may not find the ill treatment on show funny at all, especially not the conduct towards new groupie Rosamund (Elayne Heilveil, who mostly worked in television after this) whose boyfriend is looking for her, to his peril. She ends up sharing the back seat of the car with Maury and Mayleen, even as it dawns on her as the situation worsens that she doesn't know what she has gotten herself into. After an inauspicious beginning Payday won a cult of admirers over the years, attracted by Torn's committed performance and the look at a part of the country music scene not often highlighted, but it's a sour film really.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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