Credit: Everett Collection

”We only pass this way once, darlin’ — may as well pass by in a Cadillac.” Thus speaks Maury Dann, the second-rate country singer and first-rate heel played by Rip Torn in Payday, a corrosive, uproarious 1973 film finally debuting on DVD. Directed by Daryl Duke (who made one other small gem, the 1979 thriller The Silent Partner starring Elliott Gould), Payday follows Maury as he boozes, smokes dope, has sex in that Caddy — and, oh yes, sings plaintive country songs to small but appreciative audiences throughout the South. Payday‘s true auteur, however, was its screenwriter and co-producer, the underrated novelist Don Carpenter. In the commentary track, Duke refers to Carpenter’s script as unique, and for once that’s no cliché. Torn’s magnificently ego-free performance reveals Maury as a charming monster whose wily intelligence outstrips his talent. As a portrait of the music industry of that era — Maury bribes DJs to play records and makes sure to get paid in cash after yowling tunes in tattered roadhouses — the low-budget Payday is far superior to Robert Altman’s overrated, condescending 1975 drama Nashville. Payday both loves its subject and never lets its antihero off the hook. A