Judge Bryan Pope never released a country album.
He never walked the line, but he sure knew how to cross it.
Guy Terrifico's life more or less follows the blueprint of every other country and pop icon to emerge in the '60s and be elevated to legendary status by the mid-'70s. Before he became the Canadian country music star who never actually turned out an album, Terrifico was Jimmy Jablowski. Fueled by drugs, alcohol, and midgets, Jablowski was known more for his psychotic behavior than for good songs. He was eventually shot and killed, or so everyone thinks. That is, until about 30 years after his "death," when several of his musician buddies receive anonymous letters telling them to "bring it back home."
Terrifico never really existed, of course. He's a product of writer/director Michael Mabbott's imagination and the center of The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico, a little indie mock rock doc from 2005 that is likeable but lacks the straight-faced audacity that has been a hallmark of the genre since This is Spinal Tap.
Deftly blending present-day interviews with archival rehearsal and concert footage, Terrifico certainly looks authentic. Guy, played by Matt Murphy, inhabits the same world as famous country-western boozehounds like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, opening the door for sly appearances by Kris Kristofferson (wearing his wrinkles like a badge of honor) and Merle Haggard, who are both more than willing to play up their renegade reputations.
The rest of the rest of the cast is also game to go along with Mabbott's premise, particularly Natalie Radford as Terrifico's widow, Mary Lou. Radford delivers the film's few solid laughs thanks to her sharp comic timing and sweet but knowing smile. Her recollection of Terrifico's run-in with a communion wafer during his two-week stint as a born-again Christian provides a much-needed laugh in a film that could have used more. Many more.
Come to think of it, I was never clear on who the satire was supposed to be targeting. Terrifico? The Nashville scene circa 1975? Aging country music legends? Scene after scene, the film appears to be on the verge of letting us in on the joke, but then it disappoints by settling back into the ho hum, rise-and-fall rhythm of every real music documentary ever made. Even Terrifico's ill-fated appearance on a folk music show—a venue always ripe for satire—falls flat. It also reminds us of how wickedly Christopher Guest handled similar material two years earlier in A Mighty Wind. Really, who can forget the Main Street Singers?
Never mind what the film's tagline says. Despite Mabbott and company's best efforts, The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico walks the line when it should be crossing it.
The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it's a clean presentation. The archive material is appropriately (and intentionally) grainy, but the present-day footage looks excellent. The Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround mix showcases the handful of surprisingly good songs, courtesy of Murphy and Mabbott. Unfortunately, they're truncated, so don't get too attached. English subtitles are included.
Extras include three deleted scenes, but only one truly warrants mention. The six-and-a-half-minute "Ophelia & Guy Jr." features a remarkable performance by Canadian actress Lynne Griffin (best known for roles in cult horror films Black Christmas and Curtains). Natural-born storyteller Kristofferson is featured in the 17-and-a-half-minute interview segment "Kris Reminisces," and he also performs the song "The New Mr. Me."
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