In the mid-2000s I had access to this TV channel where I could enjoy all types of exploitation films. It was called Drive-in Classics, and every now and then I would get caught up into some ‘70’s grindhouse movies. Little films I would never have discovered had it not been for that now-defunct channel. So I owe big thanks to the folks behind Drive-in Classics for introducing me to this week’s featured title which since then has become one of my favorite flicks to watch.
Filmed in 1976 and picked up by Roger Corman for distribution, NASHVILLE GIRL tells the tale of a beautiful and talented songstress who desperately wants to become the next big thing in country music. So one day she packs up her bags and, with her precious guitar in hand, heads off to Nashville. She soon finds out that reaching for the top has many setbacks. Indeed, hardly a day goes by that she isn’t used by men. At first she recoils from them but soon learns that to make it in show business one has no way but to submit. Fortunately, this leads to a once in a lifetime chance to work with a legendary married country star who takes her under his wing and makes her sing with him to great success. But what starts out as a platonic relationship soon turns to brute force when he becomes obsessed with her to the point of raping her. Fed up with the ways of the world and now a country star herself she vows to make it on her own. As the credits roll we are left with the notion that she will get there.
Just like in THE LONELY LADY, SHOWGIRLS, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, NASHVILLE GIRL uses the same Girl Caught in a Male Dominating World theme and delivers a highly enjoyable exploitation flick that has solid performances and some catchy tunes. Monica Gayle shines as the used, abused aspiring country singer who eventually becomes wiser as the film progresses. She may not have the aggressive spunk of a Neely O’Hara or the slutty way of a Nomi Malone, or even the naïve streak of a Jerilee Randall but boy does she hold her own. So good of an actress is she that she’s able to go beyond the clichés to make her character appear sympathetic. A tough job to do really when one is surrounded by nothing but sleaze. Moreover, what the film achieves in the looks department despite its meager budget is worth the price of admission alone. I’ll repeat it here: they sure don’t make them like that anymore.
The film was a solid success at the box office, mostly due to its appeal overseas. It was then re-released in 1980 as COUNTRY MUSIC DAUGHTER to cash in on the success of the Loretta Lynn biopic COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. It took some 30 years for me to discover NASHVILLE GIRL, and though I had also seen and enjoyed the Sissy Spacek vehicle recently, it’s Monica Gayle’s performance in NASHVILLE GIRL that stuck with me. Which makes me wonder whatever happened to her? Her IMDb bio reports that she stopped acting in the late ‘70s, which is truly a shame, for her talent should have been celebrated in the subsequent years. I hear that she’s also a blast in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. I need to check this one out ASAP.
You can still purchase NASHVILLE GIRL on DVD or Blu-ray wherever digital films are sold.
Until next post—Martin