Common Law Cabin (1967 USA)

In Russ Meyer’s world bad taste triumphed over everything and in his first colour picture he doesn’t change the formula. This swamp-like soap opera begins with picturesque imagery of the Colorado river and its banks as a narrator sings its praises as the very best America can offer in its majestic and natural beauty. Then he ends up admitting that the waterway in some places isn’t so salubrious – in fact it smells like garbage. This dual nature sums up the tone of the ensuing 69 minutes, where we are invited to admire the buxom ladies in the cast while seeing them subjected to all kinds of ugly treatment at the hands of the menfolk.

Dewey Hoople (Jackie Moran) lives near a part of the Colorado river with his ex-stripper “housekeeper” Babette (Babette Bardot) and his teenage daughter Coral (Adele Rein). To put it bluntly, he has the hots for his own child. This threesome run a tourist resort, a get-away-from-it-all place where visitors can spend their days hunting, fishing, or simply enjoying the river and the surrounding countryside. But today their old colleague Cracker (Frank Bolger) has new arrivals for them. He’s picked up a couple, a doctor and his wife, along with a mystery man called Rickert: little does Hoople know that they spell nothing but trouble…

This is not Russ Meyer’s wallow in the sleazier side of life, as the rest of the movie depicts Hoople coming to terms with the fact that his daughter is growing up, and proving himself a he-man when the opportunity to beat down an evildoer arises. This also gets him back in the good books of Babette, so rest assured there is a happy ending to the story. In the meantime the characters must put each other through a sweaty hell, not wholly intentionally for the most part, with the doctor (John Furlong) and his spouse Sheila (Alaina Capri) the most obviously dysfunctional couple, encapsulating the overriding sensation here: frustration.

The doctor cannot sexually satisfy his wife, who as played by Capri, verges on the voracious, even eyeing up Babette once the holidaymakers arrive at the cabin. You can see the seeds of the personality of Meyer’s later Vixen being sowed here. And its great Capri throws herself into the role with such enthusiasm. The cast here does what is expected of them, with Rickert the two-fisted bad guy who shows his true colours almost the second he steps from the boat. He is a corrupt lawman so despicable that he’s not content with simply getting away with robbery, he has to force himself on the two females who want nothing to do with him as well.

Whenever the characters are near water, or going for a swim, we are supposed to interpret the imagery as sexual. Yet, oddly, the director shies away from outright nudity, preferring to tease the audience whenever a woman disrobes. If you don’t mind that then there are a few amusing lines and some decent action, but few see this as essential Meyer. Alaina Capri is one of Meyer’s best leading ladies and its such a shame he didn’t use her more often. After the release of the second film they did together, Good Morning and… Goodbye!, she got upset with Meyer after he lied to her about the amount of her flesh he showed on screen. (She never acted again and left Hollywood to become a teacher) This B feature is harmless fluff, played seriously for laughs in the usual deadpan humour the director was known for.

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