Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Common Law Cabin (4½ Stars)

"Everybody's doing it. If you don't somebody else will".

This is the ninth film in the Russ Meyer Collection, made in 1967. After Russ's commercial failures with his Gothic Quartet the rest of his career was a steady upward climb, from one success to the next. "Common Law Cabin" was his new beginning. It has a dark, serious plot, like his previous films, but he made the choice to use bright vibrant colours. That's what the cinema audiences in the psychedelic sixties expected. The film also begins the trend of ridiculously bawdy music that became typical of the next ten years of his career.

Dewey Hoople is a retired sailor. He's spent his life savings on a hut on the bank of the Colorado River in Arizona. That's it in the picture above. Wow! He saved all his life for that? To make money he markets it as a luxury hotel called Hoople's Haven. Tragedy strikes. His wife passes away, we're not told why, and he's left to bring up his teenage daughter alone. Dewey finds comfort in the arms of the hotel's maid, Babette, who becomes his lover. There's a natural jealousy between the two women in Dewey's life. His daughter Coral doesn't like another woman taking her mother's place. Babette thinks Coral dresses too provocatively for a 16-year-old.

The film begins with the arrival of three guests at the hotel. Two of them are a doctor and his wife. The third is a mysterious stranger who offers to buy the hotel. The sexual tension is high. The doctor's wife flirts with everyone. The stranger seduces all the women, and even tries to rape Coral when she resists his advances. Before long the stranger's secret agenda is revealed, resulting in the outbreak of violence.

One of Russ Meyer's skills was to discover non-actresses and teach them how to act. Babette Bardot, who used her real name in the film, was one of the strippers that Russ discovered for "Mondo Topless". Very little is known about Adele Rein, who plays the part of Coral. All that we know is that Russ said that she was a 16-year-old girl he discovered while he was in Germany. Obviously she had qualities that attracted his attention.

Today "Common Law Cabin" is one of Russ Meyer's lesser known films. He's best known for his Gothic Quartet and his later films. It's still a very good film which compares favourably to the other films in the Russ Meyer Collection.

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