Running time: 69 mins
Director: Russ Meyer
Starring: Jackie Moran, Babette Bardot, Alaina Capri
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Thriller
Dewey Hoople is the proud owner of Hoople’s Haven in the middle of the desert in
Arizona (aka nowhere), the stressed father of a blossoming daughter Coral and under the thumb other half of Russ Meyer regular Babette Bardot. When a mysterious and alluring gentleman comes calling with a briefcase full of money and a libido that requires it’s own room, the quiet sanctuary of Hoople’s Haven becomes a hot deal of desire and danger.
Common Law Cabin like Vixen!, Supervixen and Faster Pussycat Kill Kill has some very distinctive Meyer traits you would expect from his oeuvre most immediately noticeable are the amply assets of the films three female performers Babette Bardot (Miss Babette), Adele Rein (Coral) and Alaina Capri (Sheila Ross). What is surprising is how Meyer has been able to evolve his cinematic styling and characterisation to create three very distinct, interesting and intelligent central women – all without detracting from what makes a Meyer movie a Meyer movie and without detracting from one anothers screen time. In many ways his representation of female characters and female strength in Common Law Cabin is a lot more progressive and empowering than what’s coming out of modern day
Hollywood. Further evidence, if wanted, can be found in the Exploitation article ‘The Ladies who are more nitty-gritty than Sex and theCity’.
Meyer’s cinematic style is very similar to that of Vixen! if a little more refined, there are fewer moments of non linear photography but what is present sits better within the narrative and his use of the camera to showcase the deserted location is wonderful. The script is uncomplicated and there are only really a few hints towards the danger that is on the horizon thanks to the isolated setting, a failing to be honest but were the screenplay falls down the cinematography succeeds and Meyer creates a tension on screen that often makes the viewer wonder why they feel uncomfortable. It’s great visual story telling and psychologically powerful.
Jackie Moran is great as Dewey, he’s weather beaten, rusted up by sunshine and liquor and on the edge of a nervous breakdown from the heavily sexual Miss Babette but more so from the budding sexuality that’s oozing out of his teenage daughter. Where Vixen! played on the sensualisation of incest Common Law Cabin side steps that, refusing to even entertain it and it’s the better for it. Moran’s relationship to his daughter is one of protection and innocence and it’s thanks to him that Adele Rein’s screen time is so well received. She is a strong performer, much stronger than Babette Bardot but specificially when she is on screen with her filmic patriarch. Alaina Capri is an interesting piece of casting, the hourglass brunette is almost a mirror image of Erica Gavin but is a better actress - though she has less screen time. You can’t help but think how much better Vixen! would have been with her. The other screen males are little more than exposition fodder, Meyer uses men much in the same way that mainstream cinema uses women for furthering the narrative with the exception of one man. Ken Swofford (Barney Rickert) is a man of menace. His screen presence is a tailored and dapper gentleman, he has a way about him on screen that demands attention but there’s something bubbling just below the surface. He does an incredible job of showing you it’s always there, giving you an indicator of type A masculine strength without you fully seeing it – until it’s time. It’s a truly impressive performance that’s perfectly balanced, too much and it’s hammy, too little and he bleeds into the background behind heaving chests and tight bikinis.
Common Law Cabin is something of a forgotten child of Russ Meyer with other, more in your face titles taking centre stage but for my money it’s one of his most impressive and balanced examples of cinema to come out of his Auteur-like creative stable. Taut and titillating in a beautiful yet unnerving package that's more than a little reminiscent of Knife in the Water.