I wonder what the whole idea behind the name change of “How Much Loving Does a Normal Couple Need?” is. When the movie opens it shows us some creative opening titles not seen before in a Russ Meyer movie; a young girl walking through the outbacks passing wooden boards with the credits on them. When the original title appears on screen the new title “Common-Law Cabin” is superimposed. Granted, the original title is a bit much an not very commercial, but I wonder at which point they decided to change it as both titles are also featured on promotional material like posters and such.
Common-Law Cabin takes place in the great outdoors, at a tiny tourist resort on the Colorado River. The resort is run by Dewey Hoople (Jackie Moran) together with his female companion Babette (Babette Bardot) and his 16 year old daughter Coral (Adele Rein). He worries a lot about Coral as the once little girl is slowly turning into a woman. Even though they live in the middle of nowhere he disapproves of Coral swimming topless in a nearby pond. The tourists that visit them are “lured” there by an old geezer in a boat every now and then. His latest catch consists of ex-detective Barney Rickert and a couple who aren’t on the best of terms: Dr. Martin and Sheila Ross (John Furlong and Alaina Capri). Once there Barney, who stole a fortune in jewelry by the way, wants to buy the place from Dewey. He cooks up a scheme to get them stuck there so he has more time to talk Dewey into selling the place and also seduces the women. He even makes a pass at young Coral. Since the Ross couple is constantly arguing it should come as no surprise Sheila and Barney hit it off right from the moment they first lay eyes on each other, adding to the tensions between Mr. and Mrs. Ross.
The previous movie by Russ Meyer, Mondo Topless, was nothing more than 60 minutes of girls dancing topless. With Common-Law Cabin he returns to narrative movie making and in the process teases boobs, but aside from a few glimpses of side-boob here and there, keeps it all under wraps. It’s a strange choice as Meyer once again has nothing but well endowed women walking around in bikinis in his movie, who are constantly finding themselves in positions where they are (almost) nude constantly, yet he chooses to keep the full frontal nudity off screen.
Shot in full color, Common-Law Cabin is much like the black and white rougies Meyer made just two years before. Set in a remote location, a violent character assaulting and killing women, the occasional gratuitousness of female skin; it’s like Mudhoney in technicolor, but with more soap-opera elements.
Running a mere 70 minutes Common-Law Cabin wastes no time, but isn’t always clear as to who does what for which reason. There is a scene in which Babette suddenly comes running out of the bushes waving two burning sticks around. She runs up a cliff and on top it performs a dance before falling off the cliff into the water. The tourists haven’t seen her before, so they stand in awe and presume she died from the fall. This was all an act for the tourists, but I never understood why.
Somewhere around the 45 minute mark a new character is introduced. Some rich young guy who’s fleeing from his parents. His only reason for being there is so Coral can end up with a love interest and dad has to acknowledge his little girl is growing up, but not before beating the crap out of him when he finds him fondling with his daughter.
Common-Law Cabin marks a new period for Meyer after he gained success with his “nudie cuties” and went through his “Gothic period”. Common-Law Cabin would be the first of three movies that have more soap-opera elements to them and contained less explicit nudity. The result is an entertaining movie, but certainly not Meyer’s most memorable, though it does feature a random and hilarious scene in which Coral performs a dance for the tourist which is very reminiscent of all the go-go dances featured in Mondo Topless. These girls might know how to shake their stuff, but choreography is a total stranger to them.
For the male parts Meyer uses actors who already had or would go on to have lengthy careers. Especially Ken Swofford gives a fine performance as Barney Rickert. Jackie Moran, who played the old man narrating Wild Gals of the Naked West, gives a similar performance here, making it sometimes feel as if he’s narrating the scene he’s in.
The weakest and both strongest links at the same time are the actresses. Once again Meyer has cast them purely on their looks, and not their acting chops. Therefor we have two women who have thick accents which is strange considering the German-sounding Coral has been raised by her American dad in the USA. Alaina Capri’s Sheila seems to be the first draft of the character that would eventually be Vixen. She’s pleasant on the eyes, but rather an unpleasant character in everything else, though she mostly targets her husband with her unpleasantries. Now one would think he’s a poor schmuck, but in one scene he and Dewey are sitting next to a pond witnessing how his wife is making out with Barney, they even talk to them. Another moment that didn’t quite feel right.
Common-Law Cabin is a fairly decent movie, but certainly not Meyer’s best or most memorable. The character of Barney Rickert as well as eye-candy Capri and Rein save this movie from being a dud.