Tired of those Harry Novak sex flicks, where country living is shown as being sexier than it really is? Who wants to have sex with a smelly old farmhand anyhow? Something Weird now offers a more realistic view of the South: sleazy, scummy, and packed with melodrama! Both films, shot in black-and-white, display how much fun Southern exploitation can be!
Anne MacAdams, aka Annabelle Weenick of countless Buchanan films and Brownrigg's DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT!, is Linda, the COMMON LAW WIFE of rich and nasty Shugfoot Rainey. After living with him and taking care of him for five long years, she finds herself discarded for the company of Shug's niece, Jonelle, known affectionately as "Baby Doll." Linda will have none of it, so Jonelle must find other ways to get her claws into the millions of her lecher uncle. This is one entertaining film! From the opening with George Edgley throwing darts at the head of Annabelle Weenick, you know you're in for something wild! When Ms. Weenick isn't chewing scenery, "Baby Doll" is wreaking havoc with her hot-to-trot bod. She destroys the marriage of her brother-in-law (married to Libby Booth, S.F. Brownrigg's wife and the NAKED WITCH herself!), goes skinny-dipping, and is chased through the swamp by a horny moonshiner! The dialogue is spicy and packs a punch, the black-and-white photography surprisingly well-done, and you'll have to remind yourself that the violent, downbeat and disturbing finale was shot in 1963!!
Even more interesting than the film, if that's possible, is the history behind its creation. Larry Buchanan shot his film, under the title SWAMP ROSE, and had it re-edited by distributor M.A. Ripps (renowned for re-editing BAYOU into POOR WHITE TRASH). Buchanan's film, telling the tale of a swamp-inhabiting moonshiner infatuated with "a woman of easy virtue" (AKA Jonelle, as played by Lacey Kelley), collides with the new film, COMMON LAW WIFE, directed by Eric Sayers. Now, Sayers' footage stars frequent Buchanan actors Weenick, Edgley, and Max Anderson, which will further confuse those mistaking this for a Buchanan film! In fact, very little footage of Buchanan's project remains in this product! A few scenes of Lacey Kelley walking down the street, talking with a drunk in prison, first encountering Booth and Anderson, and her scenes with the moonshiner are all from Buchanan's film. Everything else is all brand-new, so the newly shot Sayers footage can't really be called padding: it makes up the majority of the flick! Buchanan's footage sticks out, as it was originally shot in color and is now shown in soft monochrome. Cutaways in crystal clear black-and-white betray inserts. Larry Buchanan contributes an audio commentary, moderated by Nathaniel Thompson and featuring brief cameos by Buchanan's wife Jane, shooting out a few factoids. The Sayers 'Jonelle' is played by an uncredited different actress (not Lacey Kelley), and Max Anderson's Sheriff character in Sayers' footage is another uncredited different actor in Buchanan's footage! The commentary is an interesting lesson in the editing of exploitation films, but Larry has no ill feelings towards the use of his footage. He also discusses Annabelle Weenick and the other actors he worked with. Most exciting is him discussing his recent DVD transfers of some of his newer titles, including the unseen GOOD NIGHT SWEET MARILYN and HUGHES AND HARLOWE! But viewers will be left wanting to see the complete uncut COLOR version of SWAMP ROSE, which may never happen...then again, the color NAKED WITCH was lost until Something Weird released it...only time will tell...
Something Weird's transfer for COMMON LAW WIFE is a mixed bag, which is a good thing as it helps to appreciate the editing of the two feature films into one understandable whole. Sayers' footage for the most part is crisp and has sharp black-and-white contrast in-between scratches, dirt, and white lines, while Buchanan's footage is much muddier and grainier. But for the most part this is better-looking than the popular Sinister Cinema tape and DVD-R. Pieces of dialogue are missing due to print splices, but not overly noticeable. The DVD is, however, missing an extension of the swamp chase scene between Bull and Jonelle, where he catches her and has his way with her, which is present in the Sinister tape. The loss of this material is lamentable, as it does leave the viewer wondering what happens between Bull and Jonelle, but otherwise the presentation is acceptable. The audio is alternately scratchy and clear, but is in general the usual quiet mono Something Weird discs usually offer. I've come to realize, though, that this is due to the original recording or dubbing during production, so no complaints here.
Slightly less interesting but just as much fun is JENNIE: WIFE/CHILD, the tale of a child bride suffering from wanton lust for a farmhand! Pretty blonde Jennie is living a miserable life with Albert Peckingpaw, who's old enough to be her father. Studly farmhand Mario looks like the water to quench her sexual thirst, but when Albert discovers they've been making poontang in the barn behind his back, he drugs them and chains them in the barn. Now, it's up to the unsuspecting sexual charms of blonde sexpot Lulu Belle, the town trollop, to change Albert's mind.
JENNIE is different, let's just put it that way. It's not often that a 1968 sexploitation flick shot in black-and-white in the South would deliver a soundtrack album on Tower Records!! If anyone has one of these records, drop me a line as I'd appreciate a copy! If that isn't wild enough, the songs heard throughout the film actually correspond with the action: "My Birthday Suit" as Jennie skinny-dips to seduce Mario, "Revenge" as Albert digs the graves of the two young lovers, and so on. It's a superb soundtrack, catchy well-written country tunes; I can see why a soundtrack album was issued. And did I mention Davie Allan and the Arrows perform some of the tunes?? The ace cinematography is expertly handled by William Zsigmond, with some very attractive longshots and close-ups of the various characters. With a cast of just four characters, the film should wear out its welcome fast, but it's a pretty compelling drama with a great final 20 minutes, and scene transitions shown with silent movie-style title cards!
The good-looking black-and-white transfer for JENNIE doesn't start looking scrumptious until about halfway into the movie; before then, plenty of white lines and dirt litter the picture. But when the video starts cooking, it's breathtaking. Simply gorgeous contrasts during Jennie's birthday party. The audio is an acceptable mono, a tad stronger than usual.
The primary extra on the disc is the feature film MOONSHINE LOVE (1970), originally produced under the title SOD SISTERS in 1968. Another grainy low-budget flick shot in black-and-white in the Deep South, MOONSHINE LOVE is notable for one scene alone: a female masturbation scene starring a very lucky carrot!! Other than that, the film suffers from atrocious acting, a crime-gone-wrong subplot, and not enough interesting weird touches to make it worthwhile viewing. A nice extra, to be sure, looking very nice save for consistent blemishes near the bottom of the image and lines every once in a while, and without the usual SWV watermark, but won't warrant any repeat viewings. In addition to the feature, included is the trailer for COMMON LAW WIFE, which features no footage from the actual film (probably because Ripps was still editing it!), is included, as well as a superb gallery of roadshow exploitation art coupled with always welcome radio spots.
One of Something Weird's most
enjoyable double-feature discs of the year, you get three movies for the price
of one, two of which are unsung exploitation classics well worth adding to your
collection. Anytime you feel like venturing to Texas to experience the slutty
charms of "Baby Doll", give this disc a spin in your machine for an
all-around good time! (Casey Scott)
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