Search - Common Law Wife / Jennie Wife-Child on DVD

Common Law Wife / Jennie Wife-Child
Common Law Wife / Jennie Wife-Child
Actors: Annabelle Weenick, Lacey Kelly, Bert Masters, Libby Hall, Norman Smith
Directors: Eric Sayers, James Landis, Larry Buchanan, Robert Carl Cohen
Genres: Drama
UR     2003     2hr 38min

Common Law Wife (1940/ minutes) - Learn about man and wife, the backwoods way! Rich old coot Shugfoot Rainey wants to trade in his over-the-hill mistress, Linda, for his young niece, "Baby Doll" Jonelle, a pouty-faced st...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Annabelle Weenick, Lacey Kelly, Bert Masters, Libby Hall, Norman Smith
Directors: Eric Sayers, James Landis, Larry Buchanan, Robert Carl Cohen
Creators: Angelo Grici, Fred A. Kadane, James R. Enochs, Grace Nolan
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Classics
Studio: Something Weird Video (SWV)
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 05/20/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/1940
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1940
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 38min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Outrageous and peculiar chicken-fried exploitation trash!
Surfink | Racine, WI | 07/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This terrific Something Weird DVD pairs the legendary exploitation classic Common Law Wife with the curious backwoods soaper/nudie-cutie Jennie: Wife/Child. Common Law Wife originated as Swamp Rose, a pastoral study of a "girl of the swamps" shot in 16mm color by low-budget Texas auteur Larry Buchanan (Naked Witch, Mars Needs Women, etc.) Exploitation entrepreneur Michael A. Ripps (Bayou/Poor White Trash, Macumba Love) edited some of Buchanan's film into newly-shot footage, creating a lurid, outrageous, hard-as-nails B&W exploitation gem. Nasty old Shugfoot Rainey throws darts William Tell-style at live-in companion Linda (Annabelle Weenick), informing her she's too old ("How much do you want to get out?") and that he's sent for his obnoxious stripper niece Jonelle (nicknamed "Baby Doll") to replace her. "Hell, that's incest!" shrieks Linda, storming off to the sheriff to check their legal status. Jonelle arrives from New Orleans, ostensibly to shack up with Shugfoot, but instead takes up with brother-in-law Jody, the town sheriff, with whom she'd had a "fling" after their graduation dance. (She struts down the street tempting the local males to the same brassy stock cues heard in Strange Rampage, Mundo Depravados, The Hellcats, and other `60s barrel-scrapers) It turns out that a motel stay years earlier makes Linda Shugfoot's common law wife so she confronts Rainey and Jonelle with her wedding band. Briefly returning to Buchanan's original footage, moonshiner Bull takes Jonelle for a speedboat ride deep into the bayou to see his still, then (back to Ripps's footage!) obvious doubles enact a chase through the swamp. Inexplicably teleported back to sister Brenda's house (nice geometric drapes!) Jonelle smokes, drinks, and reviles Brenda, who begs Jonelle to leave Jody alone and finally throws the acid-tongued tramp out at gunpoint. Jonelle plots further maliciousness, and it all winds up with a wild, shockingly violent (for the time) finale in the swamp. Loaded with inflammatory dialogue and overwrought acting (Weenick chews the scenery mercilessly), Common Law Wife is a cut above similar Texas-shot sleaze (e.g. Hot Blooded Woman, whose director, Dale Berry, has a bit part here), but not by much. Most of the dialogue is competently dubbed, but due to the movie's patchwork nature there are plot holes you could drive a truck through. Some of the actors appear in both sets of footage and, deepening the confusion, Jonelle is played sweetly in Buchanan's scenes, but is obviously doubled and played as a raging vixen in Ripps's footage. Buchanan's audio commentary is a fascinating look at how these things were pieced together, as he identifies which footage is his and which was added (really all the best stuff; sorry Larry!). In the encyclopedia under "exploitation movie" they should have stills from this film. Print quality varies radically, with Buchanan's footage exhibiting excessive grain, scratches, and a dark, dupey look; the added scenes (fortunately most of the film) look excellent overall, with some light speckling/blemishing and minor emulsion dings but otherwise presenting a nice, crisp B&W image.
Jennie: Wife/Child is a real oddity: a B&W rural sexual melodrama (think Russ Meyer's Mudhoney), with silent-movie-style title cards accompanied by wacky sound effects; a custom C&W soundtrack featuring psych/biker band Davie Allan and The Arrows (!?!); and a brief nudie-cutie interlude. Gorgeous blonde "river-bottom" tart Jennie cringes at elderly farmer husband Albert Peckingpaw's touch, but must still perform her wifely duties ("Time for my `nap' Jennie"). She's jealous of boneheaded farmhand Mario's `girlfriend' Lulubelle, with whom he drinks, smokes, and dances foolishly at local gin mill The Cobblestone, where, amazingly, The Arrows are the house band. (Mario takes Lulubelle on a drunken motorcycle ride while she strips!) Jennie pursues Mario aggressively, distracting him from his Dell Davy Crockett comic book by skinny-dipping in a local creek ("How do you like me in my birthday suit?" warbles on the soundtrack). Albert and Mario throw a wild, drunken birthday party for Jennie and further plot twists involve cuckolded Albert's plans for revenge, some hidden money, and a surprising encounter between Albert and Lulubelle. By the end, everyone's boogieing to the Arrows down at the Cobblestone as a title card asks "Will Jennie ever find true love?" Violence and nudity are tame, and Mario gets quite annoying, but Ms. Lunsford carries the film with her charm, and the movie has a goofy, endearing quality that nicely counterpoints with Common Law Wife's in-your-face luridness. Can't wait to find the Tower Records soundtrack LP. Jennie's cinematography looks terrific (pre-fame Vilmos Zsigmond) and other than a bit of lining, light speckling/blemishing, and a few splices, the print quality is excellent overall.
The trailer for Common Law Wife features a televangelistic narrator in a cheesy motel room and contains no footage from the movie, yet manages to be appropriately sleazy. Other extras: 1940s/50s exploitation/bad girl roadshow artwork gallery; a cookie revealing the trailer for 1940s swamp trash melodrama Child Bride, and the awful 1970 B&W feature Moonshine Love, the kind of movie SW must figure (rightly) that you'd never knowingly pay money for. Starting promisingly with scenes that redefine bad acting as some inept thugs plan a robbery/mugging in a Woolworth's parking lot, this really takes a dive as soon as the amnesiac gang member with the loot is found by a scuzzy hillbilly and his nubile "daughters" (?). Despite nudity, skinny-dipping, some go-go dancing by a chick in white boots and spangles, and the provocative "carrot love" scene, I found this slow and boring even at 61 minutes. I would much rather have seen a 1950s/60s Swamp Trash trailer collection in its place. Otherwise, an immensely entertaining, fabulous set, highly recommended."
Examples of classic "white trash" exploitation films
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"As my first foray into the real of "White Trash" films I was expecting this double bill from Something Weird to represent the dregs of exploitation cinema. But what we have here are some rather entertaining bad movies and this DVD actually has four movies not two, so you certainly get to double what pleasure there is to derive from these films.

The first film is actually two films edited together in 1963. We have Larry Buchanan's "Swamp Rose," which was spliced together with Eric Sayer's "Common Law Wife." Good thing there is a commentary track by the late Buchanan (helped along by Nathaniel Thompson) to help you figure out what was shot for which movie before they put the two together. Ironically, most of what you now see is Sayer's footage, so no wonder we are easily confused. Linda (Annabelle Weenick as Anne MacAdams) is shacked up with rich codger Shugfoot Rainey (George Edgely), who is tired of her, even though he gets to throw darts at her when she is sitting in her chair. He ways his niece Jonelle, a.k.a. Baby Doll (Lacey Kelly) to take Linda's place. But Linda is able to trump Shugfoot by getting declared his common law wife. This is one of those films where people are going to end up dead and it is just a question of who will start the fun and how they are going to end up doing it.

The trailer makes it clear that "Common Law Wife" is an "educational" film. They do not show any scenes out of deference to anyone with young ones, but emphasize that it is important to know the law and how you can end up getting married without saying, "I do," all because of "a depraved climax." If you do not know the law in your state, well, I guess you should. Not knowing the law leads to "uncontrolled lust and passion." Besides, this is not a movie for kids, which, by default, should make adults want to see it.

However, if you come to this DVD expecting lot of neked women you have to go to the Unethical Extras, where in addition to the trailer for "Common Law Wife" and the "Gallery of Roadshow Exploitation Art with Audio Oddities," there is the extra added attraction, "Moonshine Love" (originally released as "The Sod Sisters"). This 1969 film from director Lester Williams starts with a robbery in which Tom (Tim E. Lane) double-crosses his partners and gets out of town with the cash. But he bangs his head, gets amnesia, and ends up doing chores for a moonshiner and his two daughters. Tom takes a liking to the blond, Jeannie (Genie Palmer) who decides a real man might be an improvement over a carrot. I have to say that I would vote for the carrot. Most of the action is back in the hills except for the scene of the topless go-go dancer that serves no real narrative purpose (believe it or not). Breege McCoy is Lil, the relatively boring brunette sister. To find the Easter Egg you have to go to the Special Features menu and go right to get to the moonshine jug for the trailer for "Child Bride."

The second feature, 1968's "Jennie, Wife/Child" (a.k.a. "Tender Grass") has to be the best photographed "White Trash" exploitation film in the history of the world because the cinematographer was William Zsigmond, who made "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?" and this film before he went back to being called Vilmos Zsigmond and winning as Oscar for "Close Encounter of Third Kind" and being nominated for "The Deer Hunter" and "The River." Talk about dressing up a sow's ear, there are some really nice shots in this film.

The music is pretty good too (there was a soundtrack album on Tower Records apparently), including Don Epperson singing "Please Mrs. Peckingpaw" during the credits, Lydia Macelle's "Birthday Suit" being sung while Jennie is skinny dipping, and Epperson back to sing "Revenge" while Mr. Peckingpaw is digging himself a pair of graves for his wife and her lover and "Gonna Have a Good Time" for the finale. I have seen so many exploitation flicks where the music was so lame, it was nice to see songs that fit what was on screen and were at least somewhat catchy.

The story? Young Jennie (Beverly Lunsford) is married to old Albert Peckingpaw (Jack Lester), but has the hots for farm hand Mario Dingle (Jim Reader). Tired of doing her wifely duties with her husband, who has a heart condition, Jennie eventually seduced Mario, not knowing that Albert has seen them in the barn. It is just a question of what Albert is going to do to take his revenge on the young lovers and how Lulu Belle (Virginia Wood), figures into the equation. The ending of this is probably not what you expect, which is certainly a plus.

My only real complaint with this Something Weird DVD is that I was expecting the usual collection of trailers specific to the exploitation genre of the feature films (I assume the trailers will usually be a lot better than the films). "Common Law Wife" is a three stars and "Jennie, Wife/Child" is a four, even with the title cards, mainly because of Zsigmond's photograph and the ending. We round up on this one because of the "Carrot Cake" scene in the bonus feature. Join us Saturday night for out next double feature, "King of the Zombies" and "Revolt of the Zombies," a pair of pre-WWII horror films."