• Malibu High



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 24th, 2017.
    Director: Irvin Berwick
    Cast: Jill Lansing, Stuart Taylor, Katie Johnson, Tammy Taylor, Alex Mann
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Malibu High might look like a vintage sex comedy based on its fairly iconic poster art, but the 1979 Crown International production is an altogether different kind of beast. When the movie begins, we meet high student girl Kim Bentley (Jill Lansing) as she wakes up in the nude and starts off her morning with a cigarette. We know right away that little miss innocent she is definitely not, the fact that her dad killed himself and she lives with her bitchy mother sort of clues us in to all of this. As we get to know more about this young lady, we learn that her boyfriend Kevin (Stuart Taylor) recently dumped her for Annette Ingersoll (Tammy Taylor), a much wealthier girl who goes to the same school. If Kim’s life weren’t already complicated enough, well, she’s hardly an A-student, in fact, if she doesn’t get her act together she isn’t going to graduate. All of this is much to the dismay of her friend Lucy (Katie Johnson).

    Soon enough, Kim heads out to buy some weed from a dealer named Tony (Alex Mann), who also happens to work as a pimp and from there, she comes up with a plan that’ll stop her from flunking out and prove to her ex that she can make the kind of money she knows he wants. What does that entail? Screwing her teachers to get her grades up and turning trick in the back of Tony’s van. What would possibly go wrong?

    Her plan starts off well enough. She makes some decent scratch as a teenage hooker and it doesn’t take long before all the male teachers in school are giving her preferential treatment. Tony, however, is still a pimp and when he decides he wants a bigger piece of the action she’s been bringing in, Kim is none too happy – she’s even less happy once he beats her up. From here, Kim decides to leave Tony and take an offer from Lance (Garth Pillsbury). He gives her a little bit of blow and treats her nicely. Before you know it, he’s got her hooking for the local mafia – but they want her to do more than just spread her legs for cash, they went her to work as a hitwoman for them too!

    A decidedly different kind of teenage exploitation picture, Malibu High is pretty zany stuff. It’s also a fair bit darker than you might expect it to be (again, that poster art – used for the Blu-ray cover you see up top – is pretty misleading). Kim’s a damaged case if ever there was one, she never even really tries to clean up her act the ‘right’ way but instead jumps headfirst into the world of sin and vice. There’s no real redemption here, we never see her as an innocent. Even when we first meet her we know she’s worn out, bad news – a trouble maker! Things don’t really improve for her one she begins her new life as a streetwalker, but she’s savvy enough to know how to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants, playing men – her older teachers specifically – like a fiddle.

    Irvin Berwick’s direction is alright. He keeps the pacing quick and throws in enough quirky, trashy and sleazy elements to keep us intrigued. The movie, if nothing else, is never dull. Jill Lansing’s lead performance is pretty great too. The movie was clearly made fast and cheap with a heavier emphasis on exploitation than on production values, but it works. Subtlety isn’t necessarily her strong point but she’s a lot of fun to watch here. Lots of nudity, some unexpected violence and just a really strange vibe that runs throughout the entire movie make this one well worth checking out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Malibu High debuts on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB Blu-ray disc. Taken from a 2k restoration of the original 35mm negative, the picture quality here is very good. Detail is very strong throughout and the image is quite clean, showing almost no noticeable print damage at all while still looking very much like film. Grain appears naturally, as it should, while color reproduction is typically quite impressive without looking oversaturated. Black levels are solid as well, and skin tones – important in a movie like this one! - look lifelike and accurate. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. The movie looks great here.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono track, with alternate subtitles offered up in English only. No problems here, the single channel track is clean, clear and nicely balanced and the score sounds pretty good too.

    Actress Tammy Taylor and producer Lawrence David Foldes kick the extras off with a commentary track moderated by Mark Edward Heuck. Foldes has quite a bit to say about the origins of the picture, talking about how many of the people he worked with on Hitchhike To Hell wound up becoming involved with this film as well. He also talks quite a bit about his relationship with Irvin Berwick, how they first met and how they started working together. He also talks about the different titles that the movie was to be known under at one point. Taylor shares her thoughts on the different cast members she worked with, some of whom she (and everyone else, it would seem) got along with better than others as well as her thoughts on the director and quite a bit more. Heuck keeps the two participants engaged throughout and prompts them with good questions anytime it sounds like they’re going to slow down a bit. All in all, an interesting and informative commentary.

    Foldes also shows up in a twenty-seven minute long interview entitled Making Malibu High where he talks about getting his start in the film industry, working with a few of his contemporaries, his career in the exploitation movie business and more before sharing some memories of Malibu High specifically. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary but it’s interesting enough. Taylor also gets an interview on the disc entitled Playing Annette, running just under thirteen minutes. Again, it covers some of the same ground as the commentary but also talks about how the film was her first pro job, her thoughts on how her work in the movie holds up and how some of her family members wound up seeing the film when it first played theaters! A third interview, Playing The Boss, gets actor Garth Pillsbury (credited in the film as Garth Howard) in front of the camera for fifteen minutes to talk about how he got into professional acting via his pal Bruce Dern before working on Vixen with Russ Meyer before then covering his work in Malibu High and a few other exploitation film highlights from throughout his colorful career.

    Foldes, Taylor and the late Alex Mann all appear together for a Q&A session that took place in Los Angeles at the New Beverly in 2010 after a screening of the picture. This is interesting to get Mann’s input on the film as he understandably wasn’t involved in any of the other featurettes. Here he talks about a few different projects he had a hand in over the years as well as his work on Malibu High.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also included two short films directed by Foldes, this first of which is Struggle For Israel, a twenty-minute piece made in 1976 that uses what then would have been current footage of life in Israel contrasted with archival still photographs of refugees seeking shelter there at the end of the Second World War. The second short is the eleven minute Grandpa & Marika from 1975. This is a quick piece that simply lets the viewer observe the two titular characters going about their daily business.

    Aside from that we also get the film’s original theatrical trailer, an extensive still gallery of promotional images and ephemera, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release the clear Blu-ray keepcase also holds a DVD version of the movie with identical extras. Reversible cover art is also included (though the image is the same, just with slightly different logo placement on one side).

    The Final Word:

    Malibu High is a pretty bizarre late seventies entry in the exploitation cannon but it’s sooooo worth seeing just because it is so quirky, screwy and unique. Vinegar Syndrome has rolled out the red carpet for this one, giving it a very nice presentation stacked with extras. Don’t miss this one, it’s a kick.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!