top

Malibu High
(1979)

Director: Irv Berwick   
Cast:
Jill Lansing, Stuart Taylor, Garth Howard


I've told a lot of stories about my life in many of the movie reviews on this web site, but I haven't told too much about my time in school when I was growing up. That's because there hasn't been that much I can say about my time in school. Oh sure, I faced various and expected things that many people also faced in school, like bullies and unfairly long and complicated homework assignments. But when it comes to stuff that is worth of the name "scandal" - stuff that is really juicy and would really catch your interest, I don't really have that much to say. Early in my life, I thought my upcoming time in school would give me a bunch of wacky adventures that would entertain people when I would recall them years later. It got to a promising start in nursery school when one day each of us young ones were handed presents, and I got a book about firemen. That may not sound unusual, but it gave me great glee when I looked at the author's credit, and I saw that the full name of the author was the exact same full name as my brother. But when I got to kindergarten, it didn't take me long to start getting signs that my time in school would be mostly dull. My kindergarten teacher told us one day about a student in another kindergarten class who brought a rubber snake to school and showed it to her - it was so realistic that she almost had a heart attack. At the time, I thought that was well and good, but when would someone in my own kindergarten class do something that scandalous? Several months later, when I graduated from kindergarten, I got the answer - never.

As the years went by in school, and I got closer and closer to graduation, I slowly started to realize that I would experience little to nothing in school that could be considered juicy or scandalous. I remember, just before I entered elementary school, hearing a report from my older brother about the time someone called in a bomb threat at his school, resulting in the school being evacuated and the police searching the building. I also got a story from my older sister about the same thing happening to her one day when she was in school. But during the time in all of the schools I attended, no one called in a bomb threat. It's a wonder that I do have one possibly juicy school-related story to tell you readers. In the seventh grade, there was a kid in my class that I nicknamed "Reggie" (because, like the Archie comic character, sometimes he was nice and sometimes he was a real pain.) Anyway, one day he called me aside about something he had overheard in the hallway outside of the classroom. Seems the mother of one of the female students in my class had come to school after finding this girl's diary, and inside the diary were reports of a sexual nature that this girl had personally experienced. With our teacher in the hallway with the mother and her daughter, the mother confronted the tearful girl about what she had found loud enough for "Reggie" and his friends to hear. I honestly didn't know what to think of this news. It could have been possible, but "Reggie" was sometimes a loud bragger that had stories that were hard to believe.

You might think that the incident I just described was a warm-up for scandal that was to come in junior high and high school. But that incident was just the exception to the rule I was facing in school. When we had Malibu Highlocker checks in junior high and high school, nothing scandalous was ever found in any of the lockers. And none of the female students at the schools I attended ever became pregnant. (Well, I guess it's possible there was an abortion or two, so I should say no female student ever became visibly pregnant.) So aside from that incident in seventh grade, school was dull for me. Probably a large part of that comes that not only was I growing up in a small town far away from the scandals in cities, it was also in Canada, some distance from the hotbed of the United States. Having such a dull time in school was one reason why I picked up Malibu High, because its plot description suggested school-related scandal that I could only dream of when I was in school. But there was another reason why I got the DVD of the movie, and that was because I had seen its follow-up Young Warriors, which was a hilariously bad exploitationer. If the sequel was so entertaining, I could only imagine what the original would be like. You might think that Malibu High focuses on the raunchy exploits of a group of teenagers, but you would be wrong - it focuses just on one teen named Kim (Lansing), who is not exactly living it up when the movie starts. She's failing school, her boyfriend has dumped her for a more desirable girl, and she's living alone with just her mother since her father committed suicide. Eventually, she gets the idea that sleeping with her (male) teachers and subsequently blackmailing them for good grades will improve her life somewhat. And it does. But she isn't satisfied. Soon she turns to prostitution to give herself extra spending money to improve her impoverished lifestyle. But she still wants more, and to get even more money she eventually finds herself breaking the law in new and more severe ways, and finding herself good at doing so. Can she be stopped, or find herself eventually smarting up?

As you can see from that brief plot synopsis, Malibu High is clearly not what many people might expect from the title, that being a youth-oriented sex comedy. Even with its ties to the later Young Warriors, I probably would have avoided the movie like the plague had I not known beforehand that the movie had a radically different plotline than what the title and the poster art (replicated on the front of the DVD box) suggested, since I have found just about all youth-oriented sex comedies to be painful to sit through. So when I sat down to watch the movie, it had one positive thing towards itself. Though when I started to watch the movie's first fifteen minutes, this positive attribute looked like it was going to be nowhere near able to save the movie. For one thing, the movie was a Crown-International release. Over the years, I've watched many of their movies, and I can't recall any of them being any good at all. The second strike against the movie was right from the start it socked this viewers in the gut with its low production values. The poorly-recorded audio gave the dialogue a hollow sound to it, and there are often faint hums in the background, sometimes changing pitch when cutting from one shot to another. The visual look to the movie was also pretty bad, with the cinematography looking very much like the kind of cinematography you'd find in a pornographic film of the same era. It also looks like there was also not much money to bring in such things like props; one classroom scene has the students sitting in the same kind of folding metal chairs that wrestlers use to smack their opponents.

Also during the first fifteen minutes of the movie, there was the way that the female "protagonist" was being portrayed. Despite the fact she was failing school, had been dumped by her boyfriend, and that her father had committed suicide, I was not finding herself to be a very sympathetic character. In these first fifteen minutes, she is involved in an incredible amount of off-putting things. Among other unlikable actions she does in this part of the movie, Kim disses the neighbors ("Who needs those a**holes?"), yells at her mother, smokes at the breakfast table, and seems to be proud she's failing school. After fifteen minutes of this, I was kind of dreading spending the next seventy-five minutes with her. Then a funny thing happened. Kim suddenly declares she's going to change her life (what pushed her to this is never explained.) Step by step over the next few weeks, she slowly improves her life by taking drastic decisions. And as she slowly gets deeper and deeper into depravity, I found myself, to my surprise, to slowly get more and more fascinated with this character. The fact that she was so determined to better herself - and damn all that get in her way - kept me interested and wanting to know what would happen to her. Now, I could not believe that all of what she gets herself into could really happen in real life (for one thing, she eventually becomes a hitwoman!) That's what made it all even more compelling. All this stuff is so unbelievable that it's actually pretty amusing. Not able to take the movie seriously any longer, I started to laugh at her nasty behavior, even when she popped the middle finger at her poor mother and announced, "Do me a favor, mother - shove it!"

There a lot of other stuff in the movie that I laughed at that I'm pretty sure that the screenwriters and director Berwick intended the audience to be amused at. There's the flashback where Kim remembers when she found the suicide of her father. That may not sound amusing, but the fact it only runs a few seconds long and only shows of her father his dangling legs makes it come across as amusing. But there are also a lot of unintended laughs in Malibu High as well. Although I previously reported that the cheapness of the movie gives it some problems, the cost-cutting techniques of the production also give the movie some of its biggest laughs, namely the music. I think all of the movie is scored by (largely inappropriate) library music. There are out-of-place kettle drums, there are several scenes which end playing music that happens to be the same music that the television show SCTV used when it stopped for a commercial, and the climatic chase sequence uses the music that was later immortalized in the television show The People's Court. The movie also apparently couldn't afford talented actors. Some of the acting in this movie is so bad that it simply must be witnessed to be believed, and that often includes lead actress Lansing. Yet watching her is still fascinating. She is clearly giving it all that she's got (even if she doesn't always have enough), and you have to wonder why, even with this rough start to her acting career, she disappeared after this movie and never appeared in anything else again. Perhaps she felt that with this movie being so insane, she would never reach this height again and preferred to go out with a bang. I'll certainly never forget her, or this movie, any time shortly.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Bonnie's Kids, Death Game, High School Hellcats

homeindexgenree-mail