Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Malibu High (1979)
by Kevin “Erotic Mustard” Dillon
Really bad movies are fun to write about. So are really good ones. Malibu High, a late 70’s sexploitation flick is neither. Extreme only in its mediocrity on just about every level, there’s very little soft underbelly for me to stab at nor are there many pleasant surprises to highlight here, just frame after frame of forgettable, mostly unremarkable ‘meh’-ness that defies me at every turn. Writing this piece has felt like a tussle with a tiny, greased-up spider monkey who has now clocked in about two dozen kicks to my groin. So apologies in advance if I ask you to join me anyhow as I bravely yet awkwardly flail about and try to come to terms with the fact that this movie has left me defeated, numb and quite possibly impotent.
Like many a liquor store porno tape, this movie suffers first from some seriously false advertising. The movie poster for Malibu High makes a couple of promises it never intends to deliver. Firstly, the cavalcade of National Lampoon-style cartoon teachers in the background suggests a light-hearted, humorous high school romp, when in actuality this movie is about as wacky as John Houseman’s skeletal remains. Basically this movie starts out depressing and spirals nowhere but down from there.
Secondly, and much more egregiously, the adorable, topless cutie pictured oh-so-naughtily sunbathing on the beach is completely AWOL from the film. Look at her there, mocking us with her perky buns, teasing us into thinking we deserve to see a movie featuring her boobs. In the great house of T&A, in whose moldy basement this movie can be found squatting under a crunchy stack of Swank magazines, I’d like to think that this false advertising maneuver is referred to as ‘mastur-bait and switch.’
In her place as this middling movie’s main character, Kim, is the decidedly not-adorable Jill Lansing. I’m going to do my best to not get too shallow here, but this is a skin flick, meant to rile up backseat hormones and aid 15-year-old boys in their late night, onanistic endeavors, and Jill simply does not cut the erotic mustard. She doesn’t even give the mustard a friendly noogie and send it on its way. At best, with her visible mustache, sour Stockard-Channing’s-less-attractive-sister looks and oddly smashed, lily-white tube-top-silhoutte breasts, she just irritates the mustard till it won’t return her calls anymore.
Crap, I went there. With all my liberal upbringing and love for ladies of all shapes and sizes, I had to bag on this poor actress whose only real crime is starring in a movie that didn’t have a good enough make-up artist on set to insist on a mustache wax. All right, Kevin, just muscle through. Rise above it, man.
With that being said, it’s not like her performance is any worse than one would expect from this type of drive-in nudie movie. Sure, her delivery is a tad wooden, but with all her bitterness and growing desperation, it’s not entirely unfitting that this character is a bit detached and unlikeable. Boy, is she authentically unlikeable. And besides, from the opening scene where we see her naked and smoking, on through her hooker-y romps in the back of a van with johns who request both “French” and “Greek” style sex, to her swan song on the beach, Jill Lansing puts in a yeoman-like performance and never once shies away from putting it all out there on film. Good on you, Jill Lansing. If we ever meet, I’ll definitely refrain from requesting “Greek” style anything.
So anyway, Kim has just been dumped by what seems like her long time boyfriend, Kevin. We, the self-loathing audience, know these two had something special because on her bedroom wall near the obligatory ‘70s crocheted wall art, hangs a very sad, very hastily thrown together heart-shaped piece of paper bearing the words “Kevin + Kim in love forever.” It’s a creepy bit of décor that’s both a symbol of innocence soon to be lost, as well as a sad reminder of the film’s limited budget and nearly non-existent writing. Like the movie it appears in “Kevin + Kim” equals some kind of low-effort meta-valentine to sleaziness.
Reeling already from the breakup, Kim quickly learns in addition to the fact that Kevin is now going steady with the school rich-bitch, she’s also failing many of her classes and will probably not graduate.
When she learns of a career opportunity in the street-level whore industry from her local pot dealer who also doubles as a street-level pimp, Kim’s life begins to dramatically change. Before the horny 15-year-olds watching this can get their second Kleenex, she’s got the johns lined up around the block and is making money hand over fist. With a gusto one wishes she would have employed instead in school, Kim quickly becomes the town bike, as the old joke goes. Sadly, she’s obviously just channeling her bitterness over her loss of Kevin to that rich girl, but the dollars start rolling in and things start to improve for the naïve young streetwalker. Sure, getting on with your life is a nice bit of revenge for scorned lovers, but is herpes really worth it? That shit’s for life.
In any event, it’s not long before she takes those newfound skills back to school with her and seduces her male teachers with racy outfits and an eye towards blackmailing them for better grades.
Making things even better, Kim is soon noticed by a local mob boss and is whisked away from her street-level hooker job into the world of the somewhat higher class hooker. There’s only one catch for her promotion to the majors: She must shoot and kill her street-level pimp first. Quickly and happily obliging, Kim has now evolved into some kind of ass-peddling assassin with wads of cash and lingering self-esteem issues. You’d almost feel bad for her, but what kind of job was she going to get with those grades anyway?
So, hope has now arrived in Kim’s life. Granted, it’s the kind of hope that comes with genital warts, but there’s no doubt things are looking up. And, with a most-intriguing ‘job’ offer from her mob boss, she may just get the revenge her bruised psyche longs for. It turns out that the next assassination on her list is the rich father of the rich bitch who stole her precious Kevin away before the opening credits. Little can she know that sweet revenge will be the instrument of her undoing.
Posing as a mere high-class hooker, she makes her way into the wealthy father’s home and punches the old man’s ticket with gusto. Unfortunately, it turns out that Kim is about as adept at mob hits as she was at geography, and her getaway is botched. I usually think that simple plans are the best plans, but in hindsight, I bet Kim wishes her plan for this hit consisted of something a bit more elegant than:
Step 1: Park in the target’s driveway.
Step 2: Kill the target.
Step 3: Leave through the front door and drive away in broad daylight, smiling.
As it turns out, the rich daughter, her man, Kevin, and their gaggle of generic-teen friends return home right as Step 3 is supposed to go off. D’oh! Kim panics, big surprise, shoots and kills the rich girl and takes off on foot, kicking off what I can honestly say is one of the more surreal climax chase scenes in cinematic history.
As she makes her way down a cliff onto the beach, followed by the inexplicably slow-footed Kevin, we’re treated to a most surprising song. An eerily familiar soundtrack kicks in to the strains of a disco high hat: tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tck-a-tsssk. Then a booming horn and bassline kicks in: Ba-Ba-Dut-Dut! Ba-Ba-Dut-Dum-Dum! Finally a frantic flute trills and we can longer pretend we’re hearing anything other than, you guessed it: "The People’s Court Suite"
Yep, it turns out this funky bit of disco muzak is public domain and the producers of Malibu High are going to make you sit through the entire piece. Judge Wapner was gracious enough to let it fade out midway through the first flute trill when Doug Llewellyn introduces some douchebag with a pathetic lawsuit to decide if a bad perm is worth the full $50 charged by the hairdresser. But that’s why he’s a TV judge and we’re just folks who discuss T&A movies.
Alas, there are no small change lawsuits here, and us audience members get to hear the whole song from high hat to merciful fadeout as Kim and Kevin slowly make their way over the course of the three and a half minute song (I timed it) to this movie’s now utterly bizarre conclusion.
Finally, the song peters out and Kevin catches up to his world-weary ex who’s now pointing the gun in his direction. When his plea for calm discussion is re-buffed, he calls her a “stupid, fucking goddamn broad” displaying his own brand of idiocy, and braces for a much-deserved bullet to the chest. A shot rings out! But to our dismay, Kevin is spared. A cop on the cliff above has saved him, and it is Kim’s lifeless body that’s now in danger of washing out to sea. Roll end credits. One only wishes that she could have shot this guy simultaneously in some sort of trashy Shakespearean ending, but that’s life, I guess.
There you have it: A revenge-filled skin-flick with very little heart and no brains, wherein unlikable characters who behave poorly to each other may or may not get their just desserts, all cemented together with a heavy dose of music featured in The People’s Court. Ugh. It tries to rise above its naughty inclinations as a “Student has Sex with the Teacher” T&A movie, but the attempt is utterly in vain. Kind of like my attempt here to put this exercise in celluloid mediocrity into words.
I’ll leave you with this final thought: Having watched Malibu High a number of times now in preparation for this piece, I can’t help but feel emotionally distant and more than a little violated by its rank sensibilities. And by violated, I definitely mean “Greek” style.