Color, 1979, 90 mins. 11 secs.
Directed by Irvin Berwick
Starring Jill Lansing, Stuart Taylor, Katie Johnson, Phyllis Benson, Alex Mann, Tammy Taylor, Garth Howard, John Harmon
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), BCI/Eclipse, Brentwood, Mill Creek, Scorpion Releasing (DVD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Malibu High

Malibu HighFew films from the drive-in stable at Crown International have had a longer or more widespread home video life in recent years than this sun-soaked teen crime film sold as a sexy bikini comedy, whcih offers something much, much weirder and more wonderful than you'd ever expect.

Foul-tempered teen Kim (one-shot wonder Lansing), who acts like a SoCal refugee from a John Waters film, is a real piece of work determined to make it out of high school at the top of her class at any cost. She rolls her eyes at her mom, smokes cigarettes at the breakfast table in front of her mom, and doesn't think it's worth the effort of bringing her books to school. Obviously not in the best mental state after her dad’s suicide, Kim decides to grasp at any means possible including bedding and blackmailing her teachers to get top marks in her classes. On top of that she decides to start her own sex-for-hire business out of a van with local pusher Tony (Mann) pulling the strings, which leads to an accidental homicide ("I don't feel bad; I almost feel good about it!") that gives Kim the bright idea of becoming a sexy hit woman on the side to make some big bucks. On top of that she must deal with day-to-day high school drama involving her rejection by boyfriend Malibu HighMalibu HighKevin (Stuart Taylor) for pampered rich Annette (Tammy Taylor) -- "He's a flake and she's a bitch; they deserve each other!" -- which allows her homicidal instincts to come into play thanks to her newest sponsor in crime, Lance (Howard, a.k.a. Russ Meyer actor Garth Pillsbury).

Outrageously skeevy with a mean streak a mile wide, this is a great party movie if there ever was one. The misleading marketing and Crown name must have given moviegoers seriously whiplash when this unspooled at the end of the ‘70s (yes, you get some disco music), making this perhaps the craziest film in the filmography of director Irvin Berwick (Hitch Hike to Hell, The Monster of Piedras Blancas). On top of that the film is one of only two screenwriting credits for Thomas Singer, who went on to pen the confounding Microwave Massacre, and producer Lawrence D. Foldes would of course blow minds the same year directing and producing the indescribable Don’t Go Near the Park (also with Terry Taylor) and later directing one of the wildest Cannon Films titles, Young Warriors.

In recent years Malibu High has been seen on DVD from numerous labels including a BCI Eclipse “Welcome to the Grindhouse” double feature in 2007 with Trip with the Teacher, then a subsequent 2014 “Dangerous Beauties Collection” pairing from Scorpion Releasing with Hustler Squad (featuring a 15-minute career retrospective interview with Tammy Taylor) and numerous appearances in various Mill Creek sets of a dozen or so Crown titles. However, the most elaborate and best-looking presentation of the film is the dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition from Malibu HighVinegar Syndrome, which allows every single vivid Crown color to pop off the screen with perfect precision; the company's much appreciated habit of keeping all of its films in prime condition holds here and results in a spectacular transfer that should make any fan very happy. Ditto for the DTS-HD MA English mono track, with optional English SDH subtitles; note that the soundtrack is an energetic patchwork of library tracks including Alan Tew's "The Big One," better known as the theme to TV's Malibu HighThe People's Court and a familiar track in several adult films, most notably Barbara Broadcast.

An audio commentary is also included with producer Lawrence Foldes and Tammy Taylor, moderated by Marc Edward Heuck and hitting on some really tantalizing notes like the secret identity of the film's other writer, "John Buckley" (apparently a very well-known Hollywood screenwriter making some cash on the side), the original intentions behind the film before its bizarre switch in marketing, the film's original titles (High School Hit Girl, Death in Denim, and Teen Terror!), the identity confusion around some of the actors, the raciness of the film's poster, Lansing's diva behavior, the various locations including Santa Barbara and Palo Verdes, and loads more. They also touch on the film's most famous alternate title, Lovely but Deadly (the intended production name, still present in the opening theme song), which caused some confusion when a completely different 1981 film of the same title kept turning up on cable TV. Foldes also appears in “Making Malibu High” (26m40s), which is actually more of a career and life overview beginning with his Hungarian-based childhood in California and going through Malibu Highhis entry into filmmaking at a very young age producing this film after raising the budget from investors through his dad. In addition to repeating and elaborating on a few tales from the commentary, he chats about his thoughts on the film soundtrack (he commissioned the sole original material, that theme song and its instrumental version) and shares stories about most of the primary cast members. In “Playing Annette” (12m42s), Tammy Taylor (who has aged astonishingly well) talks about both of her Foldes project, getting her acting start via a casting notice on her college campus, her thoughts on doing Malibu High(fairly restrained) nudity, and the nature of doing "guerilla" filmmaking around California without permits. In the last featurette, “Playing the Boss” (14m51s), Pillsbury explains how he got started in acting via classical theater (and did a Broadway gig in Caligula with Colleen Dewhurst) before heading to Hollywood as a character actor with a really wild roster of credits ranging from multiple Star Trek episodes to those aforementioned Russ Meyer films. Foldes, Tammy Taylor, and Mann (who also has a nutty filmography including I Drink Your Blood and several Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman films) reunite in 2006 for an intro and Q&A at a screening at the New Beverly, which is shakily shot and kind of choppy but has some great tidbits including some welcome comments from the late Mann. Two Foldes short films from the mid-'70s are a fascinating addition as well, the B&W travelogue/animation project “Struggle for Israel” (19m57s) and the non-verbal slice of life look at elderly lifestyles in the countryside, “Grandpa & Marika” (11m7s). The theatrical trailer is also included along with a gallery of promotional material including posters, production photos and documents, and news items is really fascinating as well, and you'll never guess which piece of music they use to score it.

Reviewed on May 24, 2017