In the storied pantheon of “High school girl goes bad, turns to prostitution and murder to make ends meet, meets end tragically” films, Irvin Berwick’s 1979 exploitation classic Malibu High is probably the “best” of the bunch. Well, I’m not sure “best” is the proper word to use for a film this bizarre, but you genre fans know what I mean.
That cute poster on the left makes it look like a typical pre-80’s sex comedy flick packed with lowbrow laughs. But man, is it oh soooooooo misleading. Yes, there are laughs to be had here and plenty of them. But the film’s general tone straddles the line between parody and interesting attempts to be serious with breathtaking results…
(thanks, Lawrence David Foldes!)
In her first and only film, Jill Lansing plays Kim Bentley, a high school senior who, after being dumped by her boyfriend for another girl and suffering from a lack of money to get the things she needs, decides selling her body is the best solution. Now, before we get to the rest of the plot, let’s just consider the education system in Malibu that somehow continued to pass this not so clever lass with about as much common sense as a brick into her senior year. Then again, Lansing looks a wee bit long in the tooth and world-weary to be a teenager, but that actually works quite well in her favor.
From the outset she crankily rocks the femme fatale thing to a T, going from hooker to assassin with a weird mix of “Yeah, Yeah” manner of fact “acting” and gleeful relish in assassin mode. She plays Kim like she’s every film noir temptress rolled into an angry body complete with a non-existent moral code. Chain smoking, getting into drugs and allowing herself to get pimped out by not one, but TWO sleazy guys? it’s all in a day’s (and night’s) work for Miss Bentley. Shedding her clothes constantly and bedding her male teachers for better grades also come into play as the film progresses. The one old fart who won’t fall for her feminine charms gets to drop dead of a heart attack when Kim drops her robe after hiding his heart pills. Kim’s poor mother weakly tries to reign her in at a few points, but even she gives up and doesn’t even bother to ask where those fancy cars she gets are coming from.
If you go in looking for sexy stuff to ogle, there’s really nothing here other than the frequently topless or mostly unclad Lansing and a brief scene with the gal now seeing her ex-boyfriend. Yeah, you may have wanted to see loads of different boobs and butts, But welcome to Kim Bentley’s Wild World of “Whatever.” I think you see more male teacher behind in this flick than should be legally sanctioned. Your eyes may want to stab themselves at some point, but such is the surprise of the exploitation flick that wants to surprise you on other unexpected levels…
Then again, this isn’t a film with a single likable character, so don’t expect to latch on to anyone even in a sympathetic manner. All her victims are jerks or kind of get what they deserve. Well, save for the poor little rich girl who she got dumped for whose daddy plays into the final part of the film. Like Kim, you’re pretty much trapped by your decision to sit down and watch this all the way through. The movie just plays out and you need to hold on for dear life and roll with the punches for best results. It’s quite amusing to see the not too bright Kim wreck her life and a few other lives and funnier because most everyone she trumps is a lot less bright than she is at the end of the day.
That said, her one track thinking ends up being her downfall (and you can see it coming a mile away). Sent out on a final hit job, Kim’s failure to pack a few extra bullets leads to her downfall after a hilarious foot chase with some REALLY familiar music blaring in the background. Yes, that’s the music that ended up as The People’s Court theme (awesome). There’s also a sound cue throughout the film whenever she’s about to do something or there’s a major plot point revealed that’s good for a hoot. I forget where else it was used, but my brain kept cracking up as if flipped through its memory banks. Anyway, at the end, we found out good girls go to heaven (or just get shot in the gut by teenage assassins) while bad girls get gunned down by cops in high places who arrive just in the nick of time.
Hey, at least Berwick and distributor Crown International didn’t see any sequel potential here. This quickie is over fast and you’ll probably forget all about it a few days later (although you may want to see a doctor about that “rash”…).