Given that it’s been — what, a few weeks? — since we dipped into the Crown International Pictures vault around here, I figured I’d fix that situation for you, dear reader, by taking a look at what is, as near as I can determine at any rate, the closest thing to an absolutely plotless film that CIP ever tossed up onto our nation’s late, lamented drive-in screens. Namely, director Robert J. Rosenthal’s 1978 teen sexploitationer MALIBU BEACH.
I can’t kid you — it would be dishonest to say that there’s no story here whatsoever, but you do have to dig awfully hard to find it. Here’s what I was able to unearth. Young, beautiful, and reasonably smart Malibu beach (hence the title) lifeguard Dina (Kim Lankford) finds romance with dashing blonde hunk (and, apparently, full-time beach bum) Bobby (James Daughton) while her best friend from high school, bubbly and somewhat-less-bright Sally (Susan Player) stirs up sparks with Bobby’s pal Paul (Michael Luther). Meanwhile, that hapless, thinks-he’s-cooler-than-he-actually-is lunkhead, Dugan , who appears in another Crown feature — the admittedly more-successful and better-remembered The Van — turns up again here, played by the same guy (Steve Oliver), and up to the same shit : trying to do anything he can to impress Dina and lure her affections away from Bobby and in his direction. Nothing’s really gonna work, though, ‘cuz he’s Dugan, and in between all the various beach hijinks that consume roughly 95% of the film, Dina decides that Bobby’s the guy for her and their love, and their mutual friendship with Sally and and Paul, will last forever. Why, even Bobby’s occasionally-meddling ex (played by the fetching Tara Strokmeier) can’t mess things up for this blissfully happy young couple.
So, anyway, there’s yer plot — but as mentioned at the outset, that’s not really what MALIBU BEACH is about. It’s about everything that happens in between the threadbare “progression” of its “story.” It’s about topless hotties running around on the beach. It’s about midnight skinny-dipping. It’s about teenagers having a good time and two stereotypically incompetent cops out to rain on everyone’s parade and having ,as you’d expect, zero success. It’s about a nerd who cruises the beach in a souped-up piece-of-shit-car that he thinks is “cool.” It’s about a sexy female teacher who lets out her “wild side” over summer break. It’s about Bobby and Dugan racing their cars and out-swimming a shark to try and impress Dina. It’s about the same three fucking songs playing over and over againthroughout the movie. It’s about a bratty pre-teen who gets his kicks pouring out the suntan lotion bottle of sleeping beach beauties, and a dog trained to steal their untied bikini tops.
In other words, it’s not about jack shit, but it sure is kinda stupid fun.
Scratch that — make that really stupid fun. I don’t know about you, but I miss the days when movies didn’t always feel like they needed to have a “point.” Points are expected. Points are predictable. Points are boring. Points are pointless. The only “point” on offer here is to show as much young, fresh flesh parading around in as little as possible (or, occasionally, less than that). The actual sex on offer here is pretty sparse — they save it up for Dina and Bobby’s typically-wooden-and-passionless “love-making” scene at the end — but there’s plenty of nudity and even more near-nudity along the way, and the whole thing feels a lot more free-form than constructed, resulting in a lazy, decidedly unambitious film that nevertheless will have you smiling in spite of yourself most of the way through.
I guess it’s probably fair to say that the appeal of MALIBU BEACH, limited as it is, probably stems entirely from its nostalgia value. A feeling that they “just don’t make ‘em like this anymore” coupled with the more — yawn! — “mature” realization that the reason they don’t is because this sort of thing was never that great to begin with. But weird as it sounds for a movie that exists pretty much to show off a set of naked boobs every 5 or 10 minutes, there’s an innocence to MALIBU BEACH that today’s rowdier and more raucous teenage T&A flicks just can’t capture, and I’d rather watch a dog make off with some shocked beach bimbo’s string bikini than listen to some idiot like AMERICAN PIE’s Stiffler talk about shaving his balls and his master plan to seduce his best friend’s mom, videotape the whole thing, and upload it onto the internet (or whatever other supposedly “edgy, shocking, but still funny” thing he’s up to) any day of the week.
So, yeah — if an absurd-on-its-face slice of southern California summers as, let’s face it, they probably never really were is what you’re in the mood for, you’ll be glad to know that Mill Creek has seen fit to include this flick as part of its 32-film, 12-disc “Drive-In Cult Classics” DVD box set. It’s presented in a widescreen transfer that’s surprisingly crisp and clean, the sound is mono, and there are, of course, no extras. The entire set retails for less than ten bucks from most online retailers, and even if you watch most (or, hell, all) of the movies only once, you can’t really bitch about not getting your money’s worth. A very solid purchase all the way around.
All in all, Malibu Beach is as listless, lazy, and ultimately meaningless as a summer day after your senior year of high school. It’s also every bit as much fun. And even if your teenage years weren’t filled with nearly this much carefree naked frolicking — whose were? — seeing how cool a low-rent production outfit like Crown International thinks they could have been is always a good time.
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