Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Cinema Monolith: 5/10
AllMovie: ** out of 5
Released in May, 1978
Directed by Robert J. Rosenthal
Written by Celia Susan Cotelo and Robert J. Rosenthal
Cast: Kim Lankford, James Daughton, Susan Player, Michael Luther, Stephen Oliver, Tara Strohmeier, Bill Adler, Roger Lawrence Pierce, Flora Plumb, Sherry Lee Marks, Rory Stevens, Parris Clifton Buckner, Bruce Kimball
One of the things I like about the handful of Crown International Pictures high school ‘fun and frolic’ films released in the 1970s and 1980s—or perhaps, the only thing I like about them—is how they take me back to an era I wish I could return to and spend a few days reliving again. Never mind that these films were typically filled with poor direction, questionable acting, a lack of story, and low-brow humor; what makes them watchable for me are the bygone locales, the period cars, the fashions, and the Southern California vibe that I not only grew up with, but now also identify with. Which is why I can enjoy such drive-in fare as The Pom Pom Girls, Van Nuys Blvd., and The Beach Girls over and over again: they allow me the opportunity to time travel back to my high school years anytime I choose.
Which brings us to Malibu Beach, my favorite of the genre for those very reasons mentioned above, and one of the most easy-going, non-aggressive, and downright mellow teen sex comedies you’ll ever experience. School’s out for the summer, and cheerleader Dina trades in her pom poms for a lifeguard job at Malibu Beach, where tanned, uninhibited guys and gals spend their days and evenings having a good time in the sun, surf, and late-70s atmosphere. And trust me, that was it for anything resembling a coherent storyline; beyond that, it was nothing but loosely-connected vignettes, montages, and scenes of harmless teenage escapades. But it was this lack of story and structure that gave Malibu Beach its simple charm. That, and of course the dog who kept stealing the bikini tops off unsuspecting female sunbathers.
Kim Lankford and Animal House nemesis James Daughton played our two leads, the lifeguard Dina and the amiable stud Bobby who falls for her, while Stephen Oliver returned from CIP’s The Van as musclebound lunkhead Dugan, once again portraying an obnoxious prick out to spoil everyone’s fun. The direction by Robert J. Rosenthal—who earlier wrote The Pom Pom Girls and would later helm the abysmal Zapped!—was neither here nor there (there were some nice sunset establishing shots, but why were so many scenes filmed at night?), though I appreciated the fact that his characters were more laid-back and good-natured than cruel or bothersome, which offered a nice change of pace from what you’d expect, and helped keep the film’s carefree tone from becoming too weighty and serious.
So how does one end a movie that has no plot, structure, or story arc? What exactly do you wrap up? What these filmmakers chose to do—and yes, I’m spoiling the ending—was to have a shark interrupt an aquatic showdown between Bobby and Dugan, then freeze-frame on our two exuberant leads and their two friends as the end credits played out. Conversely, how do I then review a movie with no plot, structure, or story arc? After taking another look at the three paragraphs above, I’m not sure if I succeeded with that attempt, so maybe it’s best for me to say, I enjoyed Malibu Beach for its nostalgia factor, for blonde cutie Susan Player, for Sherry Lee Marks and her snug LA Kings t-shirt, and for the cool Rolling Stones 1972 tour poster on Dina’s bedroom wall that I’d really love to own. (5/10)
Ha! I love that the filmmakers threw in a shark for the ending. (I’m serious!)
You’ve done a great job describing why people sometimes like bad movies – it’s not the movie per se, it’s what the movie represents. I’ve never had an interest in seeing this film, but by your description of what it evokes in you, it makes me want to check it out. Man, you really know how to sell a film!
Thank you for coming to the Beach Party Blogathon!
And thank you, Ruth, for allowing me to crash the party! And thanks for the nice comment…you’re right, it’s sometimes not the movie, but the movie’s aura that makes it worth watching. I have quite a few movies on my shelves that make me feel that way, and most are from the ’70s and ’80s. And by the way, if I ‘sold’ you on this film, and you decide to watch it, just be sure to hold on to your receipt!
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Isn’t being a classic fan all about wanting to be taken back to another era?! Loved reading about why this sun-and-surf movie provokes that reaction. Sometimes films (contemporary & classic, I hasten to add!) always feel like they need to have a “point” and, every now and then, it’s fun to watch one that seems to think the total opposite!
Hi Victoria! Yes, I totally agree…sometimes it’s nice just to kick back and enjoy a film for what it shows, and not what it means. Van Nuys Blvd. is another one that’s similar in style and tone to Malibu Beach, and provokes that same kind of reaction from me; I may have to watch that one again soon. Thanks for stopping by!
Good to see the old Monolith hasn’t collapsed! I have never seen this one but I enjoyed the review and I like your staunch defence of the early 80s teen sex comedy oeuvre! I have to say I admire any director or writer who ends a story with a random shark attack.
Thanks, Stu! The Monolith has been a little wobbly the past few months, but somehow it’s still standing. And if you liked Rosenthal’s shark-themed ending, you may also enjoy the works of Renny Harlin, Anthony C. Ferrante, and some guy I’ve never heard of…Spielburt? Speelbug?
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Anytime I see that the writer and director share the same name I get worried. Meanwhile, in 1978 while you were enjoying your high school years, I was graduating from college that very month and year and am I ever glad that’s over with! But your movie review was excellent as usual, although I would only watch this to see the thieving dog. Never knew you still consider yourself a “Californian”. Great job Toddius! 🙂
In June of 1978 I was finishing up my Continental League baseball season and heading out to Ohio for a month’s vacation at my grandparents’ place..sorry I skipped out on your graduation! The dog scenes were few and far between, so you’d have to fast-forward a bit to get to those parts, and though his theft of bikini tops somewhat ‘paid off’ at the end, I still wonder why he felt compelled to steal them in the first place. Thanks, Julius!