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  • Malibu High (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Malibu High (1978)

    Director: Irvin Berwick

    Starring: Jill Lansing, Katie Johnson, Alex Mann, Tammy Taylor, Stuart Taylor, Wallace Earl Laven, Garth Pillsbury, John Harmon & John Yates

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Jill Lansing, in her only film appearance, stars as underachieving high school student turned hooker in the sleazily fun Malibu High.  An avalanche of misfortune from flunking classes to getting dumped by her steady beau opens the attractively feisty Kim Bentley’s eyes to a whole new career of opportunity.  Before long, getting horizontal turns her grades around and fills her wallet but her scandalous way of life leads the barely legal teen down a deadly path.  Irvin Berwick (The Monster of Piedras Blancas, Hitch Hike to Hell) directs.

    A true crowning jewel from low-budget purveyors Crown International Pictures, Malibu High sells  a sultry cocktail of sex, crime and murder where putting out for a price comes at a fatal cost.  Tonally shifting from teeny sexploitation hilarity to coldblooded crime shocker, failing high schooler Kim Bentley, who self-medicates her troubles with booze and pot, finds her calling when taking up local drug dealer and smalltime pimp Tony (Alex Mann, I Drink Your Blood) on his offer to start hooking for him.  Wildly sexy, Kim takes to her new profession with ease, racking up a clientele of johns while learning the tricks of the trade to pocket extra cash every opportunity she gets.  Sleeping her way to better grades but, unhappy with her current wage, Kim trades up with crime kingpin Lance (Garth Pillsbury, Mistress of the Apes) who rewards her services in flashy cars and lavish accommodations.  In turn, Kim’s role as a high-end prostitute is morphed into a hit girl, commanded with blowing away Lance’s top competitors…  or else.  Fuming with typical teenage jealousy over her ex-boyfriend’s new girl before flaunting her untanned breasts during several sexual rendezvous and ultimately getting off on the pull of trigger, Jill Lansing commands this drive-in favorite with untamed energy and looks that kill, making her memorably but, all-too-brief film career a whirlwind of what could have been.  Constantly throwing curveballs at its audience culminating in a tragic conclusion that’s a far cry from its scandalously bubbly beginnings, Malibu High is exploitation excellence with the skin and violence to back it up!  

    Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome works wonders with this beaten to death favorite previously banished to a variety of multi-film budget packs.  Arriving with a gorgeous 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, colors are bursting with bright shades seen in such prominent vehicles as an electric blue Mustang and flashy 70s attire.  Additionally, skin tones are natural and sharply detailed while, age-related damage is practically nonexistent in this spectacular handling of one of Crown’s best pictures.  While not a wildly dynamic track, the DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix conveys speech with ease and only fleeting instances of an echoey presence with music inclusions also well supported.  

    Loading the release with a bevy of desirable content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer Lawrence Foldes & Actress Tammy Taylor, Making Malibu High: An Interview with Producer Lawrence Foldes (26:40) is an exceptional sit-down with the producer who made the film at the shocking age of 18 while, sharing stories on the film’s sometimes challenging star, Crown International’s distribution capabilities and his lifelong obsession with films, Playing Annette: An Interview with Actress Tammy Taylor (12:42) catches up with actress who played Kim’s bitter rival in the film and her early desire to act that culminated in early roles in Don’t Go Near the Park and Malibu High while still in college.  Furthermore, Playing the Boss: An Interview with Actor Garth Pillsbury (14:51) finds the actor turned photographer expressing his head-scratching surprise at the film’s continued appeal with fans and recalls his other roles including appearances in two memorable Star Trek episodes, a Q&A from the New Beverly Cinema Screening with Producer Lawrence Foldes, Actress Tammy Taylor & Actor Alex Mann (27:02), Struggle for Israel: A Short Film by Lawrence Foldes (19:57) from 1976, Grandpa & Marika: A Short Film by Lawrence Foldes (11:07) from 1975, the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:17), a Promotional Still Gallery (2:52), DVD edition and a Reversible Cover with slightly modified artwork concluding the impressive slate of extras.

    Fun in the sun where a trigger happy teen hooker makes her living, Malibu High is a wildly different experience than one might expect from its sexploitation teasing poster but, a ride that exceeds itself in all the best ways.  Thriving on its genre-mashing DNA while supplying all the exploitation goods, Vinegar Syndrome’s definitive release does the impossible by urging fans to buy this drive-in staple one last time for its spectacular presentation and stacked supplements, making the release its final statement on home video.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Malibu High can be purchased via VinegarSyndome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Crush (1993) Blu-ray Review

    The Crush (1993)

    Director: Alan Shapiro

    Starring: Carly Elwes, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Rubin & Kurtwood Smith

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Forbidden love and obsession reign supreme in The Crush when writer Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes, Saw) catches the attention of his landlady’s young daughter Adrian (Alicia Silverstone, Clueless).  After respectfully being turned down by her older crush, Adrian will stop at nothing to turn Nick’s life into a living nightmare.  Jennifer Rubin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) and Kurtwood Smith (RoboCop) co-star.

    In the vein of Fatal Attraction, The Crush caters its tale of scandalous romance and unsettling revenge for a teenage demographic with many landing their own crush for young star Alicia Silverstone in her breakout performance.  Wise beyond her years, 14-year-old Adrian falls head over heels for houseguest occupant Nick whose flattery and ultimate rejection of the teen beauty alters his life for the worse.  Intruding on his personal space before forcefully kissing her wishful beau, Adrian’s persistence after being shunned takes a darker turn when Nick’s blossoming writing career is jeopardized, his car vandalized and his new girlfriend (Rubin) is hospitalized.  Fearing for his life and unable to escape from Adrian’s hold, Nick is delivered a devastating blow when the menacing minor accuses him of sexual assault, potentially destroying the writer’s life.  With fleeting options and publicly viewed as guilty, Nick’s efforts to definitively break his crush’s heart and clear his own name can only come at a violent cost.  Earning the former Aerosmith music video starlet two MTV Movie Award’s including Best Villain, The Crush may be best and rightly remembered for Silverstone’s seductively skitzo performance while, the true story inspired narrative does admirable work maintaining suspense throughout its rather violently tame plot.  Enjoyably simplistic with evenly applied thrills, The Crush sits handsomely next to other psychotic lovesick pictures of the era with Gen Xers’ nostalgia-fueled appreciation earning its cult credibility.

    Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory proudly presents The Crush with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing clear and particularly lush in the green surroundings of the film’s central location, colors are strongly reproduced with skin tones always looking natural.  Lacking any overwhelming instances of dirt or debris, black levels are satisfactory while, its presentation is filmic and exceedingly pleasing to the eye.  Presented with a disclaimer alerting viewers of phasing issues present on previous releases that have been unfortunately carried over due to lack of better materials, the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix suffers only mildly with dialogue registering slightly lower yet, audibly than anticipated.  Far from deal-breaking and with expectations appropriately adjusted, the mix is perfectly sufficient.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix with identical phasing issues is also included.  Meanwhile, special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alan Shapiro, moderated by Nathaniel Thompson.  In addition, The Doting Father with Kurtwood Smith (9:59) finds the former That ‘70s Show star reminiscing on his brief but, enjoyable experience on the film, praising its cinematography and recalling Silverstone’s 16th birthday celebration on set.  Furthermore, Stung by Love with Jennifer Rubin (13:19) catches up with the genre appreciated actress as she discusses how her modeling days and handiness with a camera aided her performance on top of praising the acting abilities of co-stars Elwes and Silverstone.  Finally, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:03) and TV Spot (0:17) conclude the disc’s supplemental offerings.

    A seductive thriller fashioned for the MTV generation, The Crush’s greatest claim to fame remains its cinematic introduction to Silverstone who steals the show with her unhinged performance as a lovestruck teen gone psycho.  With an equally strong performance from Elwes, The Crush delivers its taste of suspense commendably, making it a worthy date night thriller.  Rewinding back to the days when UB40 and “Informer” blared across the radio waves, Scream Factory’s high-definition presentation and compact bonus features treats diehard fans with a cult favorite unworthy of breaking up with.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 21st from Scream Factory, The Crush can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.