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Case Number 27000: Small Claims Court

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Malibu High / Hustler Squad

Hustler Squad
1976 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Malibu High
1979 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Released by Scorpion Releasing
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 21st, 2014

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker always assumed a Malibu high would be mellower than this.

The Charge

You pay for the pleasure…the killing is FREE!

The Case

Scorpion re-re-re-releases a couple of forgettable Crown International drive-in flicks, and the results are…forgettable!

In Malibu High, we meet disaffected teen sleazette Kim (Jill Lansing), whose boyfriend, Kevin has just broken up with her—and broken her already hardened heart. She lives with her slovenly mother, who makes ridiculous demands: Kim should study, she insists (since Kim is flunking out), Kim should get a job to earn money for a car, she insists.

So, Kim decides to use the one thing that isn't fried or depressed: her youthful body. Yes, Kim seduces her teachers and becomes a prostitute, and, apparently, a good one, at that.

But, as Kim slinks her way up the hooker food chain, she becomes entangled in much more sinister—and deadly—doings.

Next up, we look at a period of the 20th Century even darker than Malibu in the '70s: World War II. Major "Stony" Stonewall (John Ericson, Bedknobs and Broomsticks) is tasked with doing as much damage as possible to the Japanese forces in the Philippines—but on a budget, of course.

Fortunately, Stony is privy to some succulent information: in 60 days, a whole bunch of high-ranking Japanese military officials will be partying like it's 1951 at a nearby brothel. Needless to say, the brothel will be heavily guarded by the frustrated lower echelon, so an all-out attack is out of the question.

But what's in the question—and why did no one think of this before?—is the hiring of some brave and bodacious warrior women who can pretend to be hookers and then interruptus coitus by slaughtering these scum from the land of the rising sun.

Our buxom gladiatrices are chosen, put through all manner of military training, and spend a good hour or so telling us which stereotypes they represent. Will the deadly hoe-down go as planned, or will all the talk of this being a "suicide mission" come to fruition?

Crown International Pictures was the inverse of American International Pictures. Whereas AIP made stupid and silly sex comedies that served up soft-core smut and low-brow humor with the occasional "serious" subplot (generally tossed off with little-to-no-consequence), CIP turned out films that were soft-corish, but swapped out the silly stuff for the "serious" stuff. Thus, films like The Teacher or The Babysitter, or the two offered here, often come across like '60's-era crime TV shows, only with more moralizing and (sometimes, thankfully, more flesh). What they don't come across like is a good time at the drive-in.

Case in point: Is it too much to ask that a movie called Malibu High, about the adventures of a trashy yet nubile 18-year-old, be a little fun? This one plays out like a morality tale from the '50s, only with drugs, nudity, and profanity—plus, a chase scene scored with what sounds like the theme from The People's Court. It has little to do with Malibu High proper; they might as well have called it Malibu Sandpit.

This one's a downer from top to bottom, with "top" honors going to our leading lady, the sullen Jill Lansing as Kim. This was Lansing's only film, and it's not difficult to see why: she seems miserable. Squeezing out a smile—which happens rarely—seems like feat comparable to Meryl Streep's monologue in Sophie's Choice. Lansing isn't even featured on the cover art, which gives us a woman who's not in the film—and, who's smiling broadly—and positions the whole unpleasant mess squarely as a teen sex comedy, something it squarely is not. (Someone wrote a fairly extensive bio for Lansing at IMDb—the kind of thing I'm guessing Max von Mayerling would have written for Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard to try to lure her back to the silver screen. While it's certainly over-the-top, there's something kind of endearing about this level of fandom for a one-spritz wonder like Lansing.)

While Malibu High has been released countless times before, usually as part of multi-film compilations or double features, I doubt it has ever looked this good. Scorpion apparently struck a new master for this release from the original negative, and frankly, it's near flawless; at times, I forgot I was watching a sleazy exploitation film from the '70s. The mono audio track is fine, and we get a couple of supplements: an on-camera interview with Tammy Taylor (Lovelines), who plays one of Kim's rivals and is apparently one of the few people from this film to have stayed in the business; plus, intros and outros from Katarina Leigh Waters, as well as a trailer. It's too bad the film doesn't live up to the work Scorpion put into the release.

You'd think a film about war-time intrigue centered around an orgy at a bordello would have no problem keeping its sleaze-quotient afloat, but Hustler Squad just meanders along, desperately trying to find ways to occupy 80 minutes until the big finish. The result is a great big bowl of tedium, with some T'n'A and a few action scenes tossed in for good measure. The characters are underdeveloped, the Philippine-location shooting looks lousy, and the "intriguing" plan so elemental, that it hardly bears talking about, yet it is discussed ad nauseum.

If the film actually played out the way it seems conceived—like a Women-in-Prison movie grafted onto the "Night of the Long Knives" scene from Visconti's The Damned—this would have been a fun and fascinating bit of exploitation; instead, it's just an interminably long wait for a bunch of semi-nude, freedom-fighting, call-girl wannabes to start skewering their clueless—though high-ranking!—military genius johns.

Apparently, this one also features a newly remastered print, but the results are nowhere near what they were for Malibu High; there's a lot of print damage here, colors are spotty, and contrast makes the big finale battle hard to follow. There are no supplements here other than a trailer.

The Verdict

Guilty, though the Malibu High tech and supplements makes a good case for leniency.

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Scales of Justice, Hustler Squad

Judgment: 25

Perp Profile, Hustler Squad

Studio: Scorpion Releasing
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Hustler Squad

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Malibu High

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile, Malibu High

Studio: Scorpion Releasing
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Malibu High

• Bumpers
• Interview
• Trailer

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