Vinegar Syndrome’s Malibu High Blu-ray Release
There's nothing else quite like Malibu High, and as uneven as it may be, it's hard to not be enamored by its defiance.
Published on June 5, 2017 | Filed under Review
Malibu High

As soon as it was announced that Vinegar Syndrome would be releasing HD upgrades of the Crown International catalog, I immediately wondered how long it would take to get a good edition of Malibu High. The answer was not very long at all. Long available on home video, but never quite like this, this is the release that Malibu High fans have been waiting for – myself included.

Marketed as more of a teen sex comedy than the more violent and mean spirited film that it actually is, Malibu High has earned a reputation for itself as one of Crown International’s more vibrant and crowd pleasing titles. Released in 1979, Irvin Berwick’s (Hitch Hike to Hell) teen opus is much more sinister than its beach party advertising campaign (think Private Resort) would lead you to believe. Framing a typical for the time tale of teenage rebellion, featuring a cigarette smoking, promiscuous lead in Kim (Jill Lansing) who is blackmailing her teachers for A’s which naturally turns into becoming a hit woman! The result is an inspired mix of teen movie melodrama, grimy 70s exploitation and a late disco period time capsule. There’s nothing else quite like Malibu High and as uneven as it may be, it’s hard to not be enamored by its defiance.

Malibu High

Vinegar Syndrome have brought Malibu High to Blu-ray in a new scan from the 35mm negative and the results are pretty breathtaking. As a Crown title, this saw requisite release in the form of double feature and multi-collection sets which never allowed for the best presentation standards. But that is far from the case here. Malibu High‘s vibrant color palette is given its due and the source is free of any major damage, with a clean, organic presentation throughout. I honestly never thought I could see Malibu High look this good. Audio is a DTS HD MA 1.0 track, preserving the original mono presentation which likewise has zero issues. Stellar presentation from the always reliable Vinegar Syndrome.

I would have been happy just having Malibu High available in HD, but Vinegar Syndrome have gone and really given this special treatment. Things start off with a commentary with producer Lawrence Foldes and actress Tammy Taylor. Which is full of prime anecdotes including the aforementioned marketing campaign, the changes to the title and tensions with the cast. We then get a nearly half hour long “Making of Malibu High” which features Foldes talking about the film some more. Some familiar ground is covered but a lot more is too, including the later reception of the film, and his career in general. Taylor returns in “Playing Annette” which also details her career at large as well as some anecdotes about the film itself including watching it with her family. Actor Garth Pillsbury gets “Playing the Boss” which talks about his career including working with Russ Meyer. A lengthy “New Beverly Q&A” is exactly what it sounds like and features Foldes, Taylor and Alex Mann appearing after a screening of the film in 2006. We then get two of Foldes’ short films: Struggle for Israel and Grandpa & Marika, which run about a half hour together. Supplements finish with a theatrical trailer and stills galleries.

Malibu High

I’m not sure that anyone (including those involved in the supplements) ever expected Malibu High to get treatment on home video as lavish as this. Vinegar Syndrome have pulled out all of the stops in giving the film the best presentation it has had yet and a supplemental package that usually isn’t given to films more revered. This is one of the best releases of 2017 thus far. Highly Recommended.

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in film preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and film studies from Keene State College. He is the Creative Manager at Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em.
Justin LaLiberty