Friday, January 30, 2009

Malibu Beach (Robert J. Rosenthal, 1978)

Exploring the tenets of freedom, and I mean actual freedom, not the pretend version they hawk in national anthems and on game shows, Malibu Beach is one of the most dangerous movies I have ever seen. Tantamount to a wet, sloppy air kiss in the general direction of anarchy, the esteemed Robert J. Rosenthal (The Pom Pom Girls and The Van) has created a film so subversive, that it attacks intellectualism at every turn (show an interest in something that doesn't involve partying at the beach and you will quickly find yourself on the outside looking in). Boldly promoting its hedonistic agenda with a wanton disregard for socialites loosely held up moral infrastructure, the characters in this film have no interest in gainful employment, politics, or the community at large. Now, if that's not a recipe for bedlam, I don't know what is. Sure, the film's main female protagonist works as a lifeguard, which in some cultures is considered a real job, but she's been warned not to wear a bikini while on duty, and yet, she knowingly ignores this rule, proceeding to piss on it with a casual nonchalance. It should be said that she's the exception to the rule, as the rest of the characters that populate this free-and-easy plane of existence take listlessness to whole another level of lazy.

Even the police, usually the most uptight and caustic in a genuinely free society, are anarchists at heart.

This sun-baked strain of rampant lawlessness and self-indulgence has even infected the animal kingdom. This furry, and sometimes feathered group, are normally only interested in acquiring food, mating, and the act of sleeping. Well, you can add bikini tops to that list, because a dog who likes to hang out at the film's titular sandy shore has developed a taste for the stringy garment. The women he or she stealthy takes the tops from seem upset by the theft and usually give chase.

However, the success of their pursuit, in most cases, depends on the ample nature of their breast weight (the smallish seemed to run with a greater ease than the ones with an extra bit of jiggle on board). The mysteries of mammary distribution aside, the women always fail to reacquire their skimpy chest coverings from the swimwear pilfering pooch.

Anyway, back to the realm of humanity, Malibu Beach is basically about nothing. Yeah, that's right, nothing. On top of being anarchistic, the film has nihilistic overtones. The chiseled Bobby (James Daughton) and the wiry Paul (Michael Luther), two blonde American males, who have just escaped an educational prison of their own making, boast no interests beyond having sex with their blonde counterparts and driving mindlessly through the energizing warmth of their beachfront community in their massive jeep.

The guy's minimalist outlook is eventually complemented by the equally vacant Dina (Kim Lankford) and Sally (a super-cute Susan Player), the former being the aforementioned lifeguard. I say, "eventually," because the initial pairing had its share of bumps and kinks. The fact that they failed to create sparks with their first choice in sex partners gave the film its most poignant moments. I mean, who knew the shy and the extroverted could work so well together? It's this kind unexpected illumination that keeps me coming back for more moving pictures.

Repeating the same songs over and over again on the soundtrack gave the film a wonderful carefree edge to it that unashamedly thumbs its nose at those paying attention in audience. In reality, the producers probably realized they were out of songs midway through the film and decided to just recycle the ones from the first half. Nevertheless, I chose to see this repetitiveness as yet another act of cinematic subversion.

All this talk of anarchy and repetition has caused me to forget about the rivalry the forms between James Naughton's Bobby and the musclebound Dugan Hicks (a mildly hilarious Steve Oliver) over the affections of Dina the lifeguard. Conventional face punching is employed on a number of occasions, but the swaggering twosome turn the machismo up a notch in a series of death defying challenges. Don't worry though, this feeble attempt at plot-based storytelling doesn't interfere with the film's central theme, which is carelessness in the late twentieth century.

A film that makes me long for the feeling of warm air on my neck, Malibu Beach is cinema in its purest form; lowbrow nectar for the soul, if you will (if you won't, I'll fuck your shit up, old school).

Celebrate nothingness and go to the beach. I won't be waiting for you. Uh, I don't tan well, and I'm deathly afraid of large bodies water. But I'm sure others will be there.

You know, like, Tara Strohmeier (I can't believe I almost forgot to mention her). At any rate, go now, go!

video uploaded by Coolestmovies


  1. Have you seen Sunset Cove? My favorite bad beach movie ever.

  2. No I haven't. But judging by its straightforward title, verbose tagline, and saucy poster, I don't see how it could be anything but totally awesome.

    Yikes. Only 21 people have voted for it on IMDb.

  3. I love it how this movie is almost a sequel to the Van but only because the Dugan character was in both.

  4. It's not a good idea to call Dugan a "turd" in either film.

  5. Hi Yum Yum. I last saw "Malibu Beach" back in 1980 during my USMC overseas tour in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That is until I watched it again online. One thing me and some of my USMC (and the local high school) buddies all agreed upon, our local beach (Windmill Beach) needed one of those swimwear pilfering dogs as our beach usually had its decent share of young lovelies sunning themselves on the beach (despite the shortage of female companionship in Gitmo).
    Oh and I was happy for Dugan at the end when he wound up with the schoolteacher after all. Hey, Dugan needs love too. Godspeed to Steve Oliver, he will be missed. I still say that with all due respect to Christopher Reeve, Steve Oliver would have made a awesome Superman in the Superman movie series of the late 1970s and early 1980s.