Sunday, September 17, 2017

#2,423. Malibu Beach (1978)

Directed By: Robert J. Rosenthal

Starring: Kim Lankford, James Daughton, Susan Player

Tagline: "Where The Ocean Sets The Motion!"

Trivia: The working title for this film was Sue Anne

Crown International Pictures, an independent distribution / production company formed by Newton Jacobs in 1959, specialized in low-budget B-movies and exploitation fare. One of Crown’s most popular subgenres was the sex comedy, and throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s the studio turned out a good number of them, including The Pom-Pom Girls, Van Nuys Blvd., and Weekend Pass. Released in 1978, Malibu Beach fits nicely into this particular subgenre, yet is different from other sex comedies in that it’s not so much a story-driven film as it is a reflection of the summer season, when hanging out at the beach is all the rage, and you don’t have a care in the world.

School is out for the summer, and good friends Bobby (James Daughton) and Paul (Michael Luther) intend to spend most of their vacation relaxing on the beach. Their plans are slightly altered, however, when they meet Dina (Kim Lankford), Malibu’s newest lifeguard, and her friend Sally (Susan Player). After pairing off (and then pairing off again), the guys find themselves falling for these gorgeous beach bunnies, and before long the four are inseparable. This doesn’t sit well with Dugan (Stephen Oliver), a self-absorbed twentysomething who had set his sights on Dina. Things get so bad, in fact, that Dugan and Bobby nearly cme to blows every time they run into each other.

Yet even this bit of drama can’t spoil the teens’ fun, and as the summer lingers on, Bobby and Dina fall deeper in love with one another.

James Daughton delivers a decent performance as Bobby (he’s a lot more likable here than he was in the 1978 classic Animal House, in which he played fraternity prick Greg Marmalard), and while she may not be the strongest actress, Kim Lankford makes for an appealing love interest. As the movie progressed, I found myself hoping that Bobby would teach Dugan a lesson, and that he and Dina would still be together when the end credits rolled. But this is as close as Malibu Beach got to telling a story; more than anything, it’s a film about the carefree days of summer, and it captured the season’s laid-back attitude perfectly.

Along with its lead characters’ love affair, Malibu Beach features a bikini-stealing dog (which, throughout the movie, swipes the tops off of unsuspecting sunbathers); a bratty kid (Marty Rogalny) whose penchant for practical jokes lands him in some hot water; and a series of other characters whose sole purpose is to lie in the sun, go to parties, and shoot pool at the local hangout. Even the cops in this beachside community are mellow; Rodney (Parris Buckner), a rookie on the force, smokes pot on the beach with a pretty blonde while his veteran partner Lyle (Bruce Kimball) downs a few drinks at a nearby bar.

Thanks to Dugan (well played by Stephen Oliver), Malibu Beach does have its share of drama, but for the most part its scenes reflect the movie’s easygoing nature. At one point, Dugan challenges Bobby to a race, but because he’s blocked by another vehicle, an agitated Bobby jumps into Rodney’s police car and speeds off, going as fast as he can to beat Dugan to the finish line. Moments later, Bobby crashes into a wall, totaling the squad car. In any other film, an accident such as this would signify a major plot development, and take the story in a whole new direction. In this movie, it’s just another day at the beach (Bobby gets away scot-free, and this incident is never mentioned again).

It may not be the funniest or even the sexiest comedy that Crown International ever released, but its relaxed style and sense of fun make Malibu Beach an endearing motion picture, not to mention the perfect film to put you in a summer kind of mood.

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