Scorpion Releasing presents another DANGEROUS BEAUTIES DVD double bill featuring Crown International's MALIBU HIGH and the Filipino pick-up HUSTLER SQUAD.
When her boyfriend Kevin (Stuart Taylor) dumps her for rich girl Annette (Tammy Taylor, DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK) and her mother and teachers harp on her about her failing grades, Kim (Jill Lansing) decides to make a drastic change. She decides to use her body to raise her grades with the high school's male faculty and earn money turning tricks in the van of pimp/dope peddler Tony (exploitation luminary Alex Mann, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD). She tells her mom she's doing "relief work" while flashing her skimpy wardrobe and new car at her ex. When mob-connected Lance (Garth Howard, MISS MELODY JONES) offers her a better deal than Tony with a higher class of clients and more money, she demands a larger cut from Tony only for him to toss her out. She takes Lance's offer and things are looking up until she stabs a rough client. When Kim realizes that she liked the violence, Lance decides to train her to be a hitgirl (starting with wasting Tony), a talent which she also uses towards her academic maneuvers and her beef with her ex's new squeeze.
Far from the high school sex comedy suggested by the title and artwork, MALIBU HIGH is thoroughly entertaining and mean-spirited grindhouse fodder that offers up a healthy helping of nudity and some refreshing splashes of blood. Acting is rather stiff with the exception of Mann who puts more into his supporting scumbag role than probably required, but Lansing is fairly compelling in her only film role. The ending sequence uses some library music familiar to watchers of THE PEOPLE'S COURT. This was the last film of director Irv Berwick, who had previously helmed HITCHHIKE TO HELL and MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS. Producer Lawrence D. Foldes directed Taylor the same year in his first directorial effort DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK.
A Crown International release – re-released in 1983 by Juniper Releasing as LOVELY BUT DEADLY – MALIBU HIGH has been easy to find on DVD via collections from BCI (in a double bill with TRIP WITH THE TEACHER) and Mill Creek, but Scorpion's progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer comes from a brand new HD master that is stunningly colorful and clear enough to detail the hairy and rug-burned backs of Kim's lovers. The film is optionally viewable with a Kat Scratch Theater introduction and closing remarks by Katarina Leigh Waters in which she highlights the notable cast and crew members as well as Crown International's deceptive advertising of the film as a teen beach comedy (with actress Mary-Margaret Humes center stage on the poster art even though she appeared nowhere in the film). Waters also points out that the ridiculous sitcom incidental music that underlines some of Kim's comeback lines was later used on SCTV. Whether by accident or as a joke, clips accompanying mention of the film THE BEACH GIRLS show up as "media offline" beneath the "Kat Scratch" opticals. Actress Tammy Taylor appears in an interview (15:59) recalling the extremely low budget shoot, the uncomfortable audition where she was informed her role required nudity, and being unaware how risqué the film was when she told her parents about it. She also recalls DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK and MEATBALLS II as well as her soap work on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and DAYS OF OUR LIVES. A theatrical trailer (2:08) for the film is also included.
In HUSTLER SQUAD, when the American army stationed in Australia learns that four members of the Japanese high command will meet at a Filipino island brothel for a meeting in sixty days, they task "unconventional" Major Stonewell (John Ericson, HOUSE OF THE DEAD) – aka "Stoney" – with coming up with a way to lead a raid on the island and kill them. Stoney consults with Paco Rodriguez (Ramon Revilla, THE REBEL HUNTER), the only surviving member of a disastrous Filipino guerrilla raid on the island, who comes up with the idea to train four women to infiltrate the brothel as whores in order to seduce and kill the four Japanese men. Stonewell and Lt. West (Karen Ericson, THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA) recruit nymphomaniac Rosa Carlson (Nory Wright, COVER GIRL MODELS), who is doing time for murdering one of her clients, and terminally ill Scandinavian nurse Anna (Johanna Raunio, MANRAPE). Paco recruits Sonia (Liza Lorena, A TASTE OF HELL), a Filipino woman whose family was tortured and murdered for harboring American soldiers, and Stoney finds among the local prostitutes Cindy (Crystin Sinclaire, EATEN ALIVE), an American woman who has double-crossed the black market and is promised a new identity and safe passage out of the country for taking on the mission. Within forty days, the quartet of women are rigorously trained and get to prove themselves when a colonel (the extremely wooden Joseph Zucchero, THE ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER) – who believes "Superwoman belong sin the comic books" – tries to quash the assignment. They land by parachute in the Philippines and infiltrate the brothel party but find challenges that may prevent them from completing their mission before the diversionary attack during which they are to make their escape.
Although the films of Cirio H. Santiago are hardly action masterpieces, the films of HUSTLER SQUAD director Cesar Gallardo can be even more turgid. HUSTLER SQUAD – also known as THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN is a long slog with poor action sequences (distinguished by two blink-and-you'll-miss-'em decapitations), stiff acting (Sinclaire and Wright fare best, with the Ericson couple hampered here more by the direction and dialogue than ability) and even stiffer attempts at humor, and cruddy photography. Besides the ubiquitous Vic Diaz – who shows up in the last third as a Japanese officer in charge of selecting the women for the party – the film also features Ken Metcalfe – an American actor who did local casting on a number of American films shot in the Philippines as well as penning Santiago's TNT JACKSON and its remake FIRECRACKER as well as appearing in several of his and Gallardo's films – as an American general. The film was produced by Santiago and Robert E. Waters (who also produced Santiago's VAMPIRE HOOKERS and DEATH FORCE).
Released on VHS by United Home Video but never reissued by VCI, HUSTLER SQUAD became more easily obtainable in the digital era courtesy of Brentwood, Mill Creek, and BCI multi-film sets (as well as a BCI Grindhouse double feature with SUPERCHICK and a Starlite Drive-in Theater one with WILD RIDERS). Scorpion's anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is scratchy, dull, and dark (but more than half of that is due to the film's poor cinematography which must have made the night exteriors during the climax even harder to read in projection than they are here). The source print appears to have been come from Germany as the Crown International card is preceded by one for West German company Adria Filmverlieh (the cropping of which suggest this film was screened at 1.66:1 overseas). The opening credits are also heavily abbreviated, lacking most of the cast list (Revilla receives no credit) and most of the technical credits (only the producers' and director's credits remain). The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound is fair in comparison to the image. The only related extra is a theatrical trailer (2:38) for the film. Even if HUSTLER SQUAD is dire, MALIBU HIGH – which might have been better paired with Crown's CINDY AND DONNA – should be considered an essential purchase for connoisseurs of the Crown library. (Eric Cotenas)
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