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From High School to Hell, Vinegar Syndrome Brings T&A and the Devil to Blu-ray

The Hearse
By  · Published on May 25th, 2017

Malibu High and The Hearse are new to Blu-ray!

Boutique label Vinegar Syndrome continues to be one of the best around when it comes to resurrecting forgotten films from decades past and restoring them to new HD glory. Their focus is generally in the realms of horror and sexploitation, and that pattern continues this month with two new Blu-rays. First up is a sexy little riff on teenage hijinx and murder in Malibu High, and the other pairs a creepy house and a monstrous car in The Hearse.

Malibu High (1978)

Kim is a high school student bored with her classes and pissed off that her boyfriend Kevin has dumped her for that rich bitch Annette. She gives the girl a punch to the face and decides her new life starts now. Step one? Seducing her teachers and blackmailing them for A’s. Step two? Making some real cash by prostituting herself out of her drug dealer turned pimp’s van.

Oh to be a teenager again!

It’s all fun and games for a little while, but when an aggressive john forces himself on her she strikes back with an ice pick… and she likes it. Her new pimp realizes she’s as talented on her feet as she is off, and soon he’s sending her out as a teenage assassin to eliminate the competition and anyone else he wants dead.

It’s not often a T&A flick (from the ’70s or otherwise) ends somewhere completely different from where it began, but Irvin Berwick’s Malibu High does just that. It’s a romp of boobs and bullets that shifts effortlessly from a story about a teenage bad girl getting it on with every man in her life to a teenage worse girl shooting some others to death. It embraces the “sexy” quotient by opening with the high schooler waking up fully nude – as most high schoolers do – and seeing her go topless a dozen times thereafter, but the shift towards violence makes for a far more interesting film.

Kim’s not exactly a traditional protagonist either and instead walks something of a villainous line. She tells her mom that dad killed himself because he couldn’t get it up with her anymore, she hides an old man’s pills and gives him a heart attack with her bare breasts, and once she gets a taste for gunplay she does not stop.

There are some goofy elements here including a score refrain that’s essentially the sound of an arcade game ending and another that is pretty much the People’s Court theme. We also get the longest foot chase in cinema history. To be clear, it’s not a good chase as it’s basically in a straight line, but boy does it go on forever. Beats like these earn some smiles even as the film gets more and more serious, and while the end result is no lost classic it remains a fun little watch.

Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray features a 2K restoration of the film that gives new life to the highly inappropriate shenanigans on display. The special features include a trailer, still gallery, reversible cover, and the following extras:

Buy Malibu High on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon

The Hearse (1980)

Jane Hardy (Trish Van Devere) is a San Francisco teacher in need of a vacation, and she finds the perfect spot outside of the city in a small town where her aunt once lived. She’s inherited the long ago deceased woman’s house, but as she tries to settle in to the big house and the small town she discovers someone or something wants her gone.

Surprise, it’s both!

Townspeople treat her rudely from the local priest to the misogynistic sheriff, her dead aunt keeps appearing and disappearing, and a hearse with a growling grill keeps chasing and harassing her at night. It only gets worse when the hearse’s silent but deadly driver starts attacking her in the house, and soon Jane is forced to consider that maybe her aunt’s history as a devil worshiper might possibly have something to do with it all.

Director George Bowers only made four feature films (including the ’80s classic, My Tutor) – he made his bones in Hollywood as an editor working on films as diverse as The Stepfather and The Country Bears – and that’s a shame as The Hearse is an atmospheric horror picture offering up some solid turns and effectively creepy sequences. He uses POV well both inside and out of the house, but even better is the film’s division of threats. There are supernatural concerns, crazy locals, evil neighbors, and the possibility that Jane is in fact a nutcase. For every “normal” supporting character there are two utter weirdos whose behavior is unsettling at best.

There are some questions of intelligence though in regard to Jane’s behavior. Again, the possibility that she’s just nuts plays a role here, but she’s too quick to forgive and forget the waking nightmares she’s experiencing. Multiple broken windows and intruders would leave anyone on edge, but give the girl one good meal and suddenly she’s perfectly content again. It makes for some occasionally frustrating reversals.

The Hearse overcomes its issues  – some minor repetition, budgetary restraints, an abrupt ending – to deliver a devilish little chiller well worth a watch for genre fans. Van Devere is fine in the lead, and the supporting players offer a bevy of familiar faces including Joseph Cotten, Med Flory, Perry Lang, and the feature film debut of the great Christopher McDonald.

Vinegar Syndrome gives the film a very sharp and clear 2K restoration, but it’s very slight on extras outside of a trailer, a still gallery, a reversible cover, and:

Buy The Hearse on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.