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The near-dead body of a brutally beaten and molested young woman is dumped on a highway in the Malibu Beach area peopled by surfers and drifters. Police investigation reveals that the woman, actress Vicki Cartwright, was dating surfer Denny McGuire, a young wastrel who shares a beach house with Collie Ransom, an aging tennis hustler, and Choo-Choo Burns, an unemployed jazz pianist. At a questioning conducted by Lieutenant Atkins, Denny explains that he first met Vicki on the beach and that, from the very beginning, their love affair was unstable. Denny later learned that Vicki was trapped professionally and psychologically by Brady Caswell, the producer of her new television series. When Denny asked Vicki to marry him, she insisted that she could not and began lying about her reasons for spending time away from him. Denny's jealousy was further inflamed by the interest taken in Vicki by repugnant cyclist Mr. Clean. Denny eventually learned of her relationship with Caswell; a bitter and vindictive quarrel ensued; and Denny did not see her again until she was brought into the hospital 2 weeks later. Once the police questioning is over and Denny and Collie are released, they learn what really happened on that fateful night: after Vicki had masochistically offered herself to Mr. Clean, she was savagely beaten by Caswell. To avenge Vicki, who is recovering from the attack, Denny assaults Caswell at his home, leaving him bleeding and unconscious. At last recognizing that there must be something more to life, Denny abandons his aimless way of life to work in a Santa Monica hardware store.