For nearly a century, the cheerleader has represented a distinct and eye-catching slice of Americana. Stereotypically portrayed as equal parts sensuality and youthful innocence, the image of the high school cheerleader has long-exemplified America's ambivalence toward sex and sexuality -- living examples of both Puritan morality ("the innocent girl next door") and uninhibited sexual prowess ("cleavage, buns and poms"). But it wasn't until the 1970s that film directors realized they could cash in on audiences' fascination with America's sideline sweethearts.
In the years between 1973 and 1979, low-budget filmmakers unleashed a barrage of straight-to-drive-in productions immortalizing the venerable cheerleader, several of which (Revenge of the Cheerleaders and The Pom Pom Girls) are reviewed on this site. Now Anchor Bay Entertainment has memorialized this long lost exploitation genre with the release of The Cheerleaders Collection DVD, featuring remastered versions of The Cheerleaders, The Swinging Cheerleaders and the much sought after Revenge of the Cheerleaders. For cult film aficionados, the collection offers something for everyone, including softcore sex, politically incorrect comedy, and even a glimpse of the occasional celebrity (most notably, David "Knight Rider" Hasselhoff ever ready high school stud, Boner). For those interested in ogling the sidelines, here's how the individual films size up.
The Cheerleaders (1972)
Reportedly shot for on a shoestring budget with a predominantly non-union cast and crew, director Paul Glickler's moral-busting 1972 jiggle juggernaut features poor acting, worse dialogue, and only the most sophomoric attempts at humor. Nonetheless, The Cheerleaders scored big with audiences nationwide thanks to the over-the-top sexual exploits of its sideline sirens. Add to this mix Glickler's disturbing take on "family values" (replete with suburban sex fiend fathers and student/teacher lesbianism) and you have a surefire recipe for 70s drive-in success. Often imitated, but never duplicated (as if such a picture could be released today without inspiring public outcry), The Cheerleaders unlikely rise from b-movie obscurity to mainstream prominence proved once and for all the adage: the shorter the hem, the longer the lines at the box office.
DVD extras include: Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Paul Glickler and Writer "Ace Baandige;" Behind The Scenes Stills; the "Cheerleader Cheesecake Gallery;" Movie Posters and Advertising Art; and the Theatrical Trailer.
The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)
Despite its title and "R" rating, The Swinging Cheerleaders is unquestionably the most "PG" picture ever starring the midfield maidens. Unlike its predecessor, The Swinging Cheerleaders emphasizes story over skin -- a decision that no doubt appeased the Motion Picture Association of America, but left audiences wondering whether its "better half" had been lost on the cutting room floor.
Though tame by the genre's usual envelope-pushing standards, The Swinging Cheerleaders is nevertheless entertaining because of its relatively tight script and Hill's competence behind the lens. Several scenes even border on drama -- a feat otherwise unheard of among cheerleader movies. In short, Hill's film distinguishes itself in a genre awash in kink by doing the unthinkable: The Swinging Cheerleaders plays it straight.
DVD extras include: Audio Commentary with Director Jack Hill and Film Historian Johnny Legend, as well the film's Television Trailer.
Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1975)
Fans and critics alike rarely speak of plot when referring to Revenge of the Cheerleaders. That's because they'd be hard-pressed to find one. (An obligatory capsule summary included with the DVD reads, "When the girls discover a plot by evil developers to condemn their beloved school, they strike back with a plan that includes high-protein breakfasts, drug-laden lunches, locker room orgies, giant dinosaurs and a secret weapon for winning the big game," which -- despite its lengthy word count -- is little more than a tantalizing way of saying nothing at all.) But what the film lacks in story, it more than makes up for in raw sex appeal, presenting scene upon scene of horny and voluptuous cheerleaders (two of whom inexplicably disappear after the film's opening credits) explicitly jiggling their "handles" and baring their "assets."
If this alone isn't enough to earn Revenge of the Cheerleaders a star on the B-movie walk of fame, the film also boasts the big-screen debut of David Hasselhoff, who in one of the film's more legendary scenes is revived to consciousness after catching a whiff of his girlfriend's panties. Predictably, the future Baywatch hunk and self-professed "serious" actor (Who's he kidding?) has since called the role the most embarrassing of his Hollywood career and despite the movie's underground popularity, refuses to mention it on his official film biography.
DVD extras include: Audio Commentary with former high school Cheerleaders Heather Swanson and Lisa Webber; Outtakes; and the Theatrical Trailer.
For a more in-depth look at the lost cheerleader films of the 1970s, check out Paul Armentano's forthcoming article "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" in the September 2004 edition of Creeping Flesh Vol. 2 (http://www.headpress.com), available from Headpress books.
Tags: Cinema Culture