The Cheerleaders Review
In 1976’s Revenge of the Cheerleaders (which appears as a ‘bonus’ feature on this release’s second disc) a very young David Hasselhoff turns up playing a character named Boner. It’s a tiny piece of trivia, but one that sums up the franchise pretty well: you know it’s going to be awful, yet there’s no denying a certain curious appeal. The Cheerleaders films ran to three entries, the first being made in 1972, the last being Revenge of the Cheerleaders. In-between times came The Swinging Cheerleaders directed by Jack Hill of Spider Baby and Switchblade Sisters cult fame. All three were resurrected onto DVD in the US some years ago by Anchor Bay in proper ‘collector’s edition’ form complete with commentaries for each, behind the scenes footage and plenty of promotional material. In 2009 the first and last of the films made it to the UK courtesy of Arrow in an edition which has now been re-jigged to fit their budget Arrowdrome! range - new packaging, new menus, newly commissioned booklet. Extras remain as light as before, however, with just a collection of trailers and radio and TV spots supporting the features.
One of the main inspirations behind The Cheerleaders was a 1969 exploitation flick by the name of The Stewardesses. Written and directed by Al Silliman Jr, the film cost mere thousands of dollars but ended up grossing millions of dollars. There was no real plot as such, just a sequence of vignettes intended for titillation as the eponymous stewardesses jumped from bed to bed until a running time barely scraping past the hour mark had been satisfied. The Cheerleaders is ever so slightly longer but very much the same. Of course the change in ‘profession’ prompts a change in setting, and as such we can now view the film as both an influence on Debbie Does Dallas and the various cycles of high school sex comedies (as typified by Porky’s in the eighties and American Pie in the nineties). Given that one is straightforward porn and the other unequivocally mainstream it should come as no surprise to find The Cheerleaders titles therefore falling somewhere in-between. Obviously the sexual content is nowhere near as strong or as explicit as that found in Debbie Does Dallas, but then it does involve situations and incidents which you feel the likes of Porky’s or American Pie would shy away from for being just that little bit too downmarket.
The storyline for the first Cheerleaders, such that it is, revolves around Jeannie, a virginal high schooler who decides that joining the cheerleading team will increase her chances of that first sexual experience. Recognising that this isn’t really sufficient to fuel an entire feature the filmmakers have thrown in a crucial football game for the final third and the fact that the entire rival team need to be fucked into exhaustion (no other option being available of course). Cue a concluding orgy and Jeannie fulfilling her dreams, though really this is just The Cheerleaders carrying on as it has throughout: plenty of naked flesh, arses in close-up, and wall-to-wall promiscuity in which every man (except the seedy janitor) is a seeming target - the brother of a friend, even the dad of a friend, a pair of greasy bikers and anyone else to hand. Just to complete the picture for you each of these encounters happens in the expected places - locker room, men’s showers, etc. - and comes coupled with the expected innuendo-heavy dialogue (sample: “We could discuss the ins and outs”).
It’s all very unpolished, unfunny and entirely unsexy. Complete trash in other words, but then that is exactly what Arrow are banking on. Revenge of the Cheerleaders goes trashier by combining all of the above with a more gonzoid sense of humour (pot in the school lunch and the like), a plot involving high school (and class) rivalries, a trio of choreographed dance sequences and a finale that takes in a chase through a cave and an empty shopping mall for no discernible reason. It also switches football to basketball and contains a sight of David Hasselhoff’s arse. You have been warned. Or perhaps enticed, depending on taste - of which both Cheerleaders films contain neither.
This new release of The Cheerleaders and Revenge of the Cheerleaders follows much the same set-up as their previous incarnation as an Arrow two-disc set. Thus we get one film per DVD which they share with their respective trailers and TV/radio spots. Menus have been updated to reflect the move into the Arrowdrome! range and each disc also opens with the Arrow Video trailer that can be seen on each of their ‘white box’ and Arrowdrome! releases. Picture and sound quality are reasonable given the age and budgets of the titles involved, though we do get anamorphic widescreen transfers in both cases. Mostly clean, the sheer level of grain on each lets them down slightly as it cannot help but prompt incessant artefacting in standard definition. Nonetheless the slightly grubby nature perhaps reflects the trashy contents all the more. The soundtracks are similarly less than pristine though present no major problems. Optional subtitles, for the hard of hearing or otherwise, are not available. And as noted in the main bulk of this review, the many extras found on the US editions of The Cheerleaders films have been downgraded to mere promotional pieces. A booklet is also present, however, containing newly commissioned notes by Robin Bougie of Cinema Sewer magazine. (Note that Arrow are including Revenge of the Cheerleaders as a ‘bonus feature’ for this release and is therefore considered as being part of the special features for this review.)