Friday, May 29, 2015

The Cheerleaders (1973) & The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) & Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1976) & The Great American Girl Robbery (1979)



          American sex comedies don’t get much worse than The Cheerleaders, a witless slog just shy of outright porn. Coproduced, cowritten, and directed by a gentleman named Paul Glickler, this excruciatingly tacky flick concerns a gang of high-school cheerleaders who help their school’s team win games by screwing boys from opposing teams into mindless exhaustion. Thrown into this carnal mix is the mousy Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue), who believes the only way she can lose her virginity is to become a cheerleader. And if for some reason it wasn’t yet clear to viewers that this movie has nothing but sex on the brain, one of the central locations is the Beaver Car Wash. Featuring interchangeable actresses giving terrible performances, The Cheerleaders grinds through one salacious scenario after another—girls trading sexual favors for school privileges, a janitor watching ladies through a peephole while masturbating, lesbians making out while using exercise machines, an orgy, toe-sucking—while failing to generate anything resembling narrative interest or a proper joke. The movie is embarrassment for all involved, and thoroughly unpleasant to watch. Nonetheless, sex sells, so The Cheerleaders earned three sort-of sequels. Although some actors and behind-the-scenes participants recur in subsequent Cheerleaders movies, each picture tells a stand-alone narrative.
          The second flick, The Swinging Cheerleaders, improves tremendously on its predecessor, though it’s still mediocre at best. B-movie stalwart Jack Hill cowrote and directed The Swinging Cheerleaders, which has the benefit of actual characters, a logical plot, and some measure of restraint. The jokes are still weak, but the movie is brisk and coherent enough to sustain interest. Set at fictional Mesa College, the movie follows Kate (Jo Johnston), a counterculture-minded student journalist who goes undercover with a cheerleading squad in order to expose their sexual shenanigans. She soon learns to like and respect the cheerleaders, along the way uncovering a plot by administrators and alumni to fix football games in order to score big gambling prizes. It’s all very simplistic, but Hill manages to inject a tiny bit of humanity while also keeping peekaboo shots of naked girls to a minimum. Characters reveal dimensionality, the story turns in somewhat interesting ways, and themes ranging from conformity to duplicity to peer pressure are given lip service. Viewed in isolation, The Swinging Cheerleaders might seem little more than passable, but compared to the other Cheerleaders movies, it’s respectable.
          The third installment, Revenge of the Cheerleaders, returns to the skin-flick rhythms of the first picture. Once again set in a high school, Revenge depicts the antics of cheerleaders using mischief and sex to help their team win, even as crooked adults conspire to sell the school’s physical plant for profit. “Highlights” include a long vignette of people in a school cafeteria wigging out after the daily special gets dosed with pot, a cartoonish sequence of a gymnasium-shower orgy resulting in an tidal wave of soap bubbles, and a topless funk-music dance party. For good measure, the movie also features a young David Hasselhoff as a peripheral character named “Boner.” The sex scenes in Revenge are particularly grimy and realistic, such as the bit during which a young woman does something unmentionable to a young man while he’s working at the counter of an ice cream shop.
          Well after the producers should have let the Cheerleaders brand die, the series returned for a final entry originally titled The Great American Girl Robbery—but also exhibited as Cheerleaders’ Wild Weekend, among other titles. Eschewing the sex-comedy formula of the previous flicks, The Great American Girl Robbery is a hostage picture with the feel of a sleazy horror movie. Thugs hijack a bus containing three teams of high-school cheerleaders who are on their way to a competition. Once the girls are stashed in a remote cabin, the thugs call in to a radio show hosted by DJ “Joyful Jerome” (Leon Isaac Kennedy) in order to issue demands. While awaiting ransom payments, the thugs cajole the cheerleaders into performing a topless beauty pageant, which leads to the icky spectacle of a row of half-nude girls gyrating on a makeshift stage at gunpoint. There’s also a catfight and various scenes in which cheerleaders try to screw their way to freedom. Boring, cheap, and exploitive without being titillating, The Great American Girl Robbery finally managed to kill the franchise. Good riddance.

The Cheerleaders: LAME
The Swinging Cheerleaders: FUNKY
Revenge of the Cheerleaders: LAME
The Great American Girl Robbery: LAME

2 comments:

starofshonteff1 said...

When the majors failed to follow-up the success of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, the indies cashed-in with drive-in date movies like THE CHEERLEADERS.
Crown International were a significant contributor with THE POM POM GIRLS (1976), THE VAN (1977), COACH and MALIBU HIGH (both 1978). THE POM POM GIRLS was a big breakout movie for Crown using innovative marketing techniques to appeal to young women including trailers with female narration.
1977 also saw the release of CHEERING SECTION, CHERRY HILL HIGH and the memorably titled SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS.
These were all basically updates of the AIP beach movies, with more explicit content geared to the 70s.

Steven Thompson said...

A while back I watched THE CHEERLEADERS with commentary from the writer and director. According to that, the pseudonymous writer was actually a Presidential speechwriter at the time.

Also of note, "Stephanie Fondue" was apparently a rock groupie of some renown and is mentioned under her real name in Howard Kaylen's recent autobiography.