Leave your brain at the door, grab a hard drink, pop The Cheerleaders in your DVD player, and sit back to enjoy a little bit of nostalgia. On second thought, leave the DVD at the door, grab that drink, and pop something else in the DVD player.
The Cheerleaders Collection contains three films from an old, 70s genre whose entertainment and artistic merits escape me. Besides film lovers old enough to be fans of the films and college students looking to explore new drinking games (one swig for every bad one-liner, and two for every skin shot), I don't really see much of an audience for these movies. Film historians may want to take a peek, but their interest level won't last long.
The Cheerleaders (1972)
The first film in the series, The Cheerleaders, is probably the best in the series, perhaps because it has a semblance of a plot. Then again, maybe not. Shy, naive, and young Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) wants to be a cheerleader, but her insecurities are going to make that difficult to achieve. Of course, she wants to become a cheerleader so she can have sex with boys, so you can see where this story is going. Luckily for her, the squad leader (Claudia, played by Denise Dillaway) makes a bet that young Jeannie can be a cheerleader and remain a virgin during the entire football season, something that apparently has never occurred at their high school.
Sure, it's not going to win any writing prizes, but there is enough of a plot to get to each sex scene, which there are plenty of. At first, the film gives gratuitous sex scenes a bad name. But soon enough, I found myself laughing at the film as if it were a bad B movie (which I guess it is). The scenarios are so outlandish, the acting and dialog are so awful, I couldn't tear my eyes away. It was too funny.
Perhaps the best part are the one-liners that would make even Arnold cringe. For example, one cheerleader says to another student, "I see you have a hard problem." Or another says, "Let's go somewhere so we can discuss the ins and outs." Cringeworthy, sure, but in the right mood, also pretty damn hilarious.
The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)
Where the first in the series has some humor and lots of nudity, The Swinging Cheerleaders seems to have left that magic behind. The sex is less frequent, the one-liners lack punch, and the story tries for too much (the poor acting and dialog, of course, remain).
In this one, Kate (Joe Johnston) plays a writer who goes undercover to find the truth behind female exploitation and the sexcapades of high school cheerleaders. Naturally, she befriends the girls and the star quarterback (Buck, played by Ron Hajek), so she must eventually choose between her writing and her new friends.
I can't really say the first one was that good, but compared to The Swinging Cheerleaders, it was a masterpiece. Perhaps with more unexpected, gratuitous, and chaotic sex, this one could've been enjoyable to modern audiences, at least in that comedic, "What the heck is this that we're watching?" kind of way. As it is, it's just too flat.
Sorry, Rainbeaux (Cheryl) Smith fans, not even this lovely actress can save the film.
Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1975)
This one tries to be funny, which is why it fails. Once again, it gets away from all of the random sex of the first one, and amazingly, doesn't have the story of the second (sad, isn't it?). It's all about the Aloha Cheerleaders struggling to keep Lincoln High School from merging with them into one school. Not something that either schools want, so the cheerleaders take it upon themselve to ensure the merge doesn't happen.
Revenge of the Cheerleaders features some moments that on paper may be funny, but simply aren't on screen. For example, the cheerleaders put drugs and liquor in the cafeteria food, which makes students and faculty both pretty wasted. The ensuing food fight is a mess, but it isn't funny.
Again, the sex in this one is toned down and so is the nudity. Not that these items are all that could make this film work, but…well, actually they are. Without them, this just doesn't stack up. Even David Hasselhoff's comedic appearance as Boner doesn't save this film.
All three films are presented in 1.85:1 anamporphic widescreen. None are stellar transfers. The Swinging Cheerleaders is the best of the bunch, with good detail and decent color. Blemishes and scratches are still apparent, but considering the source material, it looks pretty good. The other two look much worse, with a flat color palette, many more scratches, and a general softness across the board.
As with the video, the best of the bunch is The Swinging Cheerleaders. Presented here in 1.0 Dolby Digital, the voices come through with a nice, crisp texture. The entire track is a little on the tinny side, but that's to be expected. The other two, just like the video, feature much worse tracks. Presented in 2.0, the dialog in the other films sounds muffled and the music is almost all treble. They are adequate at best, but again, considering the source material, it's hard to expect anything more.
THE BONUS FEATURES
These discs have a surprising amount of extra features. The best of each disc is the commentary track, unfortunately, that's not saying much. Director Paul Glickler and writer Ace Baandige present the best track for the The Cheerleaders film. It's a tad slow, but they do have some good moments, particularly when they explain Baandige's pseudonym. Although this is the best of the bunch, I wouldn't exactly recommend it to anyone because it's a bit tedious. The Swinging Cheerleaders features a dry commentary with director Jack Hill and Johnny Legend, and Revenge of the Cheerleaders features a lackluster one with two ex-cheerleaders, Heather Swanson and Lisa Webber.
Also on tap on each disc are radio spots, trailers, and television spots. The Cheerleaders gets special treatment with a photo gallery that includes production stills, ad campaign images, and the cheerleader cheesecake pictures. Lastly, Revenge of the Cheerleaders features an 8-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that is funny only because you see Hasslehoff dance around in tight, bell-bottomed jeans.
The entire cult cheerleader genre is lost on me. Sure, the original, The Cheerleaders, has some merit if in the right mood, but I can't recommend this box set to anyone. Fans of the genre will most likely get a kick out of it, but with a $40 price tag, I'm not sure it's worth it even to them.