When did Satan stop being so fun loving? When did he go from horny satyr with a sweet spot for the ladies to a gloomy Gus goon of infinite interpersonal darkness? Oh sure, over the years, it's mostly been his minions that have given the old man-goat a bad rap. Honestly, how many asexual Marilyn Manson videos can one watch without resorting to calling the Dark One a bad sport? You see, there once was a time when the Prince of Pain was second only to Hugh Hefner as a jet setting swinger of the highest order. He invaded the bodies of 12 year old girls and taught them that crosses weren't only for praying. He manifested his manliness in the spawning of little children who then got their babysitters to hang themselves and windowpanes to perforate David Warner's epiglottis. Miss Jones seemed to enjoy said evil spirit in her and Max Devlin sure enjoy his wicked company (even if Elliot Gould was more Legion than Bill Cosby – at least before 1991). But in the new millennium, the Fallen Angel's anti-social angst is totally cramping his social life. He's unsettled and constantly unseated by those conservative caretakers who honestly believe that Jesus wants them to usurp inherent rights. When the Devil's not kicking an Austrian muscleman's butt, he's been relocated somewhere out in inner space where only the Event Horizon or the Ghost Ship ever visit. Dagnabbit, our man Mephistopheles doesn't get a chance to party anymore. He can't remember the last time Warren Oates and Peter Fonda asked him out for a race. And when four o'clock rolls around, he's lost. Heck, even Jesus is getting more boffo box office than him. So if you need reminding what it was like when Belial rained on every parade and could still pickup a few hot honeys on the side, then grab a copy of Satan's Cheerleaders. This sensationally silly sojourn into Hell school is a fine immoral muse.
The lusty cheerleading squad at Benedict High School (whose mascot is the very non-sensual "Husky" – eww!) just can't get enough "team spirit". Indeed, they love to watch the sweaty, hunky "members" of the football team play with their "ball". After practice, the gals like to help the guys "get off" of the field and into the locker room. They also have lots of sex with them in any location they can find. All of this makes the administration very antsy, but the bubbly, dimwitted girl's PE teacher thinks there's no harm in student's exchanging untested bodily fluids. After all, it's the 70s! All of this saucy cavorting gets the game gals quite a bit of attention (some of it even bad). Billy, the bald bulbous janitor who does his sanitary chores in a sequin studded demin shirt that would make Disco Stu drool with jealously, wants the forces of evil to get him laid once and for all. See, he worships Satan because, well, because he works in the educational system and the union is just not strong enough. Constantly rubbing his "enchanted necklace", he misunderstands his mandates from Hell and kidnaps the entire short skirt and sweater squad. He drives them to the secret location of Black Mass sacrifices and hopes to get lucky near the blood stained alter (always a turn on). But young Patti has other ideas. She gets naked, exposing her flat faith and calls upon Old Gooseberry to prove that, just like her, he has spirit too (how about you?). Some crappy special effects later and bulky Bill is belly up on the ground, kind of like a torched turtle.
Having just missed out on being Hades Playmates of the Month, the girls run to a local sheriff named B. L. Bubb (GET IT?!?) and ask for help. Instead, they get lessons in stall tactics and how to wear underwire properly (thanks, in most part, to the policeman's rather Zaftig wife). The now cheerless squad just wants to get to the big game. Old Constable Bubb just wants to have fun, or a virgin sacrifice, whatever comes first. The girls think this is a bad idea (not regarding virginity; the sacrifice. They gave up on the big 'V' a LONG time ago) and escape. The sheriff calls a throng of Pluto's favorite fiends and they set out to round up the rah-rahs. When their own evil efforts appear useless, they send out a couple of Dobermans, who really enjoy the whole teeth bearing thing. But dammit if Patti ain't up to her old spellcasting tricks again. She keeps the hounds from Hell at bay and manages to lead the ladies right back to Satan's selective surgery pyre. When the mob of minions shows up to complete the Devil's directive, a missing piece of the puzzle of perversity is discovered. Satan will only stomach an unsullied maid as his future baneful bride to be. And it turns out Ole' Bubb "rubbed out" the last remaining virgin in town when he manhandled Ms. PE in a moment of assault. Oops!
God Bless Satan's Cheerleaders. While that may be asking a lot, obviously, if the one Lord can allow sinners to recant on their death bed, he should at least give this great, goony groove-a-thon a little dispensation. For anyone who grew up in the middle of disco's ducking, this crazy comedic corn factory will hone your hustle like nothing modern can even imagine. So jam packed with bad humor and lame jokes that you'd swear you were watching reruns of Love, American Style and about as believably Satanic as Anton LaVey's infamous documentary on the subject, Satanis: The Black Mass, this is easily one of the most culpable contentments ever to grace a drive-in screen. This is a movie drenched in exploitation; it understands that the title tease is far better than the product ever delivers. With a label like Satan's Cheerleaders alone, the carnal mind goes T & Ape-poopie. Amusement mathematics makes the parameters very clear: cheerleaders means hot sex and lots of nubile flesh. Satan means monster movie madness and horror hi-jinx. Well, someone forgot to tell director Graydon Clark (a foul little cinematic stain responsible for such simpleton shite as Angel's Revenge, the spook spoof Wacko and Lambada: The Forbidden Dance. Yikes!) what was expected of him. He thinks that this movie is some kind of misguided milk jugged Omen. There are times you swear he takes this trash seriously. Thankfully, the cast more than make up for any of Clark's cracked creativity.
Now, this dated dozy is far from perfect. There is just not enough boob to justify all the posing going on here (half the cast rest their cocked arm on their hip, chest thrust forward like they're advertising breast enhancement surgery). Aside from Patti's unleavened cakes and a partial glimpse of clothed pulchritude, the nakedness is kept to a...bare minimum (Har-dee, har, har). More skin would have guaranteed a win. Then there is the dialogue. The initial forty minutes or so is like a French farce version of H.O.T.S., with more blatant come-ons and quirky double entendres than the entire run of Three's Company, Married with Children and Sex and the City combined. EVERY retort is ripe with ribaldry. This is the kind of movie that can make "Coach. I think I fractured my collarbone" sound like the most seductive suggestion ever (after all, it does have the word "bone" in it). True, every once in a while we have to witness the result of all this horny hinting, but there is not the kind of boldfaced bonking that made such similar themed celebrations like The Pom Pom Girls seem so smutty. When you add in the corpulent caretaker - who wears a bedazzled shirt (it's so shiny and sparkling) and spies on the showering sideline distractions, Porky's style - and Bubb's police headquarters/ ranch house in Marina Del Ray with its own altar to the Dark Lord, there is easily enough fodder for lax jaw dropping and unintentional entertainment.
The casting here is just insane. John Ireland never met a B-movie he didn't belly up to and his performance as the harried, half-hearted Devil worshipping sheriff is just sublime. His constant arguments with his wife Emma seem less about damnation and more about general nagging. As said suspicious high priestess, Lily Munster, a.k.a. Yvonne DeCarlo looks like she's been lunching on Herman-sized helpings of headcheese since Eddy shed his eyeteeth (her ample assets confirm what Tony Curtis once suggested. When asked how someone could have a good time in Hollywood, he gave the following response: "Yvonne DeCarlo!"). The final fifteen minutes of her on screen screaming consists of a petulant prayer repeated over and over and over and over and over and over again. Eek! The there's a monk character played by Charlie Chaplin's son Sydney in an acting job of substantial creepers jeepers. He's not really a man of the cloth so much as he is Paul Lynde's long lost life partner. When he says he understands women, Sheriff Bubb asks "How?" In a swishified fashion he says, "I'm very well read...and I dream. I dream a lot". Priceless (it's a safe bet to assume that Stephen Stucker studied Sydney's signature moves when planning his equally effete 'Johnny' for Airplane!). Perhaps the biggest surprise in the film, and this is not strictly from a stoutness circumstance, is Oscar Nominee (for The Apartment, no less) Jack Kruschen. As the rhinestone encrusted slop bucket Baron, he brings new meaning to the word "squalid". The notion that he thinks he can get nookie from these pretty young things speaks volumes for Satan's ability to deceive.
But it's the cheerleaders themselves who leave the most losing impression, begging the query "Where are the now?" – mostly with the answer "Why should we care?" Picked because they resembled used up high school slut trash perfectly, this movie has so little faith in its narrative (or its performers ability to create a character) that the girls run around with their names emblazoned on their chests (and trust me, you'll still forget who they are). Obviously, the bravest of the babes in the aforementioned Patti, who makes pre-pubescent boys feel top heavy with her grape seed cleavage. Sherry Marks portrays Sharon like she's got body issues. She is always twisted and contorted when she moves, like she's afraid someone will confuse her bosom for the rolls of lard she's hiding. Debbie is a tomboyish pixie who makes up for her lack of feminine whiles by being the most easily available piece of tail known to any man (Hell, she even tries to do it with Ireland and special guest cameo crazy, John Carradine). But perhaps the most out of place member of the school spirit squad is Hillary Horan's Chris. Mustached, with almost no torso whatsoever (her banana bust seems to hang just above her wide load ass) she's far too pear shaped to be a glee clubber. She looks like a grown-up version of Dodie from My Three Sons. Yes, the thought of that should make you nauseous. Leading our quasi-bodacious bunch is Jacqueline Cole, who appears to have taken acting lessons at the Krofft Puppet School of Performance. She is a mass of facial and body tics. She can't stand still when she delivers a line, and even when she's frantic, she sounds like she's telling you her secret strawberry jam recipe, not crying out in anguish.
From the retro-retard soundtrack that confirms why punk had to happen to the optical offal that is supposed to suffice as supernatural nonsense (the screen goes red whenever Moloch goes mental) Satan's Cheerleaders slides down easy and tickles your innards in a way that Mountain Dew never could. It's more of a laugh riot than a softcore sex fest and the ham-fisted, hilarious acting consistently undermines the horror element. Just when you think there is no hope for humanity, when the world seems awash in a billion bad points of empty light, something like Satan's Cheerleaders comes along and gives you back your hope. Hope that when the local Studio 54 festooned handyman abducts you for rape and ritualistic sacrifice, you'll have a perky P.E. teacher around to say 'stop it' a lot. Hope that upright religious administrators from a local University are actually anti-pious pervs who love to sneak peeks in the girl's locker room. Hope that there is indeed a fabric and elastic system able to cradle Yvonne DeCarlo's heavy hooters without testing load bearing and tolerance levels. And hope that you can uncover an unctuous, obvious piece of something pleasurably guilty and savor it 'til you shiver. They just don't make 'em like they used to, and before you shout "GOOD" just remember how empty the planet would be without seasoned slices of matured pork and cheese to give cinema the skanky sensating it so desperately needs. If you like your movies on the mindboggling side, then give these touchdown tarts a roll in your digital backseat. You'll be glad you did.
Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Satan's Cheerleaders only looks good when the sun is shining brightly. Most of the daylight sequences are clear and colorful. Once we move into shadows and night, the image goes almost blank. There is no detail in the blacks, no ability to figure out what is going on. Luckily, most of the movie takes place in the AM, so we don't have to worry about the muddle. But during the final act, when Yvonne is chanting and Patti is leading the ladies out of the ill-promised land, the lack of clarity is annoying. (There is also a moment of image variation here, like a mistracking VHS tape. It's hard to say what it really is, but it is obvious and further degrades the overall visual presentation).
During the closing credits, two songs (only) are listed as being included on the soundtrack. The amazing aspect of this is that both tunes are so atonal that they sound completely different every time they play over the action. The only thing worse than disco is amateur disco (which is kind of like saying a crack whore is worse than a crack whore in training) and Satan's Cheerleaders is ripe with the skunky stuff. Presented in Dolby Digital Mono, the overmodulation is fairly obvious. But still, there is only minor distortion or tinniness. The dialogue is heard in decent lucidity (and aren't you happy about that?) but this is just barely acceptable sound reproduction.
Once again, trailers are not extras, no matter how you look at it. A preview in a theater is not some bonus ideal given to you by the management out of the kindness of their cashbox. An ad is a piece of Madison Avenue merchandising and that's all. Of the hard sell clips offered here, only the possession meets parent trap of Ruby hits all the right sampler sensibilities. The trailer for Satan's Cheerleaders is one of those "made for home video" sales pitches that try to convince the Mom and Pop op that it's really something (scary) and needs to be part of their incomplete inventory immediately. While it would have been nice to have some manner of contextual material (even if it was campy in a glorified fan feast manner) it's hard to fault VCI for its treatment. Just having this wayward wonder on DVD is enough.
From its horrid, homemade menu screen that looks like it was sketched by an 8th grade numskull with warped fantasy issues (love those misshapen torsos) to the strange scars running along Jacqueline Cole's chest, there are so many private mysteries about Satan's Cheerleaders that one has to stop and wonder if this is not just some strange pro-Christian conspiracy. Think about it; our own natural symbol of high school sex appeal – the cheerleader – is made to look ridiculous, jack rabbit randy and in cahoots with the forces of flies. Teachers are portrayed as promiscuous and constantly able to turn a blind eye to the most miscreant teeny bopping. Satan is seen as an impotent god, a deity unable to keep his commandments correct for his cronies. His followers are foolish, overacting rubes that would much rather copulate than supplicate. And in the end, everyone loves the Devil and calls up the demon to help fix football games. Indeed, this seems like an all out assault on those loyal to the Anti-messiah. No wonder Satan is in such a party pooper mood. The whole of mankind is against him and all because he wants to kick up his hooves, pitch his fork and become the horny little imp so many trucker mud flaps idolized. Yes sir, there used to be a time when we tolerated a little Lucifer fun. But those days are gone. As absent in the wind as the last cheer of the final game of the season. But one can still dream. One can try and remember a kind of September where life was low and the Devil was mellow. Satan's Cheerleaders is a memento of said bygone era. And sorry to say it, a more fun filled time. No wonder we get ripe for nostalgia every now and then.
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