Review: The Cheerleaders / Revenge of the Cheerleaders

DVD. Arrow

One of the lesser discussed sub-genres of 1970s exploitation is the uniform fetish movie. These were a mainstay of the decade, with whole series of films dedicated to nurses, stewardesses and any other primarily female profession that involved wearing a uniform of some sort. The uniquely American (let’s not even discuss British efforts) concept of cheerleaders was at the forefront of this movement, and two of the classic titles are included here.

The Cheerleaders helped spawn the genre, and while the best of the series was undoubtedly Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders, this established a certain template, where a bunch of cheery, sex-mad cheerleaders have a vague adventure. In this first film, the adventure is very vague, and mostly consists of Amorosa High cheerleader squad new recruit Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) trying to lose her virginity. Towards the end, a vague plot where the girls have to sexually exhaust a rival team brings things to a conclusion.

This is more softcore than exploitation, and plays a bit like a penetration-free version of Debbie Does Dallas with a notable ass fetish. Seen today, it’s probably more shocking than it was at the time, with underage sex and attempted rape played for laughs – I’m not sure how the BBFC restrictions against ‘encouraging’ such activities was skirted in this case. The film as a whole has a light, jolly tone, and that somehow makes its dubious nature stand out more.

The acting is pretty weak – there are no legendary exploitation starlets in this film – and the humour predictable, but the bouncy bad taste, copious nudity and a porntastic score all makeThe Cheerleaders a fairly entertaining effort, even if you do get a sense of shame from time to time while watching it.

Also included here – officially as a DVD extra – is Revenge of the Cheerleaders, a 1975 sequel from the same team. This time round, the cheerleaders from Aloha High are an irritating bunch who spend their days missing classes and fucking their assorted boyfriends. There’s a plotline about a local construction company trying to get the school closed so they can take over the land, and you’d think that the ‘hi-jinks’ the girls get up to – robbing a rival school’s students (and teacher) of their drugs and then mixing them into the meatball mix while inspectors are visiting – would be part of some grand scheme to save their school… but apparently, it’s simply because they are cunts.

Revenge of the Cheerleaders
leaves a rather nasty taste in the mouth. While the girls in the first film are a good-natured, appealing bunch, here they are horrible bitches – though I suspect we are supposed to still like them. But although the lead actresses are hotter, their characters are incredibly obnoxious – their self-absorbed behaviour and general smugness make this bunch of cheerleaders the sort of people anyone sensible would’ve loathed at high school. Exploitation queen Rainbeaux Smith is entirely wasted in a pointless role – pregnant (in real life and character), she has little to do, and a post-credits coda where we see her, holding her baby and still, pathetically, in cheerleader outfit – even though it’s obvious she hasn’t seen her ‘friends’ in ages – is less a happy ending than one that reeks of personal tragedy.

This film has less sex, but possibly more nudity than The Cheerleaders – you even get to see David Hasselhoff’s cock (thankfully, he’s not living up to his character name of Boner); like its predecessor, the sex scenes are played more for laughs than eroticism.

Still, while Revenge… is a fairly unpleasant experience, this double pack remains worth checking out for any student of Seventies exploitation cinema. The Cheerleaders is, after all, a seminal entry in the genre, and while far from the best example, should be seen by genre enthusiasts and cinema taboo hunters alike.