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Jack Hill
Jo Johnston, Colleen Camp, Rosanne Katon, Rainbeaux Smith
Writing Credits:
Jane Witherspoon, Betty Conkey

In order to write an expose on how cheerleading demeans women, a reporter for a college newspaper infiltrates the cheerleading squad.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 7/5/2016

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jack Hill
• Interview with Writer/Director Jack Hill
• Interview with Cinematographer Alfred Taylor
• Interview with Writer/Director Jack Hill and Musician Johnny Legend
• Cast/Crew Q&A
• TV Spots
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Swinging Cheerleaders [Blu-Ray] (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 3, 2016)

Ah, the Seventies – back when a movie could boast a title like The Swinging Cheerleaders in a non-ironic manner! The 1974 film takes us to the campus of Mesa University, where crusading feminist reporter Kate Cory (Jo Johnston) believes the school’s cheerleading squad demeans women.

To prove her point, Kate goes undercover and joins the team. Despite her radical instincts, this leads her down a potential romantic path with star QB Buck Larson (Ron Hajak) as well as a more serious investigation when Kate stumbles upon a gambling scandal.

While I don’t qualify as a connoisseur of 70s cheerleader flicks, I do maintain a soft spot for 1979’s HOTS. Armed with the knowledge that Quentin Tarantino views Cheerleaders as a favorite, I hoped it would equal – or even surpass – the cheese-tastic pleasures of HOTS.

Alas, Cheerleaders comes with the same negatives as HOTS but few of the positives. HOTS was a frivolous, silly, amateurish piece of work – and gleefully so. No one involved meant for it to be anything more than that.

While Cheerleaders suffers from the same lack of talent and skill behind it, the movie doesn’t compensate with the same kind of spunky silliness found in HOTS. Cheerleaders actually seems to suffer from delusions of grandeur, as it shows vague aspirations to some form of meaning. It touches on a few social issues – and flops in all attempts to explore these.

Which makes those stabs all the more problematic. Cheerleaders flits all over the place in terms of tone and intent, so it never turns into anything even semi-coherent. It’s not frisky enough to be a spoof and it’s not deep enough to be a drama.

The actors follow suit. They take their roles too seriously to amuse, but they perform too poorly to abet the film. In particular, Johnston shows a complete absence of talent. Apparently Cheerleaders represents her first and last feature film – this can’t be regarded as a tragedy, given her utter inability to read a line in any kind of natural manner. Kate sure does abandon her feminist principles awfully quickly, too.

At times, Cheerleaders feels like a catalog of era tropes. We get a streaker for no reason other than to reflect the period’s trends, and we find more uses of the phrase “far out” than one can tolerate. All of this feels gratuitous and opportunistic.

Story areas make no sense. The narrative jumps around at random, and it often feels like scenes go missing. One minute Andrea (Rainbeaux Smith) looks all excited about a “gang bang”, and then the next she emerges with scratches and a sense of trauma. Wouldn’t it make sense to show so we can see how this event went wrong?

Perhaps that’s too much to expect from a movie that uses stock footage of the Oregon Ducks to portray Mesa’s games. Wouldn’t these scenes work better if we couldn’t read “Oregon Ducks” on the field? And wouldn’t it make more logical if the coach didn’t wear a Michigan hat?

I don’t mind that Cheerleaders is amateurish – I mind that it’s dull. It’s too serious to be a comedy and it’s too stupid to be a drama. It’s also too pretentious to be a camp classic. That leaves it as a dull dud.

Trivia footnote: is it a coincidence that the title character in 2011’s Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star shares the same name as this film’s main male protagonist? Maybe, but I doubt it.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

The Swinging Cheerleaders appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. A product of its era and budget, Cheerleaders looked acceptable.

Definition seemed decent but not great. While the movie maintained adequate clarity, it never seemed especially sharp – particularly during interiors, which tended to be a little fuzzy.

Still, overall delineation was fine, and I encountered no issues with jagged edges or shimmering. Edge haloes remained absent, and print flaws seemed minor. Occasional specks and marks appeared, but nothing much marred the presentation.

In terms of colors, the film opted for a natural palette that looked decent. The hues lacked much vivacity, but they appeared reasonably positive. Blacks were fairly deep, and shadows showed reasonable clarity. This was an unexceptional presentation, but it fared better than I expected.

Similar thoughts greeted the average LPCM monaural soundtrack of Cheerleaders. Speech was intelligible but a bit stiff and distant. The lines lacked issues but never sounded especially good.

Music came across about the same, as the score and songs demonstrated adequate clarity but not much range. Effects were a minor factor, and they also showed decent accuracy. Everything about the mix seemed acceptable and no better.

The Blu-ray comes with a mix of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Jack Hill. Along with American Grindhouse director Elijah Drenner, Hill looks at the origins and development of the film, sets and locations, cast and performances, the rushed shooting schedule, music, cinematography, genre issues and reactions to the movie.

Don’t expect a lot of depth here, as the commentary tends to feel fluffy. We get a decent array of movie-related notes, but the piece tends to drag. Those factors make this a spotty and only occasionally informative chat.

A series of interviews follow. First comes an eight-minute, eight-second piece with writer/director Jack Hill. He discusses how he got into movies, aspects of his career, and the release of Cheerleaders. Hill gives us a few decent notes in this short overview.

Next we get a 2006 piece with cinematographer Alfred Taylor. In the 10-minute, 15-second reel, he covers his path to movies as well as aspects of his work. Like Hill, Taylor offers a moderately interesting take on the subjects.

An archival piece, we hear from Jack Hill and musician Johnny Legend. For 10 minutes, 37 seconds, Legend interviews Hill about Cheerleaders. Hill gives us a reasonably good take on the movie.

In addition to two TV spots, we find a 2007 Q&A from the Grindhouse Film Festival. The 19-minute, 19-second reel features Hill and actors Rosanne Caton and Colleen Camp as they discuss various movie-related topics. The conversation remains fairly fluffy and anecdotal, but it works acceptably well.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Cheerleaders. My review set didn’t include this disc so I can’t comment on its contents.

At the very least, I hoped The Swinging Cheerleaders would deliver a silly, campy romp. Unfortunately, it lacks many positives and winds up as a slow, dull effort. The Blu-ray offers better than expected picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. Quentin Tarantino loves this movie – I have no idea why.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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