New from Arrow Video is the Blu-ray/DVD release of The Swinging Cheerleaders, which is from director Jack Hill. Hill had become known in the seventies for his films that focused on tough female characters, including Switchblade Sisters, The Big Doll House, Coffy, and Foxy Brown.
After making two blaxploitation pictures, he was offered financing to make a movie with the sole request being that it be titled The Swinging Cheerleaders. So the end result is something that Hill described in an interview included in this as a “Disney sex comedy.” It falls somewhere in the middle in regards to its tone, it is somewhat dark and serious while having some laughs and an all out screwball comedy fight sequence.
The story involves a college journalist named Kate (Jo Johnston) who chooses to go undercover as a cheerleader in order to expose what she believes is the best example of contemporary female exploitation on a college campus. Once she joins, her views change as she begins to develop friendships with the cheerleaders Lisa (Roseanne Katon) and Andrea (Rainbeaux Smith) and the all star quarterback Buck (Ron Hajek).
Despite deciding to drop the article in the end, she still has issues with the stuck up cheer squad leader Mary Ann (Colleen Camp) and her hippy boyfriend Ron (Ian Sander). She also uncovers a point shaving scandal being set up between a math teacher, the football coach, and Mary Ann’s father.
The things that make this quite possibly the best in the cheerleader sub-genre are the decent cast, a strong central female character, and the unique sub-plots for some of the secondary characters. Johnston is excellent in the role of Kate, who is portrayed as the smartest character in this and doesn’t renounce her feminism as she grows to care for the people in this sub-culture.
The sub-plots plots further develop a few of the secondary characters and examine some particular aspects of college life that exist. Smith’s character Andrea is going through a situation having to deal with losing her virginity to her football boyfriend, which evolves into a pretty terrible ordeal where she gets sexually assaulted by the hippy Ron and some of his friends.
Katon’s Lisa is having an affair with a professor that is married. She believes that they are in love and that he will end up leaving his wife, constantly questioning whether what they have is real at all.
Make no mistake about it though; this is a low budget 1970’s exploitation movie that was shot in only 12 days and features stock footage from other football in order to make it appear bigger than what it was.
Even though it is an exploitation film, it is fairly light on the sex and nudity compared to some of the others from the genre which may turn fans away. I believe its Hill’s weakest picture from the 1970’s because of the fact that it doesn’t have that dark tone that the others did and seems unsure at times what kind of movie it wants to be.
The extras are nice and contain several interviews and a Q&A session that total at around 40 minutes. The audio commentary is also worth listening to especially if you’re a fan of Jack Hill because he is on there with American Grindhouse director Elijah Drenner.
Bottom line, if you are a fan of Jack Hill then this an item you will definitely want to own. Other fans of the cheerleader sub-genre or sexploitation films should just be aware that while this is entertaining, it is essentially a soft-core motion picture and not as exploitative as most others.
DIRECTOR- APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials
High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD Presentations
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill, recorded exclusively for this release
Brand new interview with Jack Hill
Archive interview with cinematographer Alfred Taylor
Archive interview with Hill and Johnny Legend
Q&A with Hill, and actors Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2012
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.