Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

“They’re not the only thing swinging in this picture!”

That could have been on the poster, couldn’t it? A mid-1970s tagline for a mid-1970s movie. Whether or not those words raise a smile or a frown will probably dictate whether or not you’re going to enjoy this, as Jack Hill strikes again with a jaunty piece of sexploitation from 1974, now released on UK Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Films.

Intrepid reporter Kate (Jo Johnston) goes undercover as a cheerleader as research for an article she’s writing on the exploitation of women in contemporary culture. She uncovers a scheme to fix games, has a relationship with one of the footballers, and helps her cheerleading colleagues when they end up in all kinds of exploitation trouble. 

Perhaps needless to say in a film with a title like this, none of the plot elements get in the way of the abundant nudity and sensational situations. A bit like a cross between VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER, THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS involves its leads in numerous amorous / melodramatic / sleazy situations, with the outcomes ranging from grindhouse unpleasantness to almost slapstick comedy. 

The movie benefits immensely from Jack Hill’s direction, which does its best to keep everything light and bouncy (and it is, on the whole) while coming through with the action scenes. The screenplay is credited to Jane Witherspoon and Betty Conklin, but apparently that’s just Jack Hill again (as Jane), along with co-writer David Kidd as Betty. “Betty” also wrote Bob Kelljan’s ACT OF VENGEANCE the same year. 

Arrow’s transfer of THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS gives it far less of a grindhouse look than this picture has probably had in the past. Extras include a new commentary track from Jack Hill, as well as a new interview with the director. There are also archive interviews with Alfred Taylor (the DP) and another with Hill and Johnny Legend. You also get a Q&A with Jack Hill and actresses Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2012. 

While perhaps not as interesting as PIT STOP, or as gloriously entertaining as BIG DOLL HOUSE or Hill’s Pam Grier pictures, THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS is still a cheerfully entertaining slice of political incorrectness from a time sufficiently long ago that it can now be regarded with interest if not nostalgia.

Jack Hill's THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Films on Monday 4th July 2016 

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