The Film (4/5)
I'll admit that I hate watching sports. I won't go into depth for my reasons, aside from the fact that they seem conceptually boring to me, and as such the idea of "sports films" rarely excite me enough to want to view them. So by extension when Jack Hill's 1974 drama/comedy The Swinging Cheerleaders' arrived in my mailbox, I was a little hesitant to personally check it out because even thought it was "technically" about the cheerleaders, it borders on a sports film, and I thought I wouldn't be interested. The main reason it did make it's way into my player was the director's name on the package, Jack Hill.
Jack Hill was one of the premiere genre directors of the 60’s and 70’s, he occasionally would director for Roger Corman, but mostly worked as an independent. He directed films in a wide swath of genres from horror (Spider Baby, Blood Bath), women in prison (The Big Bird Cage, The Big Doll House) Blaxploitation (Coffy, Foxy Brown) Sword and Sorcery (Sorceress), and beyond. There is one thing that truly binds all his films in every genre together. They are damn entertaining. No matter what genre he worked in, he could never fail to keep an audience entertained, and The Swinging Cheerleaders was no exception.
The Swinging Cheerleaders stars Jo Johnston as Katy Cory, a young journalism student who lives with her hippie boyfriend. She decides that for her latest project she will show how demeaning cheerleading is to women, and manages to get herself on to the squad at her college. This means that she has to be move out of her boyfriend's place, and into the cheerleading dorms, where she learns that the cheerleaders have more to their to their lives, then she expected.
She begins to integrate herself into the cheerleading life, and begins to date a football player herself. However, she begins to discover that things with the football team aren't all that they seem, and that the college president, coach, and some professors are working to manipulate the team for their own financial gains. Katy, the cheerleaders, and the team begin to work together to expose the plot, and win the championship game.
The Swinging Cheerleaders is not at all what I expected in a "cheerleader" film. I will admit while I have seen a few of Corman's Nurse films prior to this I had never delved into the cheerleader genre before seeing this Jack Hill film. The film has an excellent script by Jack and David Kidd that gives the cheerleaders numerous subplots, some more interesting than others, but that all manage to tie together in the end.
The direction from Hill manages to keep things flowing smoothly and paced nicely. His visual style for the film is very straight forward, and not at all flashy, but it works for the material here. The performances from the main cast, aren't anything award winning, but they certainly fit the material, and the cast truly fit into their roles quite well. The most shocking thing about the cast to me personally was finding that the lead, Jo Johnston was never to appear in another film role again. Her performance was quite solid here, and I would have expected at least a few more on-screen appearances from her.
Arrow Video presents Jack Hill's The Swinging Cheerleaders in a very nice 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks quite natural with solid color reproduction, and very decent fine detail. There are some soft patches, speckling, and minor instances of damage from the source, but it is overall very minor, and the transfer itself is quite good.
The audio is a DTS-HD Mono 1.0 track in English. The track is quite clear with dialogue and score coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues such as pops, cracks, or hissing on the track during my playthrough.
Arrow has put together quite a decent extra features package for The Swinging Cheerleaders. We get a commentary track with the man himself, Jack Hill. We also get an on camera interview with Hill. There are two archival interviews present one with the film's cinematographer, and the other between Jack Hill and Johnny Legend. There is also a Q&A included with Jack Hill, Colleen Camp, and Rosanne Katon. The set is rounded off with TV spots, a reversible sleeve, and liner noes.
The Swinging Cheerleaders is nothing at all what I expected. It is an absolute fun time at the movies, but I should have expected nothing less from director Jack Hill, who has never disappointed me. The Blu-ray from Arrow looks and sounds quite nice, and comes with a decent slate of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.