The Swinging Cheerleaders

The Swinging Cheerleaders 1In the world of exploitation cinema, there are three types of women’s roles that seem to stand above the rest: nurses, stewardesses, and the subject of today’s film, cheerleaders. To be honest, though, while today’s film certainly has it’s roots in the world of exploitation, it’s actually much more serious than other cheerleader epics. Join us now for Jack Hill’s 1974 film “The Swinging Cheerleaders.”

The Swinging Cheerleaders 2As the film begins, the cheerleaders of Mesa State are realizing that they need at least one more young lady to join their ranks to truly do an effective job of cheering their football team on. So, Mary Ann (Colleen Camp), Lisa (Rosanne Katon), and Andrea (Rainbeaux…yes Rain-beaux…Smith) set out to hold tryouts. The girl they select, despite Mary Ann’s objections, is Kate (Jo Johnston). It turns out, though, that school spirit is actually the last thing on Kate’s mind. She actually plans to write an expose for the student newspaper on the sinister underbelly of the cheerleader/football player culture on campus. As things progress, Kate is surprised to find herself starting to somewhat enjoy her new life among the rah-rah crowd. The part she especially enjoys is her blossoming relationship with the team’s quarterback, Buck (Ron Hajek), much to the dismay of Mary Ann, of course.

The Swinging Cheerleaders 3Meanwhile, the other ladies on the squad have issues of their own. Lisa is involved in an illicit affair with Professor Thorpe (Jason Sommers), which he is struggling to hide from his wife. Virginal Andrea, on the other hand, can’t bring herself to go all the way with her football player boyfriend, Ross (Ric Carrott). This leads to one of the film’s most unpleasant moments when, after being dumped, Andrea determines to give herself to the first guy she has contact with. This ends up being Ron (Ian Sander), Kate’s former boyfriend and designated hippie radical of the campus. After Andrea enjoys sex with Ron, she pleads for more, which leads to him inviting a bunch of buddies over to “gang bang a cheerleader.” When we next see her she is a bit bruised up and Ron ends up meeting the business end of Ross’ fist. According to director Jack Hill, this scene earned cheers from crowds in Texas.

The Swinging Cheerleaders 6All the while, Kate continues to work on her article and soon starts discover some nasty things going on. It seems that influential alumni, and Mary Ann’s father, Mr. Putnam (George D. Wallace) has been conspiring with Coach Turner (Jack Denton), and Professor Thorpe to rig the point spread of the games and thus make big bucks through gambling. When they try to get Buck to work with them to throw the big game, this is the perfect opportunity for the cheerleaders to bring the gambler’s plans to a stop.

The Swinging Cheerleaders 8With a title like “The Swinging Cheerleaders,” one would expect this to be a goofy sex comedy, but in actuality, Hill plays it pretty straight with this film. Only the final fight which pits the football players and cheerleaders against some corrupt campus cops working for the gamblers has that silly comedy vibe.

Some sequences are very heavy. One scene that is a real highlight, all be it brief, is the scene when Thorpe’s wife (Mae Mercer) whips out a switch blade and threatens to carve up Lisa. The previously described sequence involving Andrea and Ron is certainly nowhere near being lighthearted, as it is never made clear whether their sexual encounter deteriorated into something less than consensual. The whole issue is probably brushed off a bit too quickly for today’s viewers.

The Swinging Cheerleaders 9On a whole, I was pleasantly surprised by “The Swinging Cheerleaders.” The characters actually have some depth and the various stories are handled in interesting ways. The film does come to a rather abrupt end and could’ve stood to have a bit more resolution, but on a whole the film is quite enjoyable.

Though the film takes many opportunities to show off the, shall we say “pom-poms,” of the titular cheerleaders, it is clear that this was not the primary focus of the filmmakers. The original script was titled “Stand Up and Holler” so as not to scare potential leading ladies away with the Cheerleader premise. Why, Jack Hill and co-writer David Kidd even gave themselves female pen names for the screenwriting credit. I mean a cheerleader movie written by two women can’t be all about exploitation…right? In the end, “The Swinging Cheerleaders” is a pretty effective college drama that has a few exploitation elements to help get some butts in the seats.

5 thoughts on “The Swinging Cheerleaders

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  1. Sweetness. I love these kinds of trashy exploitation movies. Oh and once you mentioned that it had Colleen Camp from Clue, Iwas sold on watching this. I’m also glad to read that the movie is not as goofy as I would have thought. Good review .

  2. This is an excellent review Todd. You describe it in a way that makes me intrigued to want to see it. However, I think female directors can sometimes be just as exploitive and explicit as their male counterparts particularly with Amy Heckerling and the 80’s films ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’.

    They are actually making porn movies today that are directed by women and from a more female perspective. I have a few lady friend’s in my office who say they like to watch them with their husbands or boyfriends. Actress Jane Fonda, who is now in her 70’s, stated on a recent interview show that she likes to watch them with her current boyfriend and tried to get Marlo Thomas from ‘That Girl’ fame and her husband Phil Donahue to come over and watch it with them, which would have to be a scarrier sight than anything put on the screen.

  3. I can’t find any information on the lead, jo johnston. Any info ?
    She seems to have only made one movie ?

    1. I have looked for years. Hard to believe she only acted in this one movie and never again! What a beauty she was!! A good actress too! Hope she is doing well!

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