I’ve often talked about the many fun films that were brought to the screen by American International Pictures (AIP). But there was another great independent studio known for drive-in style films…Crown International Films. They released all sorts of monster movies, biker films, and exploitation flicks. Of course, they journeyed into the realm of the cheerleader movie, which leads us to today’s film…1976’s “The Pom-Pom Girls.”
Despite it’s title, the film actually spends most of it’s time focusing on two high school football players, Johnnie (Robert Carradine) and Jesse (Michael Mullins). Of course, where you find football players, you often find pom-pom girls. Johnnie has a thing for Sally (Lisa Reeves), while Jesse has the hots for Laurie (Jennifer Ashley). But Jesse also has a side gig going with Sue Ann (Susan Player). Jesse will occasionally pull his van/love wagon up to the drive-in diner where she works for a little action.
Now, even though Johnnie and Sally seem to be hitting it off, there is a problem that comes in the form of her ex-boyfriend, Duane (Bill Adler). He and Johnnie are constantly at each other’s throats, which includes their own private food fight one day in the cafeteria. These jocks also have trouble in the form of their rivals from Hardin (yes “Hardin”) High School. The two teams go back and forth playing various pranks on each other. Our heroes even go as far as to steal the town’s fire truck so they can cruise over to Hardin (snicker) High and spray their team with the fire hoses. Somehow, the crack police squad in this town can’t put their finger on who pulled off this little crime.
When the time finally arrives for the big game, the two teams are so pumped up that a massive brawl erupts on the football field. This leads to a locker room run-in between the coach (James Gammon) and Jesse. Jesse then determines to leave town and take Laurie with him. But plans soon change when Johnnie has to face Duane in a game of suicide chicken.
Having just watched “The Swinging Cheerleaders” just about a week ago, it’s hard not to make comparisons here. Both films even feature Rainbeaux Smith as one of the cheerleaders. “The Pom-Pom Girls” ends up falling quite a bit short of it’s swinging companion. First is the fact that, as mentioned earlier, the film really doesn’t focus that much on the pom-pom girls. It’s primarily about two football players…one of whom was much more famous for playing a nerd 6 years later. Plus, the film just kind of wanders. There’s no big goal the characters are working toward. Heck, the big game comes at the midway point and that ends up a bit of bust. Bottom line, the film lacks focus.
The film was directed by Joseph Rubin, who’s next film, “Joyride,” was featured on a recent episode of the Forgotten Filmcast. That film (which also starred Carradine) also suffers from sort of aimlessly wandering it’s way through it’s running time. Still, Carradine and Mullins do a decent enough job with their roles, problem is their characters just aren’t that interesting. A few of the cheerleaders get a bit higher marks in this category, but don’t get near enough screen time to make an impact. More of the chronically gruff James Gammon’s coach character also could’ve helped a bit.
There are certainly some entertaining aspects to “The Pom-Pom Girls,” but it fails to completely satisfy the viewer. Had the title actually been an accurate reflection of the film it would’ve been called “The Geeky Football Players.” Somehow I doubt that would’ve sold a whole lot of tickets, though.