Color, 1976, 87m.
Directed by Richard Lerner
Starring Jerii Woods, Rainbeaux Smith, Helen Lang, Patrice Rohmer, Susie Elene, David Hasselhoff, Eddra Gale, William Bramley
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1 / 1.55:1) (16:9), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Arrow (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Color, 1976, 87m.
One of the most influential drive-in films of the early '70s was The Cheerleaders, a silly T&A comedy that essentially laid the groundwork for an all-American fetish that exploded into mainstream popularity by the decade's end courtesy of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and a slew of movie imitations. Scores of additional cheerleader movies were commissioned for the small and large screens, but the closest thing to a genuine sequel was 1976's Revenge of the Cheerleaders. Richard Lerner, the producer-editor-cinematographer-co-writer of the original film, took over directorial reins here with all the visual panache of an episode of Alice. Fortunately you also get an avalanche of skin and a rare leading turn for the charming and much-missed late cult favorite, Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith, who had gotten her start in Lemora and already done the cheerleader routine in The Pom Pom Girls and Jack Hill's The Swinging Cheerleaders.
The "plot," such as it is, involves the cheerleading squad at Aloha High School, where the star basketball team is about to face off against its biggest rival, Lincoln High, which is also slated to merge into one entity with the school. Everyone seems to like to pass the time having dance offs and ripping off their clothes, often at the same time, but an even more sinister scheme is brewing to take over the school's land. That barely connects to the cheerleaders, though, who engage in a variety of misadventures and pranks including the film's longest set piece in which the cafeteria food is spiked with drugs. The ensuring mayhem takes up nearly a third of the film with a food fight, stoned geriatrics, and a naked, soapy romp in the locker room showers providing one of the longest, strangest combinations of sex and slapstick in drive-in history.
About as typical as '70s teen sex comedies get, Revenge of the Cheerleaders ticks off all the boxes necessary to please an undemanding audience seeing it in the comfort of their car or the warm glow of late-night cable TV. It's easy to look away without missing anything significant, the silly jokes come fast and furious, the adults are all buffoons, and it all winds up in a big party happy ending. Of course, the film's most notorious contribution to pop culture history now is the debut performance of a young David Hasselhoff as Boner, the school's star player, letting it all hang out here way before he became a talking car's sidekick and a Teutonic singing sensation.
Revenge of the Cheerleaders debuted on home video courtesy of a Vestron VHS virtually drained of all color and detail, so it was a relief in 2003 when it surfaced as part of Anchor Bay's triple feature DVD set, The Cheerleaders Collection (alongside The Cheerleaders and The Swinging Cheerleaders). It also turned up in 2009 in the UK from the same transfer (an acceptable anamorphic job for the time) along with the first film from Arrow in a two-disc set. The Anchor Bay disc featured two trailers, a TV and radio spot, an eight-minute vintage featurette, and an amusing but almost completely useless commentary with two former cheerleaders, Heather Swanson and Lisa Webber. Both editions are now long out of print.
Flash forward to the end of 2014 (and the start of 2015) with a limited Blu-ray from Code Red, sold directly through its store. The film is presented in two different transfers and aspect ratios, a "widescreen" one framed at 1.78:1 and leaning more on the pinkish side, and a "full screen" one (actually closer to 1.55:1) with more natural colors. Frame grabs in this review are taken from the latter version as it generally looks better and exposes far more information on the top and bottom of the frame (a big bonus for skin fans), but for a comparison, check out this shot from the 1.78:1 version and this identical one from the open matte version. The sole extra on the Blu-ray is a new audio commentary with Lerner and cinematographer/co-writer Nathaniel Dorsky (moderated by the label's Bill Olsen), who are fairly subdued but have some good stories about the high school shoot, working in Smith's real-life pregnancy after she was hired, drive-in venues scissoring out many shots with pubic hair, using stock music, and much more. It's still a goofy, naughty little time capsule and a reminder of how the cheerleading craze was at its zenith before it all got family friendly in the age of Bring It On.