The Swinging Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review

Jack Hill’s take on Cheerleader Exploitation in the ’70s with Colleen Camp

Coming off two successful blaxploitation films, director Jack Hill was looking for a different kind of project for his next film in 1974. The Swinging Cheerleaders is exploitation of a completely different stripe. Like its title suggests, the movie is a salacious dive into the world of co-ed cheerleaders. It’s a cheaply made exploitation flick, built upon mild titillation that almost comes across as wholesome in today’s raunchier landscape. Jack Hill somehow spun the film into a fun experience with its attractive cast and dated gender politics.

The Swinging Cheerleaders is cheap drive-in fare that was a cash-in on a brief cheerleader fad during the Seventies. It gained some notoriety and a revival of sorts when Quentin Tarantino championed its cause at his private movie parties in Hollywood. The movie is basically a sex comedy set in the free love atmosphere of college during the decade.

Greatly helping the movie’s cause is an appealing female cast who perfectly fit their roles. The Swinging Cheerleaders includes cult favorites like Colleen Camp (Wayne’s World), Rainbeaux Smith (Caged Heat) and future Playboy Playmate Rosanne Katon as cheerleaders. They all bring something different to their portrayals and all three give fairly convincing performances for relatively inexperienced actresses at the time.

Having now seen a slew of Jack Hill’s b-movie output, I’ve come to appreciate his uncanny ability at putting a working movie together in virtually any genre he tackled. While none of them are outright masterpieces, his movies always have fluid storytelling and well-developed narratives. The Swinging Cheerleaders is a perfect example with its down-to-earth characters and smooth story.

Hill had made his name putting strong female characters in the lead roles and Kate is no exception.

Kate (Jo Johnston) is a campus reporter that plans to expose ‘female exploitation in contemporary society’ at the fictional Mesa State. She goes undercover as a cheerleader, only to stumble upon the football coach rigging games. Along the way Kate will deal with a jealous boyfriend while also fending off advances from the team’s star quarterback, Buck (Ron Hajek).

Kate is an interesting protagonist, a smartly written female character from a time when those were few and far between in b-movies. It would have been easy to write her as a jock-hating feminist. She’s a complex figure with real motivations and emotions. Hill had made his name putting strong female characters in the lead roles and Kate is no exception. She is independent and capable as anyone, while still embracing her feminine qualities.

This is cheesy exploitation, but it happens to be highly entertaining exploitation from a different era. It is a fascinating snapshot in time of a society coping with the women’s lib movement and changing cultural mores. The Swinging Cheerleaders was made to be disposable entertainment for the collegiate theaters of its day but still holds up better than I expected, mostly thanks to Jack Hill’s keen sense of cinema. The raunchy romp will surely please exploitation fans.

Swinging Cheerleaders Blu-ray screen shot 9

Video

Arrow Video includes a new 2K restoration for the 1974 production from “original film materials.” The original elements were thought lost for years by Jack Hill until they were discovered by accident. The 91-minute main feature is presented at its intended 1.66:1 aspect ratio in 1080P resolution. The AVC encode averages 35 Mbps on a BD-50 in perfect compression transparency.

The most obvious thing in this film transfer are how its colors pop with fetching detail. The video is bright with a pumped-up contrast. The elements have consistently stable clarity. They appear intact in a smooth film structure. Definition is better than expected, except in the duller stock footage used for football highlights.

It’s possible that some filtering may have been necessary on this new film transfer. The print is suspiciously clean and its grain structure has a slightly artificial quality. Arrow Video has been known to use a little clean-up for inferior elements from cheaper film stocks.

Arrow Video gives The Swinging Cheerleaders a vivid disc that is quite serviceable, all things considered. If you are previously familiar with some of their restorations for vintage independent films, this isn’t far removed in contrast and color saturation. It’s a fine presentation of a quickly made exploitation film from the Seventies. The new film transfer alone gives it new life.

Audio

The mono soundtrack is heard in 1.0 PCM. This is a serviceable mix with decent dynamics and clean fidelity. Dialogue is pleasant in tonality without the thin sound found in many vintage productions. Arrow Video likely did some clean-up on this track as well with its smooth audio.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

This two-disc special edition comes with a Blu-ray coded for regions A and B while also including the movie on DVD. The combination of archival special features and new material with Jack Hill paints a fairly thorough picture behind the scenes of how the production went down.

  • Audio commentary by writer/director Jack Hill – A new one recorded exclusively for this release. Elijah Drenner lightly moderates the discussion but lets Hill run the show. If you own the older Anchor Bay DVD, this is a completely different commentary.

  • Brand new interview with Jack Hill (08:08 in HD)

  • Archival interview with cinematographer Alfred Taylor (10:15 in SD) – Brought over from a prior DVD release of another movie, Taylor discusses several films he worked on.

  • Archival interview with Jack Hill and Johnny Legend (10:37 in SD)

  • Q&A with Jack Hill and actresses Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon (19:19 in SD) – Recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2012.

  • TV spots (01:36 in SD) – 30-second and 60-second spots.

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • The Swinging Cheerleaders
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Summary

A dated but fun ride back into the Seventies courtesy of Jack Hill’s cheerleading exploitation flick.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray disc. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusive shots.