No one can deny the appeal of a string of attractive young ladies jumping up and down and shaking their things in tight tops and short pleated skirts, so naturally, cheerleading became a practical theme in a number of exploitation films during the 1970s. CHEERLEADERS’ WILD WEEKEND, which also threw in the popular 1970s “kidnapping” subgenre into its plot, comes toward the tail end of the ra-ra-ra genre, and is neither the raunchiest of its kind (try THE CHEERLEADERS for that) or the best written (THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS, perhaps?) but it still contains enough sophomoric amusements, recognizable B-level actors, and nubile young female bodies than you can shake a pom pom at.
Three different cheerleader squads from three different competing schools are traveling via school bus to a big state competition in Sacramento. Making it to their final destination is thwarted when their vehicle is obstructed by an odd assemblage, including bitter ex footballer Wayne Mathews (Jason Williams, FLESH GORDON, COP KILLERS), his equally distraught former teammates George (Anthony Lewis) and Big John (John Albert), his little brother Billy (Robert Houston, THE HILLS HAVE EYES) and a buxom, bra-less blonde lesbian (Courtney Sands). The abducted girls are brought to a cabin out in the woods, made to take off their shoes and sleep on bare mattresses as their five captors demand a $2 million dollar ransom for their safe release. A popular local disk jockey named Joyful Jerome (Leon Isaac Kennedy, here billed as “Lee Curtis”) is inadvertently brought in as the on-air middleman between the kidnappers and the police, as the cheerleaders cause mischief, stage various antics and attempt several escapes before a bag of cash is collected by the baddies.
With CHEERLEADERS’ WILD WEEKEND (filmed as the somber-sounding “Bus 17 Is Missing” and here baring the on-screen title “The Great American Girl Robbery”), what’s essentially delivered is a fairly lively mix of comedy and drama (co-scripted by actor Williams and D.W. Gilbert), which features some kinky (the girls secretly removing and tying their panties together as a part of an escape stunt) and serious (the ex-footballers in a locker room flashback illustrating their washed-up careers) nuances and clever comic bits (the parents of the kidnapped girls are asked by the governor to pay for the ransom with a low-interest loan, granted they can pass a credit check) which makes it atypical of the common cheerleaders film cycle. This late 1970s blend of sexploitation and caper film elements may not make for a great movie, but it’s still hard to resist on a trashy level, especially with all the bare breasts and buttocks on display, especially the former. The players are given more characterization than you'd expect, with Williams playing a sort of anti hero.
With scenes of the cheerleaders flashing their tits and asses from behind school bus window (causing a truck driving farmer to crash into a roadside fruit stand) or later, a handful of them stripping down to their panties and strutting in chorus as part of a faux beauty contest, this one has more T&A on display than your average R-rated 1970s cheerleaders pic. Surprisingly, the blue-eyed, pouty, blonde beauty and star of the film, Playboy playmate and actress Kristine DeBell (who had recently starred in the adult version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which was produced by CHEERLEADERS’ executive producer Bill Osco), is one of the few actresses not to put her assets on display. Some of the cheerleaders seen in various stages of undress include Lenka Novak (VAMPIRE HOOKERS), Wally Ann Wharton (UP IN SMOKE) and Marilyn Joi (here billed as “Tracy King”), who sports pony tails to try and conceal the fact that she was well over 30 years old at the time of shooting (most of the other “teen” cheerleaders are portrayed by actresses well over 20). Joi was pretty much the African American queen of exploitation and drive-in films during the 1970s, having starred in numerous roles of this type (especially hookers), including a few for director Al Adamson (including MEAN MOTHER, THE NAUGHY STEWARDESSES and NURSE SHERRI). Novak, another shapely former playmate, has a light but sensual bathtub lesbian scene with older woman Courtney Sands (an obvious pseudonym) which is quickly cut short by a male peeping tom attempting to get off on the scene.
As aforementioned, Scorpion Releasing’s transfer of CHEERLEADERS’ WILD WEEKEND carries the original title, “The Great American Girl Robbery”, and it’s a very good print source at that. Presented anamorphic in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, colors appear nice and vivid, and picture detail is sharp. Dirt and debris is for the most part relegated to reel changes, and there’s very little in the way of grain to be seen. The English mono audio track, despite a few instances of scratchiness due to the age of the source material, sounds perfectly fine.
Two different audio commentaries commence the disc’s mass of extras. Actress DeBell is joined by moderators Walter and Bill Olsen. Although she doesn’t remember much at all about this particular film, she’s funny and good sport, and tells a number of stories about the heyday of her career, as our moderators do everything they can to jog her memory. A second commentary track, moderated by Mikey T, includes director Jeff Werner, editor Greg McClatchy and star Marilyn Joi. The surprise here is that star Jason Williams joins in the discussion (since he’s sitting in the background, you might have to turn up your volume to hear him better), and he and Werner provide the best comments in terms of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stuff. There are featurettes with actresses DeBell (10:52) and Joi (14:37), both being fun and bubbly, though DeBell obviously still refuses to talk about ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Leon Isaac Kennedy has a longer featurette segment (27:18), as he discusses his success with the PENITENTIARY series, producing films, the various famous people he’s worked with, and his love for the history of cinema. A hidden feature on the extras menu will lead you to another featurette, this time with Williams (8:40), who talks about FLESH GORDON, CHEERLEADERS’, as well as the period when he dated actress Tiffany Bolling, and he actually seems humble about his film career. There are four different still galleries included. The first features production shots of actress Janet Blythe (not to be confused with THE HILL HAVE EYES star Janus Blythe) totally in the buff during a hot shower (which we only get a topless glimpse of at the beginning of the film). The second set of stills features Blythe in a rape scene which turns out to have been deleted from the film (and most likely would have changed its tone considerably). Third is a section of other production stills featuring more nudity and depicting some other scenes not in the final film, and lastly is a few shots from the pressbook (which features some offbeat publicity poses by the cast). Rounding out the extras is an alternate title card sequence, as well as an original theatrical trailer (both under the CHEERLEADERS’ title). (George R. Reis)
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