SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1977) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Greydon Clark
VCI Home Video

SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS flash their pom-poms on VCI's new Blu-ray.

On their way to the Baker High to cheer on quarterback Stevie (Lane Caudell, GOODBYE, FRANKLIN HIGH) and the team, cheerleaders Patti (Kerry Sherman, EYES OF FIRE), Debbie (Alisa Powell, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS), Chris (Hillary Horan, YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE), and Sharon (Sherry Marks, HOMETOWN U.S.A.) along with their dim coach Miss Johnson (Jacqulin Cole, ANGEL'S BRIGADE) are soon stranded on a desert road and are offered a ride by school janitor Billy (Jack Kruschen, CAPE FEAR). Tired of being the butt of taunting and teasing, Billy's plans for them are derailed by a fearful Miss Johnson who nearly sends his van crashing into a satanic altar. Patti is compelled to remove her clothes and lie upon the altar, which was just what devil-worshiping Billy was hoping for, but the demonic forces turn on him and give him a heart attack. The quintet of women get back onto the main road and are directed by a hobo (John Carradine, THE HOWLING) to the home of the local sheriff… B.L. Bubb (John Ireland, THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES) and his wife Emmy (Yvonne de Carlo, HOUSE OF SHADOWS). Detained at the house while the sheriff goes to investigate the janitor's death, Patti becomes suspicious of kindly Emmy and talks the others into escaping while she distracts their hostess. The others eventually realize that something is indeed off when the sheriff attacks Miss Johnson, and they split up in search of help, only to discover that the locals are all members of a Satanic cult and that leader Bubb and his wife are finally planning to celebrate the Black Mass with a blood sacrifice.

With a title that sounds even sillier than SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, Greydon Clark's SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS has a winning concept combining the cheerleader sex comedy genre with the ROSEMARY'S BABY/THE EXORCIST Satanism/possession cycle of exploitation films, and it actually has a somewhat clever twist ending. Unfortunately, it is a listless affair from the start with the high school rivalry, pranks, and even a nude shower scene directed as though they were obligatory but also drawn out under repeated iterations of the Sonoma song "One for All and All for One". Characterization among the cheerleaders is threadbare with Sherman's ambiguous stare and line delivery as the possibly possessed/possible virgin sacrifice the only distinguishing characteristic – Robin Greer (ANGELS' BRIGADE) as ringleader of the cheerleaders' Baker High rivals would have been a more lively addition – while the flakiness of Cole's coach seems almost criminally negligent. Ireland and de Carlo suffer by trying to play the screenplay of Alvin Fast (EATEN ALIVE) with any degree of conviction, but Sydney Chaplin (son of Charlie) is quite amusing as a local monk. Michael Donovan O'Donnell (VIXEN!) and Joseph Carlo (BLACK SHAMPOO) also star.

A VCI property since the Untied Home Video days, SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS received a VHS release from them in 1986 and then a full-frame, barebones DVD in 2002. Transferred from a 2K scan - ostensibly of the original 35mm camera negative - SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS is offered up on Blu-ray by VCI in two playback options : the "original transfer" (92:29) and the "restored transfer" (92:29). The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfers are better than VCI's last few Blu-rays but there is not a lot of difference between the two versions here. The "original transfer" has prominent reel change marks that were painted out in the "restored transfer" which also boasts deeper blacks which are kind of greyish in the original. The specks and faint scratches of the "original" remain in the "restored" one but are sometimes less noticeable due to the contrast adjustments. The few night scenes seem to have always been murky – this is not one of Dean Cundey's (HALLOWEEN) better early credits – teasing the viewer during the opening credits but distracting later on in the film during the climactic action. The LPCM 2.0 mono tracks on both versions sound pretty much the same, and optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.

Both versions can be audited with a pair of commentary tracks: the first from director Clark, and the second featuring filmmaker David DeCoteau (CREEPOZOIDS) and film historian David Del Valle. Clark reveals that he made $50,000 from BLACK SHAMPOO and decided to make another film, and that such a paltry amount meant something that required daylight exteriors, an unknown cast, small crew, and a short shooting schedule. Mike MacFarland (HI-RIDERS) offered an additional $25,000 for a producer credit and if Clark would use Caudell who he was considering for a lead in a film he would direct (MacFarland would star Caudell in GOODBYE, FRANKLIN HIGH and HANGING BY A STAR). The extra money allowed Clark to sign a SAG contract and recruit some recognizable actors like Ireland, de Carlo, Chaplin, Carradine, and Kruschen. He speaks warmly of his late partner of thirty-four years Cole, his collaborations with Cundey – who recommended Debra Hill (THE FOG) as script supervisor, who in turn introduced Cundey to John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN Steadicam operator Ray Stella served here as a second unit cinematographer) – and Donn Greer (THE BRIDE AND THE BEASTS) who provided extras from his acting classes (along with daughter Robin). The DeCoteau/Del Valle track provides some humorous accompaniment to the film – although they occasionally drift into likening the film to the Satanic films of the period, particularly THE DEVIL'S RAIN – while Del Valle discusses he recollections of meeting Carradine (who was supposed to shoot a "Sinister Image" segment with him but died while in Italy) and of the other performers through some of other actors he has interviewed (including de Carlo through an anecdote by Barbara Steele while working together on SILENT SCREAM). The only other extra is a photo gallery (3:01) while the fun trailer is missing in action. (Eric Cotenas)