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Wednesday 27 February 2013

Burl reviews Cheerleaders Beach Party! (1978)


Hi, it’s Burl here with a review of another cheerleader picture, 1978’s Cheerleaders Beach Party, which offered something altogether new in cheerleader pictures: a cheerleaders' beach party! In previous cheerleader pictures, like The Cheerleaders or Revenge of the Cheerleaders or The Pom Pom Girls, the young ladies had been relegated mostly to the campus or their bedrooms, but Cheerleaders Beach Party promised some exotic seaside cheering, with the trappings I – a landlocked prairie boy – had romanticized beyond all reason since first enjoying the beach party scene at the beginning of Jaws! But as the movie began, it quickly became apparent that this beach party was not taking place in sunny California – the traditional spawning ground and home precinct of the cheerleader –  but, like Jaws, somewhere on the northern east coast, in and around the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean! Ha ha!

The movie concerns the misadventures of four well-meaning cheerleaders, Monica, Toni, Sissy and Sheryl, the spiriteers of Rambling U., who discover that an overcoat-wearing stranger is attempting to poach their school’s three star football players! They conceive of a plan: follow the boys to their seaside recruitment camp and somehow prevent them from choosing generous but unscrupulous State U.! A beach appears almost straight away, though of a cold-looking Atlantic variety, and the scheme goes on to involve a night club, references to Billy Carter, several romantic conversations about Fleetwood Mac, and a scientific research boat investigating ways to control crab lice! The girls shift their strategy, deciding instead to poach State players back to Rambling by means of seductive entrapment techniques!

Later, there’s a pool party held by the stuffy State dean, for which the Rambling girls disguise themselves as waitresses to spike the punch and distribute hash brownies! It soon descends into chaos, ha ha! An elderly dowager dances wildly and the dean tumbles into the pool, ker-sploosh! The goal, to turn the Rambling homeboys off of State by sabotaging the shindig, is not met; instead, the moustachioed lads declare it “The greatest kick-ass motherfuckin’ party we’ve ever been to!”

Further adventures involve the girls posing as ghosts; finally and with little ceremony holding the titular beach party; and later infecting the Rambling players with pubic lice! This last improbable gambit proves the one that brings the players back to Rambling, setting the stage for a montage of the newly invigorated Rambling team beating State as the chagrined dean watches from the sidelines and the cheerleaders do what cheerleaders do!
Cheerleaders Beach Party is in many ways a grim little article: the photography is murky and dull, the cheerleaders themselves are dour and snaggletoothed, and their frumpy, maroon-coloured outfits might have been sewed by Betsy Ross in a particularly Puritanical mood! But the good-natured Plain Janes on view here – not adverse to taking off their clothes, but somehow not making a big deal of it – were kind of endearing! Cheerleaders Beach Party is disconcertingly plot-heavy at the beginning, but allows its narrative to dissolve into the roiling Eastern seaboard mist in which it is suffused by the end of the first couple of reels! I give it two marvelous boogie vans!

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