If you’re of a certain age (mine or slightly younger), you’re probably not watching Satan’s Cheeleaders for the acting (which is hammy bologna on white bread) or the old movie stars slumming for their paychecks. You’re very likely watching this slice of American cheese for the titular cheer squad and maybe to see where this Satan stuff goes with a cast partly made up of well-known actors close to the ends of their careers and partly made up of new to the business nubile tart types and a few unsexy dudes who pop up that are supposed to be on a college football team.
Well, friends – you get a proper dosage of tame 70’s nudity, but nothing at all indecently overexposed, a paper-thin plot that doesn’t hold up to a soft breeze and some muddling around with mysticism before a somewhat crummy finale that leaves a few things hanging. The sole notable things here are those slumming for paychecks stars (John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, John Carradine) who have not much else to do except hit their marks and react to whatever they need to react to. That said, the film seems to aim for more of a campy feel that keeps things light and airy (or air-heady), and that’s fine with me.
Well, to a point.
The setup of pervy school janitor turned Satanist (Jack Kruschen) trying to get revenge on the hot-to-trot teens tormenting him goes nowhere fast because the film isn’t at all scary or suspenseful. That, and the movie wastes too much time on and with the girls at the beginning before it props up a few story bits that fall flat later. Sexual innuendoes aside, the gals all deliver their lines with a similar lack of oomph and the film barely springs to life when the veterans are on the scene. Then again, when you see that the sheriff played by John Ireland is named B.L. Bubb or something like that, your eyeballs will roll back and settle there for a bit as your brain fills in the blanks.
Anyway, the gals and their clueless (but pretty, so she’s pretty clueless, ha-ha) cheer-leader,
Mrs. Ms. Johnson (Jacqulin Cole) all get trapped by that janitor out in the woods after he kidnaps them, But they escape when he kind of drops dead or something. The gals end up at the sheriff’s place where he and his off-kilter wife (DeCarlo) stall the girls while they come up with a plan to sacrifice one of them at that evening’s ritual. The catch is the girl has to be a virgin and the only virgin on the squad just so happens to be a witch. Ooooh, that’s a twist and a a half, right?
Yeah, well… the thing is, the film meanders around with too-long dialog scenes and way too much repetition, especially during the last 20 or so minutes where a chase seems to go on forever and there are cuts back to DeCarlo chanting some ritualistic babble at an altar. Parts of the film are too dark and any scene with John Carridine in it is somehow hilarious because he seems to be making up his lines and the gals don’t know how to react to this. Allegedly, all of his scenes were shot in a half a day and yep, it shows.
One of the more interesting things about this BR-DVD combo set is you get the original and restored versions to watch, which means you can spend 184 minutes instead of 92 with this flick if you somehow really like it that much. While bonus features are slim, I’d personally have the commentary track on for that second play, as that usually makes a film with somewhat inane dialogue fly by faster. Eh, it’s your call at the end of the day. Just go in not expecting greatness and you’ll be (mostly) fine. Better yet, pair this up with something actually scary and/or funny just so you’re not left totally unfulfilled.
Score: C (70%)
Review copy provided by the publisher
A Graydon Clark movie that’s 184 minutes long? THE HARDEST OF PASSES.
Well, that’s only if you watch it twice. That said, that 92 minutes feels like double that what with all the repetition going on. I tried to get through it a second time with the commentary track, but tapped out because it really didn’t help the film get any better.
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