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February 14th, 2017

CHEERLEADERS BEACHPARTY (1978) * ½

Four cheerleaders get irate when a recruiter from another team tries to sway their star football players away from the school. They then set out on a road trip to sabotage the try-outs using any means necessary. Of course, along the way they wind up falling in love.

Cheerleaders Beachparty has at least one memorable nude scene in which all four cheerleaders are crammed into a tiny shower stall and begin shooting each other with water guns. That’s about where the fun begins and ends. Despite an okay topless swim, most of the time, the girls have their backs to the cameras whenever they take off their shirt.

The “comedy” scenes range from desperate to stupid. In one scene, they pretend to be ghosts to frighten the jocks into running back home. In the end, the girls resort to putting crabs in the team’s athletic supporters so that they constantly itch throughout the game. None of this is exactly funny. It could’ve worked in better hands I suppose, but director Alex E. (Cherry Hill High) Goitein is unable to wring any laughs from Chuck (Preppies) Vincent’s admittedly weak script.

With a few snips, this would be perfect Up All Night fodder. (Most of the movie is so dark you can’t see the boobs anyway.) In fact, the later you put it on, the better off you’ll be. That’s not because it’s a late night delight or anything. More like a perfect cure for insomnia.

AKA: California Cheerleaders.

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Before he made Rocky and The Karate Kid, John G. Avildsen directed this oddball softcore sex comedy. A community (okay, two couples) is outraged when a teacher comes to town and begins teaching a Sex Ed class. After a lot of back and forth, they eventually give in and start to explore the bounds of their own sexuality.

Guess What We Learned in School Today?!? starts off slow and sloppy. The cutting back and forth between the two couples has no rhythm and it’s hard to get a handle on just what the heck is going on in some of the scenes. Once the editing finally settles down, the film finds its footing. Heck, late in the game the flick actually manages to be somewhat sexy when the prudish housewife gets stoned and hires her sexy neighbor to deflower her virgin teenage son.

Rosella (I Dismember Mama) Olsen is wickedly hot as the sexy neighbor. The scene where she gets high and fools around with Jane McLeod is great too. I also thought Diane Moore did a fine job as the sultry babysitter who jerks off McLeod’s son while she reads him a bedtime story.

Unfortunately, all the stuff with Olsen’s vice cop husband going around and busting hookers is pretty annoying. The faux-Dragnet narration isn’t very funny. Nor are the scenes with McLeod’s impotent general husband. Still, the film will on occasion hit a funny note, and there’s a decent amount of skin on display. In the end, it’s all too uneven to be truly worthwhile.

AKA: Guess What!?! AKA: Sex-Sex-Sex. AKA: I Ain’t No Buffalo.

DEATH SHIP (1980) *

George Kennedy is the captain of a luxury cruise ship with three days left till retirement. One night, a seemingly derelict ship rams the boat at full speed, sinking it in minutes. Kennedy, his first mate (Richard Crenna), and a handful of others are the only survivors. After some drifting, their lifeboat comes upon the ghost ship and they climb aboard. Soon people fall victim to several "accidents". Eventually they realize they're on a possessed Nazi torture vessel that runs on blood. To make matters worse, Kennedy becomes possessed by a Nazi ghost and starts killing more people to feed the ship.

The opening minutes of this movie are downright awful. The scene of the death ship as it closes in on the cruise ship is laughable. When we see the cruise ship, it’s in total darkness. Then when they cut to the waves hitting the hull of the death ship, it looks like late afternoon. The editors keep cutting back and forth at increasing speed, which ordinarily would be a good tactic to maximize the suspense. However, all it really does is magnify just how poorly the footage matches up. We’ve seen day and night come and go within the same scenes before, but this is like, way worse than anything Ed Wood ever did.

The budget was also so low that when the big collision happens, you more or less have to take the movie’s word for it. Sure we see an explosion and a couple of shots of sailors and passengers running around, but then it quickly cuts to the survivors in the lifeboat. It all happens so fast that we feel shortchanged. Considering the fact that the film was released during the disaster movie craze (not to mention the fact that George Kennedy is on board), we at least feel entitled to some good disaster carnage. No such luck though, I’m afraid.

We also have to deal with a lot of annoying characters. All of them basically deserve to die and when they finally do, their death isn’t grand or weird enough for us to applause or anything. You know you’re in trouble when the closest likeable character is the kid whose main character trait is having to go pee at the most inopportune times.

The movie moves at a listless pace. There are long scenes that try for suspense but just succeed in boring you to death. Many sequences just involve extended scenes of people wandering around or climbing up a ladder. You’re supposed to think, “Oh is something suspenseful going to happen?” Then it’s revealed that, no, the character is just wandering around aimlessly for no reason whatsoever.

The capable cast is left adrift in this mind-numbing mess. Kennedy has been in some turds before, but even he looks bored. Crenna tries to remain professional throughout and damn near escapes the flick with his dignity intact. Saul (Death Wish 5) Rubinek does what he can with his small role as the comedian who is the first to die aboard the death ship.

Director Alvin (City on Fire) Rakoff does deliver at least one memorable sequence. That’s when a woman becomes trapped in a shower that shoots out blood. Other than that, this is a major bust. Rakoff’s use of slow motion late in the game is irritating and the editing is often choppy, bordering on incoherent. Even when the movie should be over, it continues on with dozens of useless shots of the boat chugging along.

Bottom Line: Death Ship (co-written by Jack Hill of all people) deserves to be buried at sea.

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