2 New to Blu: Satan’s Cheerleaders & Ruby

| November 17, 2017

Two cult horror films from 1977, Greydon Clark’s Satan’s Cheerleaders and Curtis Harrington’s Ruby, saw dual format Blu-ray/DVD releases from VCI Entertainment this fall. Now, these two titles are sold separately, yes. However, both happened to come into my possession at the exact same time and I tell you, Satan’s Cheerleaders and Ruby make all-too-much sense as a double feature.  That’s because both films combine elements of other, more prominent 1970’s cult films to create a sort of cult cinema potpourri, something familiar yet altogether new and unforgettably weird!

 

Satan’s Cheerleaders, as the title clearly suggests, drops the cast of characters from a cheerleader exploitation film (the best of those being Jack Hill’s The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) to my mind) into your basic Satanic cult film, drawing clear inspiration from films like Race with the Devil (1975). This is a film I’ve seen a few times now as a tong-time fan of Greydon Clark, having grown up endlessly rewatching Clark’s The Forbidden Dance (1990) on HBO. Still, were I not already predisposed to watch anything with Clark’s name attached to it, I’d have seen Satan’s Cheerleaders at least once.

It’s a title you just can’t resist! As with other such incredibly-titled exploitation/horror films like Werewolves on Wheels (1971) or Microwave Massacre (1983), you kind of know deep down inside that the film can’t possibly live up to the hype of such a great title. Still, you have to know for yourself and you subject yourself to it in the hopes that the filmmakers achieved the impossible: made a film that lived up to the title on a shoestring budget.

Unlike Werewolves on Wheels and Microwave Massacre though, Satan’s Cheerleaders is a film I’ve actually revisited. Is this because Greydon Clark achieved the impossible and made a film that adequately satisfied my desire for a perfect fusion of cheerleader and Satanic cult films? Not necessarily, but I applaud the man for trying. He was clearly held back by budgetary restrictions, limiting the scope of both the cheerleader and cult sections of the film, and pacing in the editing is such that most of the jokes simply fall flat, especially any sexual jokes made during the Satanic paranoia portion of the film.

This is not to say Clark can’t do comedy. I enjoy his horror-spoof Wacko (1982) a great deal, and his video game-themed sex comedy Joysticks (1983) has its merits too. It may simply be that the cheerleader and Satanist exploitation films of the 1970’s could never be so perfectly united as a title like Satan’s Cheerleaders would have us believe. But I admire the hell out of Greydon Clark’s ambition in trying!

The film co-stars John Carradine, John Ireland and Yvonne De Carlo among the Satanist inhabitants of the backwoods town in which our titular cheerleaders find themselves trapped.  And VCI’s release of Satan’s Cheerleaders via MVD Entertainment Group includes two 2k transfers of the film (one restored and one unrestored to give you some options) with a Greydon Clark commentary track, a commentary track with director David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle, and a photo gallery.

 

Ruby too is an insanely ambitious film. From avant garde-turned-horror film director Curtis Harrington, Ruby infuses The Exorcist (1973) with elements of gangster and ghost films. And throw in a dash of a Drive-In Massacre (1976) too for good measure!

The plot is, as the above description hints, quite convoluted, so I’ll do my best to sum it up briefly. The film stars Piper Laurie as Ruby, a once-promising singer whose career stalled in 1935 when her gangster boyfriend was gunned down by his gang. Sixteen years later, she’s raising her deceased boyfriend’s deaf-mute daughter and running a drive-in movie theater where she’s employed all the men who killed her boyfriend. (And that’s just the setup!) Long story short, the ghost of her ex-boyfriend comes back for revenge, occasionally possessing the daughter for some distinctly Exorcist-inspired moments.

Though the transitions from the drive-in scenes to the surrounding backwoods swamp areas (oh yeah, there are swamps and stuff too) are always atmospherically jarring, Ruby is certainly the more successful of the two films in terms of its overall cohesiveness. Sure, it takes an overabundance of plot to make it all work, but it works in its own weird way and all of it builds up to a bloody, special effects-heavy climax that pays off on all the promise of the film’s convoluted setup. So my suggestion, if you decide to do this 1977 double feature yourself, is to close the evening with Ruby.

VCI’s dual format release of Ruby via MVD Entertainment Group also boasts a (noticeably soft, though I’m not sure if that’s intentional) 2k transfer of the film. Special features on the release include:

  • A 2001 David Del Valle interview with Curtis Harrington
  • Two episodes of Sinister Image circa 1988 featuring additional David Del Valle interviews with Harrington
  • Commentary track with Harrington and Piper Laurie
  • Commentary track with Del Valle and Harrington expert, Nathan Bell
  • Liner notes by Nathan Bell
  • The original trailer restored in HD

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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