Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cherry Hill High (1977)

Directed by Alex E. Goitein
Starring Nina Carson, Lynn Hastings, Gloria Upson, Stephanie Lawlor, Linda McInerney
Rated R
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Cherry Hill High is the directorial debut from the visionary genius behind Cheerleaders Beach Party (1978). It's a simple story about five recent high school gradates out on a two-week bicycle tour with one of their former teachers, Miss Woodruff (Linda McInerney). On their first night on the road, the girls discuss sex around a crackling campfire and discover that they have something in common: they're all virgins. The seemingly repressed Miss Woodruff shocks her young charges when she suggests they have a contest - whoever gets deflowered in the most novel manner before the trip is over wins. And so, the formerly tame bicycle tour turns into a lascivious romp into the dark, lusty heart of teen sexuality, circa 1977. Well, that's the plan, anyway. It's still a pretty tame tour, but at least now there's the promise of booby-flash.

Refreshingly free of unnecessary subplot, Cherry Hill High goes about its horny work with great economy. Every scene following the set-up is dedicated specifically to getting its protagonists laid. First one to go is Kippy (Carrie Olsen), who runs into a loudmouth shark wrangler named Abalone. Abalone, it seems, has trained a shark named Hustler to wrestle him nightly at a local...well, it looks like a local swimming pool. It's a very lucrative scam, apparently.
"I raised him in the pool meself," Abalone brags. "He's a pool shark."
Kippy and her mustached lover have sex in the pool. In the shark cage, no less, with Hustler swimming hungrily around them. Kippy, being a virgin, bleeds. Blood is not in Hustler's contract. Abolone is forced to stab his pet shark to death before he eats them both.

So, Kippy scores pretty high on that one.

Next to spread 'em is Peaches (Gloria Upson), who attracts the leader of a biker gang as she's bent over on the side of the road, attempting to fix her bicycle. The two take off together and end up stripping down in a breezy meadow.

When the biker pops off his helmet, it turns out he's actually a woman. This offers no initial problems for Peaches - it is 1977, after all - but the rest of the girls are concerned about the lack of penis involved. So, two scenes later, Peaches bangs some dude in his car during a demolition derby. That one, they give a thumbs-up to.

The girls stop off in a small town and Michelle, the 'French' one (the decidedly non-French sounding Lynn Hastings), meets a dude with sharp fingernails and a Bela Lugosi accent. He, of course, knows where they can all stay tonight. Nice place, a mansion, in fact, may be haunted!

After an interminable scene where teach and Frenchy Scooby Doo around the mansion, Michelle finally meets up with Dracula Jr. and they fuck in a coffin.

Later still, they stop at a winery and the girls soak each other with the red stuff while their teacher wanders off with the suave wine guy. She has sex with him while a flamenco guitar plays. In a pile of grapes, no less. Who could resist?

Meanwhile, the girls strip down to their underwear and continue to pour wine on each other. And then they wash their wine-soaked clothes in the river. Finally, boner time!
Ah, but the multi-topless frolic scene is short-lived, as we must return to this stupid fucking contest.

Sarah (Nina Carson) runs into a guy in a Big Bird outfit. No reason, he's just there.
He's an extra on a game show called It's a Big Deal, an obvious rip-off of the legendary Monty Hall-hosted Let's Make a Deal.
"Are you the booby prize?" She asks Big Bird.
"Sometimes a booby. Always a prize!" He says. "Cluck cluck!" He clucks a lot, this guy.
He gives her a backstage tour of the show, ending, as you would, with his nest. Nature takes its inexorable course. A few minutes later, the curtain goes up and naturally, the crowd sees them having sex.
"Oh, that fucking chicken!" Says the host.

Allison (Stephanie Lawlor) is the last virgin left, but she's in love with Larry, a lowly telephone installer from back home, so who knows if she'll do anything. But then, very suddenly, a UFO drops down, and a bug-eyed alien comes out and fetches her. He brings her back onto his spaceship and starts rubbing her arm.
Outside the spaceship, the girls applaud.
"Now that's sexy!" Says Peaches. "Far out!"
Inside, Sarah rebuffs the spaceman.
"Is it because I'm blue?" He asks.
"No, it's because I'm in love."
This cracks the spaceman up. And then he pulls off his head. It's a mask. Holy smokes, it's that fuckin' dimwit Larry.
"It can't get anymore original than this," Larry says. He's got a point there. "You're sure to win the contest now."
"I don't want it to be like this," she tells him, "all gimmicky and weird."
Good lord, what's a guy gotta do to bang this chick?

Increasingly long story short, Larry, it turns out, doesn't really work for the phone company. He's really some rich asshole with a castle. He was just pretending to be an aw-shucks guy to find a 'real' girl. They split. The film ends with a reunion of the whole gang on a yacht, where Miss Woodruff decides who won the contest. Turns out that true love always wins out over lust. Really? Even in 1977?

The premise of Cherry Hill High was rife with possibility. It is, after all, the exact same plot as a thousand late 70's porn flicks. But the film suffers from a gauzy, Euro-porn shooting style - there are too many establishing shots of the girls gliding their 10-speeds down dirt paths, too many close-ups of indeterminate body parts during the sex scenes, and too few money shots to satisfy fans of teen-skin or 70's sleaze. On the positive side, the girls are all attractive, if a tad underfed (Stephanie Lawlor, in particular, is an absolute knockout), there are numerous 70's-intensive pop culture references (Peaches has a CB radio attached to the handlebars of her bicycle!), and the soundtrack has some satisfyingly raucous tracks from obscure mid-70's hard rock band Sweet Freedom.

Cherry Hill High had a decent run in drive-ins during the summer of '77, and did well enough for Goitein to make Cheerleaders Beach Party a year later, utilizing much of the same cast and crew. Greg Michaels, the actor who played Pile Driver, the demolition derby dude, went on to a short-lived career in porn (he appears in 1980's Sex Boat!), but neither director Goitein nor any of the girls in the cast continued making films after 1978. Both films received spotty VHS releases in the 80's, but have slipped into obscurity in the past 20 years. A pity, because they represent the lighter side of 70's skinema; in a genre that often went for full-bore, tits-out gonzo, Goitein's flirty little films were positively gentle. One parting criticism, though: in a film lousy with shots of girls-on-bicycles, there isn't one shot from the rear-view. Not one. As anyone who ever bought Queen's 1978 epic Jazz - the vinyl version, with the pull-out poster off the all-nude bicycle race - will tell you, there is no image quite as glorious as a fat-bottomed girl on a ten-speed. Shame on you, Mr. Goitein.

Availability: Cherry Hill High is available on VHS.
Buy Cherry Hill High at Amazon.
-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thing, I knew I'd seen the teacher before. Turns out she modeled lingerie in the Sears catalogs during this period......I thought she was the most attractive.


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