Goliath and the Cheerleaders (1986)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Star Godzilla

Nature Trail to Hell

Director's Cut

The Dellon Godhead

A Very Star Wars Christmas

Goliath and the Cheerleaders

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

Mitchell receives his punishment
for misspelling "pom pon."
After a career filled with cut-rate action and plenty of pasta, Gordon Mitchell returns to the big screen to embarrass himself one last time in Goliath and the Cheerleaders. This film can be seen as the last, tired gasp of the Italian sword and sandal genre, coming a year after the twin cinematic disasters that were the Ferrigno Hercules films.

Probably best known for appearing in some of the mythological hero films that followed in the wake of Steve Reeves' Hercules films, Mitchell’s later career was as a second (or third... or fourth) banana in a long string of bad Italian films, like Rush (1983). After a while, his roles narrowed to those of swaggering villains. Goliath and the Cheerleaders, however, marked his return to being a hero, if only for a little while.

Returning from visit to neighboring Freedonia, Goliath, greatest hero of Pompeii and a remote relative of Hercules (which explains why this film was released in some territories as Hercules’ Fifth Cousin Three Times Removed vs. the Cheerleaders), finds that Pompeii has been conquered by cheerleaders while he was gone.

"You should see me do
one-handed push-ups!"
It may seem a little anachronistic, but this kind of thing happened quite often in ancient times. Cheerleading is a much older institution than most people think. And in the old days, it wasn’t just short skirts and fundraisers. It goes all the way back to the founding of Rome itself. Everyone knows that Rome was established by Romulus and Remus around 750 BCE. But why? It turns out that they were urged on in their endeavors by a group of colorfully dressed women. (That those women were wearing short skirts was immaterial, because everyone wore short skirts back then) While the early kings were the public faces of authority, the cheerleaders were the real power. But with the establishment of the Republic, the cheerleaders had to operate in secrecy, which was a bit difficult because they were all extroverts dressed in gaudy colors. The pompons were also a dead giveaway. But as the Roman Empire declined, the cheerleaders became bolder. Sometimes they would conquer entire cities. Usually, this was accomplished by the cheerleaders jumping up and down in front of the defending army, and urging it to go in the other direction with megaphones. This worked more often than you’d think. What do you expect from a bunch of guys wearing skirts?

"This routine is too complicated!
We'll never make it to Nationals!"
Learning of the uprising of cheerleaders in his own city, Goliath teams up with his old ally Davey (har har), and vows to free Pompeii. Although the two gladiators score some initial victories against their overly-coiffed foes, they soon learn that cheerleaders can be deadly opponents, especially in groups. Our favorite scene included the Pyramid of Death, in which the perky ladies stack themselves on one another’s shoulders and advance on our dumbfounded heroes. After a long battle, Goliath discovers the depths to which cheerleaders will sink to get what they want, and the twist ending that reveals the secret mastermind behind the cheerleaders' plan (hint: look at their chests) is quite the shocker.

From the moment this movie begins, it’s obvious that we’re looking at a super-low budget Italian picture. Not only do most of the cast members have Italian names, but director Sciocco Di Aprile has stacked the crew with his pals as well. Not that that would have bothered Mitchell, as many of his early films were made in the lovely hills of Italy. Despite the lush surroundings, however, the lack of money on the producers’ part is plain from the meager costumes (an important part of both Roman gladiator movies and cheerleading, you’ll admit), limited locations, and almost total lack of coverage. Every conversation takes place as either a long shot or as alternating talking heads.

She smiles pretty, but she's
just yanking your chain.
Only a true movie curmudgeon, however, could really hate this movie’s concept: it’s gladiators and cheerleaders, for Pete’s sake! Two of the best movies from this past summer featured those very things! It’s too bad the execution was so poor -- Mitchell looks as if he’s about to have a coronary and the cheerleaders are pushing 30. No one’s winning any awards for dialogue either, even with classic lines like "Give me back my pom-pons or I’ll make you eat that metal skirt!"

On the other hand, we’re well aware that many of our readers are actively looking for films with which to punish themselves or their friends. With that in mind, we can whole-heartedly recommend this movie for a late-night screening with dear friends. Its low-budget charm and loopy premise are sure to please b-movie fans, and some of the cheerleading scenes simply must be seen to be believed.

Let’s warn off those of you who actually like good movies, though: this isn’t one of them. You really have to be one of those people who appreciate English dialogue dubbed over the lips of Italian actors to get anything but confusion and pain from Goliath and the Cheerleaders.

Some day we’ll get a movie that combines the excitement of gladiatorial combat with the rah-rah feel-good dance moves of cheerleading, but for now you’ll just have to trust us: today is not that day.

Review date: 04/01/2001

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