VOD film review: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films
Matthew Turner | On 05, Jun 2015Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Mark Hartley
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Molly Ringwald, Tobe Hooper, Franco Zeffirelli, Alex Winter
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This hugely entertaining documentary is the third in director Mark Hartley’s exploitation movie-themed trilogy, following 2008’s Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! and 2010’s Machete Maidens Unleashed (about Filipino grindhouse movies). It tells the story of Israeli filmmaker Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus, who took over Cannon films in 1979 and quickly gained a reputation for lowbrow trash, producing a huge number of cheaply made B-movies across a wide range of genres, many of them packed with sex and violence.
Under the influence of the movie obsessives, Cannon also became known for their out-of-control budgets (Stallone was paid over $10 million to make arm-wrestling flop Over The Top) and their unusual marketing practices. In particular, Cannon excelled at the art of pre-selling their films in foreign territories, often by producing a bunch of fake posters and then making whichever films got picked up at Cannes on the strength of them. Ironically, they were somewhat ahead of their time, as pre-selling foreign rights is now standard studio practice.
The structure of the film mirrors that of Hartley’s previous docs: the story is told through a pacily-edited stream of talking heads, including former stars, directors, studio executives and a vast array of employees, all of whom are only too happy to talk about how terrible the movies were, with music supervisor Richard Kraft memorably comparing Cannon’s production line and product to having a bowel movement: “You flush it, you make another one.”
Needless to say, there are a tonne of entertaining anecdotes, the highlight of which involves an account of Golan pitching a feature to its prospective star, Clyde, the orang-utan from Every Which Way But Loose. (“And then you come in, and you save the girl!”)
The talking heads are interspersed with archive footage of Golan and Globus (who declined to appear in the movie, preferring to make their own documentary instead, beating this one to release in true Cannon fashion), as well as a wealth of illustrative clips that will have you seeking out the films in question – Golan’s disastrous science-fiction musical, The Apple, for example, looks unmissable.
Bizarrely, Golan and Globus’ habit of seemingly throwing various genres together and seeing what happened sometimes produced gems, such as Tobe Hooper’s naked space vampire apocalypse thriller Lifeforce (a genuine cult hit) or Ninja III: The Domination, which brilliantly mixes ninja movies, The Exorcist and Flashdance. They also occasionally stumbled into zeitgeist-enhanced hits like 1984’s breakdance movie Breakin’, whose sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, gives Hartley’s film its title.
The majority of Cannon’s output may have been trashy shoot-em-ups like The Delta Force, the Chuck Norris Missing In Action series or the resurrection of the Death Wish series with Chuck Bronson (Cannon locked both Chucks into old-style studio contracts), but they were also capable of surprises, such as funding director John Cassavettes (Love Streams) or working with Franco Zeffirelli (on Otello), who’s one of the few interviewees to have something nice to say about Golan and Globus, proclaiming them the best producers he ever worked with. Indeed, as more than one interviewee points out, they were basically like the Weinsteins, only without taste.
The film also charts the inevitable demise of Cannon, their downfall hastened by the failures of three big budget blockbusters in a row: Over the Top, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe, starring Dolph Lundgren as a mullet-sporting He-Man.
Affectionately directed and frequently funny, this will have you seeking out Cannon fodder in a nostalgia-fuelled haze.