Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, 2014.
Written and Directed by Mark Hartley.
A one-of-a-kind story about two-of-a-kind men who (for better or worse) changed film forever.
“We’re Cannon Films, and we’re dynamite!”
When the Israeli partnership of Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus bought Cannon in 1978, it was a near-bankrupt company but through their unique business models and ability to package exploitation movies likes American Ninja, The Naked Cage and numerous Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson vehicles that would sell to foreign markets, they became the most powerful independent film company in the world.
They hit big in 1984 with Breakin’, a breakdance movie made for $1.5million that grossed over $40million at the worldwide box office, confirming the cousins as “proper” producers, but they always wanted more, piling millions into over 30 films a year (according to Masters of the Universe designer William Stout it was over 80 at one point) in the hope that they would make millions back and become “the company of the future”. Their marketing techniques were bold, brash and expensive, selling their films before it was even made, and in some cases never made, in the hope of having that “event of the century”.
Soon enough, they were signing up as much talent as they could, from award-winning directors (John Frankenheimer, John Cassavettes, Franco Zeferrelli to name but a few) and box-office heavyweights, paying a rumoured $13million to Sylvester Stallone (though many in the film say it was MUCH more) to star in Cobra and Over the Top. They also began to snap up many properties that on paper would be hits: Superman IV and Masters of the Universe, despite the decline of both franchises, and Marvel double Captain America and Spider-Man (though the latter was believed by Golan to be a more figurative Spider Man).
But despite full-page articles in Variety and taking over the Cannes Film Festival every year with massive billboards and posters, many of their “blockbusters” failed miserably at the box-office, and they were soon in debt for millions and slowly going out of business. Love them or loathe them though, Golan and Globus were heavyweights for a few brief moments, and their legacy lives on even now, as Electric Boogaloo shows with adoring embrace.
In a match made in heaven, Hartley, who has made a big name for himself with his two other documentaries on exploitation cinema, Machete Maidens Unleashed and Not Quite Hollywood, has again crafted a brilliantly subjective and fond look at this 80’s stable. With it’s numerous talking heads (Alex Winter, Molly Ringwald, Dolph Lundgren) from everyone to the stars to the people behind them, as well some great archival footage from the period, he has concocted a documentary in the tone of a Cannon film: high voltage and high powered.
Both a broad examination of the company and its habits, but also a loving recollection of the experience of working for Cannon, it’s an infectious, insightful and hugely entertaining film that you will want to watch again almost immediately. Some of the stories seem like fiction, from Golan said he wanted the “Stone woman” for his King Solomon’s Mines (he was expecting to get Romancing the Stone star Kathleen Turner not Sharon Stone, who he confessed to not knowing) to their interview/audition of Manis the orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose to star in the aptly named Going Bananas. Everything at Cannon was giant and bizarre which Hartley embraces, brilliantly balancing the craziness with a real appreciation of what Golan and Globus tried to do, and the result is the year’s most deliriously entertaining documentary.
The only disappointment with the film is the non-involvement of Golan and Globus, who in typical rambunctious style heard about Electric Boogaloo, and decided to quickly turnaround their own version of events in the soon-to-be-released The Go-Go Boys, which premiered at Cannes. Still, their lack of input adds to the quality of the documentary, with all involved almost “let of the leash” in terms of what they can and can’t discuss, forming a much deeper, richer account full of hilarious anecdotes and tales from behind the Cannon walls. A wonderful watch, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a must for all fans of cinema.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★