ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS

Dir: Mark Hartley

RatPac Entertainment, Australia, 2014

Starring: Menaheim Golan and Yoram Globus


The American Dream, but with more aliens, explosions and tits.

If you’re a fan of ‘70s and ‘80s shlock, B-movies, action or horror then the chance of you having seen a film belonging to the Cannon Films oeuvre will be in the neighbourhood of 99.9%. Headed predominantly by impulsive movie-mogul cousins, Menaheim Golan and Yoram Globus (essentially the Israeli progenitors of the Weinsteins), the company emigrated from the Middle-East to the U.S. with the sole purpose of infiltrating the American market by making and dispersing as many films as possible. American Dream? Challenge accepted. Just a couple of Cannon’s notable successes, misfires and bizarre incantations that fall somewhere in-between include: the futuristic sci-fi musical, The Apple (1980); the world’s ‘first break-dancing movie’, Breakin’ (1984); a chunk of the controversial Death Wish sequels (1982-1987); a handful of macho Chuck Norris actioners; Tobe Hooper’s utterly insane but inimitably brilliant Lifeforce (1985) and the appallingly shoddy Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) – the failure of which ultimately signalled the end of the company. Electric Boogaloo is a tribute to it all –  great, dreadful or utterly indescribable.

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Golan’ and Globus’ extraordinary ethos was fuelled by their vehement passion for cinema. As Globus himself declares during an archived TV interview: “Cannon is the only film company that loves cinema. We don’t have other hobbies; cinema is our life”. Their passion was such that they allowed any director who was eccentric enough to take a chance with Cannon the creative freedom to make whatever film they wanted, but only as long as the majority of the money was on screen. The subsequent problem being that the quality of the output usually suffered – not that Golan or Globus ever gave a toss.

Their fast and loose work ethics gave rise to an abundance of crazy anecdotes that are shared via an excess of featured interviewees (including Dolph Lundgren, Tobe Hooper, Molly Ringwald and Franco Zeffirelli) who reminisce about how such issues as catering and general welfare of the cast and crew seemed to be of secondary concern when it came to making movies for the cinema-obsessed cousins – the films always came first. One of the most alarming stories being Golan threatening a tired aircraft pilot with an Uzi after he initially refused to complete another take of landing a plane during the filming of Operation Thunderbolt (1977).

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But rather than regress into being too much of an overt indictment of the cousins and their no holds barred method of filmmaking (despite Golan on one occasion being amusingly, albeit harshly, described as “Jabba the Hutt on meth”), Electric Boogaloo is ultimately a celebration of the two Israeli’s unmitigated ambition, mind-blowingly insane films, ephemeral success and disastrous decline. Comparable to the rise and fall of British company Goldcrest Films – whose rise and fall occurred around the same time and under similar circumstances – Cannon’s overnight success began with modestly budgeted films taking in huge profits. But endemic in ‘80s excess, the budgets and the stakes escalated in the hope of even bigger successes which inevitably led to a series of cataclysmic diminishing returns. Though there is little in-depth analysis of the films and that the documentary is inclined on repeating the same point over again – that Golan and Globus were silver-tongued dealers and Hollywood outsiders with an almost complete disregard for the quality of their films – any hint of Electric Boogaloo becoming stale is countered by the breakneck editing that keeps the onscreen schlock and carnage coming at you without relent (thus reflecting the seemingly endless carousel of films that Cannon put out during their time).

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Golan and Globus do not appear in the documentary aside from in archive footage, but in this case, I don’t think it really matters – their absence only allows for the number of wacky anecdotes to add to their rather captivating mystique. Regardless, the brothers decided to sanction their own documentary about Cannon – The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films (2014) – upon being requested to take part in this one. But by the sound of it The Go-Go Boys attempts to gloss over the fact that Cannon’s predominant output was, well, trash. Albeit, highly entertaining trash. Electric Boogaloo on the other hand seems to at least be giving Cannon and its cohorts a fair warts-and-all appraisal without presenting Golan and Globus as clueless fools or negating their sheer enthusiasm for the medium. Essential for cinephiles and fans of genre cinema.

  • Liam Hathaway

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