If “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films” weren’t a true story, it would be the craziest, most savage satire of Hollywood ever put on screen. Actually, the fact that it all actually happened just makes it satirical and hilariously bizarre.
Mark Hartley’s bluntly honest documentary tracks the fortune of two cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who started out making movies in their native Israel before bringing their brash and bullish business model to Hollywood in search of the American Dream.
Through a series of interviews, clips and reminiscences, the film charts the rise, stumble, rise, fall, stubborn rise and eventual collapse of Cannon films. It gallops along at the same crazy pace that Cannon at the height of their powers were churning out movies, never dwelling on any particular triumph or folly for long but there’s always something outrageous or bizarre around the corner so you don’t really mind, you just kind of hang on and enjoy the ride.
Having built their brand and reputation on a steady output of schlocky, exploitative films crammed with violence, gore, nudity and sex, it’s unlikely that any child of the seventies or eighties could honestly claim that Cannon weren’t responsible for some of their formative cinematic experiences or produced some of their current day guilty pleasures. Whether it was giving fading stars like Charles Bronson a whirlwind twilight career boost, creating the legend of Chuck Norris or bringing the concept of the Ninja to mainstream consciousness, their cheap and cheerful sausage factory approach was the perfect synergy with the exploding home video age and for better or worse, they paved the way for many of the players in the movie industry today. From Miramax/ The Weinstein Company to The Asylum, everyone involved in movie production today can either trace their roots to Cannon and even the major studios took notice of Golan/Globus and adapted their business model accordingly.
Ultimately, it seems to have been their ambition to emulate the major studios which was their undoing as they moved into bigger and bigger productions that they couldn’t afford, and their pre-selling business model eventually imploded – but not before it had given us a trio of ‘big’ budget disasters: “Over The Top”, “Masters Of The Universe” and the nadir of superhero movies: “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace”. I’ll defend the insanity of “Lifeforce” ‘til my dying breath, though.
What comes through the documentary is the genuine enthusiasm and sheer moxy of the cousins as they stuck two fingers up to the establishment and rode roughshod over directors, stars and Hollywood convention in the quest to entertain. While not everyone remembers it fondly, it’s hard not to feel a pang of longing for the mad, crazy, outrageous times back then compared to today’s more packaged, homogenized and focus-group accountant driven products.
Whatever else it achieves, “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films” has opened a rabbit hole that I cannot resist plunging down into. There’s a treasure trove of early Cannon films that I’ve never seen and it’s time for a trip to Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’ gratuitously violent, oversexed and overhyped wonderland. I may be some time…