Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films

You loved director Mark Hartley’s NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION! about the wooly world of Australian cult cinema. You got a big kick out of his MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED!, which zipped through the history of exploitation movies filmed in the Philippines. And you’re going to enjoy, at the very least, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, which details the Cannon pictures of the 1980s produced by “Go Go Boys” Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus.

And it is Golan and Globus, whether in archival footage or as the subject of conversation, who dominate the movie. Cousins who grew up in Tel Aviv worshipping American movies and American movie stars, Golan and Globus bought the fledgling exploitation factory Cannon Group in 1979 and quickly transformed it into one of the biggest independent studios of the 1980s, mostly using ballyhoo, chutzpah, enthusiasm, and millions of dollars they didn’t have. And, of course, schlock.

For what it’s worth, Cannon was ahead of the curve when it came to capitalizing on current trends or even creating them. The reason you couldn’t step into any video rental store during the ‘80s without being surrounded by boxes featuring hooded ninjas was Cannon: ENTER THE NINJA, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION. Cannon made the first breakdancing movies. Cannon made superhero movies when nobody else was. Cannon made Chuck Norris into a major movie star.

Hartley tells these stories through the eyes of practically everyone who ever stepped before or behind a Cannon camera, the most recognizable names being Michael Dudikoff (AMERICAN NINJA), Robert Forster (THE DELTA FORCE), Bo Derek (BOLERO), Dolph Lundgren (MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE), Lucinda Dickey (BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO), Catherine Mary Stewart (THE APPLE), Richard Chamberlain (KING SOLOMON’S MINES), Molly Ringwald (KING LEAR), Franco Nero (ENTER THE NINJA), and Elliott Gould (OVER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE).

Those actors and others, plus an assortment of writers, directors, producers, editors, and even the guys reading the scripts, appear downright gleeful to discuss their adventures in Cannonland, usually while acting out an impression of the mercurial Golan. The Go Go Boys declined to talk to Hartley’s cameras. Aside from them, the most notable absence is Norris, one of Cannon’s three big contract stars (Dudikoff and the late Charles Bronson being the others).

Some of the participants are quite candid, and ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is at its best when it’s dishing dirt on stars like MATA HARI’s Sylvia Kristel (hooked on alcohol and coke), SAHARA’s Brooke Shields (Golan somehow thought the wooden actress would win an Oscar), and Sharon Stone (hated by all, including her co-star Chamberlain). Most of the tales are told about Golan, the creative half of the Golan-Globus duo, the one with the largest ego and the worst taste.

Hartley also covers Cannon’s rare non-junk productions, such as BARFLY and RUNAWAY TRAIN, but doesn’t get as much as I would like into the company’s odd mixture of prestigious art film (by directors like Godard, Cassavetes, and Barbet Schroeder) and bad-taste comedies and action pictures. If ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is at all disappointing, it’s that Cannon’s output — as junky as it was — rarely plumbed the outrageous depths of the Australian and Filipino productions covered in Hartley’s earlier documentaries.


Ed said...

Great review, can't wait for this to come out in the U.S.

Grant said...

I may be the only one who likes Cannon films mainly due to their COMEDIES. Especially ALIEN FROM L.A. and A MAN and NAMED SARGE, which is a sort of RAT PATROL parody, with Marc Singer as the German commander! And yes, he manages to be pretty funny.