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Wild Boys of ’80s – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Electric 01

By Sotiris Petridis.

Filmmaker Mark Hartley’s (2008’s Not Quite Hollywood, 2010’s Machete Maidens Unleashed!) latest delightful chronicle of B-movie splendor, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, spotlights the story of a production company run by two eccentric Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan (1929-2014) and Yoram Globus (1941- ). Created in 1967 by Dennis Friedland and Chris Dewey, Cannon Films produced a number of low- and medium-budgeted entries, ran out of capital, and in 1979 was sold to Golan and Globus for $500,000. Under their control, the studio’s existence was a guarantee that viewers could find violence, nudity, and profanity in cinema. In usual Hartley fashion, Boogaloo offers a nostalgic tribute to many forgotten cult films while here focusing on one company’s output. There are more than 80 talking heads (actors, writers, directors, editors, and studio execs) analyzing the studio and providing anecdotes about Golan and Globus’ working methods, from their beginnings in Israel producing the 50s-era film Lemon Popsicle (1978, remade as 1982’s The Last American Virgin, also written and directed by Boaz Davidson) to the disaster of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Sidney J. Furie, 1987).

Electric 02Boogaloo presents a film-by-film case study of Cannon’s highs – including John Cassavetes’ Love Streams (1984) and the Oscar-nominated Runaway Train (1985) – and lows, while mainly focusing on Golan’s quirks regarding his dealings with collaborators. We hear from Franco Zeffirelli, who proclaims that Golan and Globus were the best producers he ever worked for (Otello, 1986); Catherine Mary Stuart, star of the futuristic rock musical The Apple (1980), who recounts the film’s disastrous premiere at the Montreal Film Festival; star Richard Chamberlain, discussing the tensions during the making of King Solomon’s Mines (1985, less H. Rider Haggard than an Indiana Jones’ ripoff) and co-star Sharon Stone who was allegedly cast when Golan requested “that Stone woman” – he really meant Romancing the Stone‘s (1984) star, Kathleen Turner. Even if Golan and Globus don’t appear, we see some of their finest moments in footage of them pitching projects and discussing their love of cinema.

Electric 03The two studio heads clearly had an enormous impact on pop-culture. Cannon Films produced the first American ninja film (straightforwardly called American Ninja, 1985) and delivered the breakdance movie hit, Breakin’ (1984), while the sequel (of the same year!) gave this film its title. Cannon Films undertook any genre that could make money, including slasher films, softcore skin flicks, musicals, and gothic horrors, but action films with actors like Charles Bronson, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris became Cannon’s trademark. Hardly opposed to hybrid films, Cannon would offer something like Ninja 3: The Domination (1984), to blend the action movie with Flashdance (1983) and The Exorcist (1973).

It becomes clear that Golan and Globus loved deal-making. Alternating between exploitation pictures and despicable imitations of hits, they amassed a fortune by pioneering “pre-sales” to international markets with foreign distributors paying in advance for films based merely on an idea or a poster. Golan and Globus were masters of this strategy, making them the kings of Cannes for a period. Nevertheless, what almost every talking head in this documentary agrees on is that, while Golan and Globus had doubtful taste and debatable ethics, they both loved their metier. A story of two immigrants who dreamed up a legacy, it’s a documentary for B-movies aficionados and for those seeking a taste of bizarre 1980s cinema.

Sotiris Petridis is a Ph.D. Candidate in Film Studies at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and has been awarded a scholarship from Onassis Foundation for his doctoral studies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies (Aristotle University) and a master’s degree in Art, Law and Economy (International Hellenic University). He is currently teaching Film Theory and Film History at the Institute of Vocational Training in Thessaloniki. Contact: sotospetridis@yahoo.gr

1 Comment for “Wild Boys of ’80s – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

  1. Hermies Purrbuckets

    Golan/Globus aka Cannon, were the worst of the worst in the B-movie exploitation genre, yet a good example of how everything in the 1980s really stunk. Their films pretended to be a combo of imitation Hollywood and low-rent exploitation, but were neither. They were, to a film, sterile, bland cynical, soulless imitations of both product-types they were aping. Real “exploitation” companies like American International, New World Pictures, Hemisphere Pictures, et al, were churning out the real populist drive-in gems, while these hacks were creating corporate “product.” It makes sense that GG/C were primarily dealmakers – they certainly weren’t creative types. I can’t think of anything more mind-numbing that having to sit through one of the Cannon Films of the 1980s, almost in tears when realizing that they were expanding on territory forged in the glorious 1970s, but were offering instead dreadfully boring, eerily sterile clones. Indeed, Cannon Films might be the death of classic exploitation, not one of its prime purveyors as this article seems to suggest. A look at any Cannon Film just screams “Reaganomics,” and I still shudder when I think of stumbling on one of their many cinematic turds during that hellish decade, and thinking about all that had been lost from the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s. I don’t think the company or their god-awful product even deserves a footnote in cinema history, except perhaps as a cultural crime.

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