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).
Boogaloo 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.
The 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: firstname.lastname@example.org