Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Electric Boogaloo - box artDirector: Mark Hartley

Writer: Mark Hartley

Cast: Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Bo Derek, Richard Chamberlain, Cassandra Peterson, Luigi Cozzi, Sybil Danning, Franco Neri

Cert: 15

Running time: 106mins

Year: 2014


The lowdown: If the names Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus evoke nostalgic memories guzzling down bad action movies, Electric Boogaloo is for you. If a warts n’ all look at the unbelievable ride of Hollywood’s last true hustlers gets you excited, Electric Boogaloo is for you. If you want the behind the scenes skinny on such great bad movies as Invasion USA, Breakin’, Enter the Ninja III: Domination, Over The Top and Superman IV, then Electric Boogaloo is for you. You’ll never look at Clyde the Orangutan the same way again…

Golan And GlobusElectric Boogaloo - Cannon Films logo

The full verdict: For some the Cannon logo is a hexagonal symbol of glorious cinematic tackiness and shameless fun.

Throughout the 1980s Cannon Films meant action, adventure, explosions, sex, nudity – served up no-frills but with irrepressible energy. And, if like this reviewer, you had a Murphy’s Law poster on your bedroom wall in the late 80s, you knew Cannon Films was overseen by Golan & Globus.

It is this duo of self-styled moguls that director Hartley focusses his enthusiasm on, completing an unofficial trilogy of hilarious and insightful documentaries begun with Not Quite Hollywood! and Machete Maidens Unleashed!

Electric Boogaloo positions larger than life Menahem Golan, who made Harvey Weinstein look like a model of Buddhist self-control, as “the godfather of Israeli film”, having a hand in 3 out of 4 movies released in Israel.

But, Golan and cousin Yoram Globus (the business mind to Golan’s showmanship bravado), both obsessed with movies from an early age, craved global recognition. Which meant relocating to Hollywood.

Lemon Popsicle, the first instalment of the infamous Lemon Popsicle series, made Golan-Globus a fortune when it was seen by approximately half of Israel.

Fitting that an undisciplined, disposable, franchise starting teen sex comedy of dubious taste gave them the capital to purchase Cannon, as it defined the studio’s output over their turbulent ten year reign.

Golan always searched for something shamelessly populist, the reason why breakdance movie Breakin’ was unleashed on the world (to a tidy $56m profit), plus the inevitable sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

With rushed scripts, corner cutting production, and exploitation philosophy, Golan and Globus presided over films that quickly gave Cannon a tarnished reputation for schlock not even Roger Corman had.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover had little Lawrence but lots of a coked-up Sylvia Kristel (as did the later Mata Hari). Sahara was supposed to be Cannon’s Lawrence of Arabia but was as dull as counting grains of sand. And as for Mad Max rip-off American 3000 – actress Laurene Landon burns her copy mid-interview.

Hartley ignores the company’s clearly dodgy politics, resurrecting the Death Wish franchise with Cannon director par excellence Michael Winner, out-Reagan’ing Rambo with Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action series and the delirious right wing revisionism of The Delta Force.

Electric Boogaloo - Death Wish IVElectric Boogaloo - Missing in Action

Plus, by sticking to his thesis that Cannon distributed almost nothing but big screen duds (they did) he ignores the tidy business these movies did on home video, the grindhouse theatre of the 1980s.

But, the director convincingly argues Hollywood shunned “the Go-Go Boys” as zero taste immigrant outsiders sullying the good name of Tinseltown, simply because Golan and Globus did not care to drape a veneer of respectability over their huckstering.

So toxic was Cannon’s reputation that anything they handled of artistic value was tainted. Balancing this is Franco Zeffirelli, beside himself with admiration for Golan & Globus for providing him the opportunity to shoot Otello. And Cannon Producer John Thompson declares if any other studio had released Runaway Train the film would be regarded as a classic.

Hartley makes room for Cannon’s over-reaching acquisition of Thorn EMI, which gave Golan & Globus a library of over 2,000 movies plus the ABC cinema chain, swiftly renamed Cannon.

As with all Icarus tales, it finally comes crashing down when Golan ignores his business model and sinks tens of millions into flops such as Over The Top, Superman IV and Masters of the Universe.

Plus dodgy financials that Hartley addresses briefly, presumably so as not to attract too many lawsuits.

Electric Boogaloo - Over the Top posterOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As enthusiastic as the director is about his subjects, he does not soft pedal interviewees’ comments, with Bo Derek, Richard Chamberlain, Franco Nero and Cassandra Peterson among many others lambasting the, as Derek puts it, “Outlaws – men with no scruples”.

Neither Golan nor Globus elected to be appear, instead making their own documentary “The Go-Go Boys”, which in true Cannon fashion beat this movie to release by three months.

Space is made for “you couldn’t make it up” anecdotes including Golan pitching a movie idea to Clyde the Orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose, asking his Head of Publicity “would you f*ck this monkey” and telling Clyde’s agent he’s undecided whether the monkey will have to talk.

Yet, the (now departed) Golan and Globus have the last laugh. Their films are still ported over to every new format (fret not, you can buy a Masters of the Universe Blu-ray) and continue to be licensed on TV channels and download services

And as Electric Boogaloo states, Cannon’s spirit can be felt in such action schlock as Olympus Has Fallen and The Expendables. But, those films are nowhere near as much fun as their 80s predecessors.

Or Hartley’s riotous, flavourful documentary.

Rob Daniel

[youtube id=”B5nKFvQ8gIM”]