Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (MIFF 2014)

Mark Hartley’s unofficial trilogy capper to his genre-films documentary series is a worthy successor to his name-making debut: Not Quite Hollywood (2008).

Electric Boogaloo follows the fortunes of two Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, as they come to Hollywood to (as they put it) ‘make American movies’. Developing the floundering Cannon Films, they enjoyed success in the 1980’s pumping a steady stream of B-pictures into the market before imploding in the early 90’s.

Electric Boogaloo - Silver Screen Snobs

Hartley’s film strings together a succession of money shots from some of the more bizarre picks from Cannon’s extensive catalogue. From the softcore sexploitation films that defined Golan’s early efforts to the unbelievably creative (and violent) action films that came to represent the company. Along the way of course there were costume dramas, super-hero pics and musicals. Breaking up the clips are a versatile selection of talking heads from Cannon actors (who were seen as contract players) to all manner of creative talent from behind the scenes.

Golan and Globus themselves refused to participate, but their presence (particularly Menahem) dominates the film through archival footage and the countless anecdotes from the rest of the subjects. Many of the interviewees seem genuinely excited to get these stories out, far from the reprisals of their former employees. Others, like director Franco Zeffirelli are warmly nostalgic whilst cult stars like Dolph Lundgren, Franco Nero and Robert Forster seem wryly amused as they reflect on the craziness of the era. Although Bo Derek and many of the woman interviewed shed some troubling light on their treatment during the break-neck shoots.

Electric Boogaloo - Silver Screen Snobs

The film works as a fascinating look behind the scenes of a genuine outsider company. It feels about a half an hour shorter than its 107 minutes, thanks to just how much damn fun it is to experience these cult ‘classics’ in a fast paced, greatest hits format. It takes many of Cannon’s films to task for their nonsensical plotting and dire effects, whilst never forgetting to celebrate the simple fact that these insane productions actually exist.

Hartley’s leaving documentaries behind now, but we’re lucky to have these three films to shed some light on the darker corners of moviemaking.

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