Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) – A Review

Cannon Films was a staple for moviegoers in the 1980’s. When you saw a movie carrying that Cannon logo you knew you were going to see a cheaper, cheesy alternative to shiny expensive Hollywood blockbusters. Thanks to the rise of cable television, the popularity of VHS and foreign sales, Cannon managed a foothold into the film business filling a niche and turning a profit.

The studio focused more on quantity than quality, implementing an assembly line-type of business model that proved a success. With their roster of stars (mainly being Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson) and their low-budget, poorly made and quickly shot genre movies, Cannon became a much more successful – albeit unique – brand than anyone might have ever imagined.

The wild business practices of Israeli cousins Menaham Golan and Yoram Globus who headed Cannon have become the stuff of legend. Globus was the businessman and Golan was the moviemaker. Together they would become power players in the business, overseeing a profitable run for the studio.

Rather than sticking small, Cannon grew and expanded too quickly for their own good. Their attempts to compete with big-budget A-pictures resulted in failure and their business model of cheap and fast would lead to Cannon’s demise.

Sybil Danning & Ingrid in 1983’s Hercules

The amount of films that came from them is staggering. Even though Cannon existed for a fraction of the time of some of the major Hollywood studios, the amount of their product that came flooding out is impressive. Golan and Globus envisioned a huge movie library of films branded with their names and they sure did make that happen!

Of course with so many films, they’re all not going to be good. In fact, most weren’t, but that was almost the point and part of the charm of Cannon Films.

“Usually a bad idea only happens once or twice. These were bad ideas on a regular basis.”

I love this documentary!

Enter the Ninja 1981 Cannon Films Franco Nero Susan George

Electric Boogaloo details the rise and fall of Cannon. It’s a very quick paced, funny and very informative look at the studio. Director Mark Harley (who also directed similar documentaries on other aspects of B-Cinema, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! and Machete Maidens Unleashed!) manages to cover a whole lot of history and films from Cannon.

It also ends up having an inspiring edge to it too. Golan and Globus weren’t the most brilliant pair to venture into the movie business, but somehow their passion, tenacity, drive and their lifelong love of movies helped propelled them to prosperity.

So, they weren’t the most cultured connoisseurs of cinema, but what they lacked in taste they made up for that by being temperamental, mean, bullish and their bizarre personalities and salesmanship skills helped them to get movies made.

Bo Derek Bolero 1984 Cannon Films

The roster of people that we hear from about their Cannon experiences is really impressive! Along with writers, editors, directors, producers, filmmakers, business folk who were associated with Cannon there’s a huge list of more recognizable names who also spent time under the roof of Cannon and alongside Golan and Globus.

Sybil Danning, John G. Avildsen, Robert Forster, Richard Chamberlain, Dolph Lundgren, Catherine Mary Stewart, Alex Winter, Tobe Hooper, Cassandra Petersen, Marina Sirtis, Franco Nero, Molly Ringwald, Elliot Gould, Bo Derek, Michael Dudikoff, Olivia d’abi. It’s a real extensive list!

Golan and Globus weren’t expert filmmakers by any stretch. As one person describes them as having no taste and not really understanding or accepting the quality of the films they were making.

One amusing anecdote is how Golan was convinced their 1985 Brooke Shields film Sahara would sweep at the Oscars, while everyone else around just stared with wide-eyed disbelief at the very idea and saw the film as the trash it really was. Optimism or plain delusion….who can tell???

It’s hysterical to hear from those who worked on Cannon Films recount their experiences. There is real honesty from everyone about their time they spent at working with them. The kind of films they were making, what they were asked to do, their interactions with Golan and Globus, it’s an endless barrage of stories that illustrates Cannon was not only a film factory – but an incredibly wacky one!

America 3000 1986 Cannon Films

It doesn’t seem like anyone has any illusions that they were making great art back then. Cannon had a notorious reputation even at the time and no one tries to paint a brighter picture of what those type of films are today. It was a schlock factory.

There’s no sugarcoating of perspectives here. Everyone sits back, laughs, shakes their heads, share their disappointment or some express anger about some of their personal tales.

Actress Laurene Landon who starred in the 1986 post-apocaclytic comedic fantasy America 3000 actually pulls out a copy of the film and sets it on fire. She didn’t enjoy working at Cannon very much. It was a crazy time working for not the most professional studio or men.

While watching I felt had we gotten to spend more time with everyone there would have been even more compelling tales that would come from them. Getting just a taste of some of the wacky behind-the-scenes stories about some Cannon ‘classics’ like Bolero, Lifeforce, Death Wish 3, Hercules, The Apple, King Soloman’s Mines and Ninja III: The Domination are so entertaining. They could have kept going with more stories about the productions of each of them and I would have been fully engrossed!

There is an element of respectability Cannon did try to muster with certain films they made. Acclaimed directors were offered creative control over projects and it was too enticing for them to pass up.

John Frankenheimer, John Cassavetes, Herbert Ross, Barbet Schroeder, Franco Zeffirelli and others brought a bit dignity to Cannon and were appreciative of the opportunity. Of course, those films were a rarity, not Cannon’s bread and butter and didn’t change the perception of what being a ‘Cannon Film’ signaled.

The Cannon library of films is only one part of the story. The business practices of Golan and Globus and how they went about selling their products is a fascinating tale on its own. While making a big show and selling their movies at Cannes they simply would sell a movie based on a poster with no script or stars attached. One the sale was made they’d worry about actually wring and filming the movie. It’s very funny stuff. They were great salesmen – or hustlers as others describe them.

The kicker to all of this, is that despite Golan and Globus being Hollywood outsiders and the films they made were for the most part “junk”, they still managed to find a great level of success. It’s almost like an Ed Wood story, only with much higher peaks.

Electric Boogaloo Wild Untold Story Cannon Films documentary 2014 Menahem Golan Yoram Globus

It’s a very well made nostalgic look back at Cannon. It has fun showing their cost cutting excursions with their movies, but also explains just how they kept going for so long as long as they did.

By the end when Cannon’s demise arrives it is sad to see them go. I am always left thinking, had they survived what kind of films would we be seeing from them today.

There still are plenty of small studios that specialize in releasing cheap schlock movies, but none have come close to reaching the level of success that Cannon managed and all the glorious trashy movies they left us with. That’s Cannon’s legacy. Electric Boogaloo is a terrific account of that story.

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1 Response

  1. spaceodds says:

    A great documentry, in fact one of my most favourite documentries on film history. An energetic documentry that is neutral in its approach and entertaining due to the anecdotes of the interviewees. When a friend of mine broguht be back a blu-ray copy of Death Wish 2 and III on the Cannon Double Bill label, one of the special features are interviews with the guy who penned Death Wish 2, one of the producers, and the actress who played Kersey’s daughter. Also there is an interview with Alex Winter (Bill from Bill and Ted) who was in Death Wish III and he goes into entertaining detail on how and why Cannon became what they became, and he also goes into detail on what it was like to work on the set with the Cannon moguls and Michael Winner, whom he described as a charming manchild who behaved like a man who had something to hide behind his bravado. An interesting listen.

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