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Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Over The Top"
4 stars

The film industry has always attracted its share of crazy dreamers who have yearned to create great and lasting works of art designed to entertain and enlighten audiences around the world. It also attracts a large number of barely disguised hucksters who are in it for nothing more than a fast buck or two and will cheerfully go to any lengths to convince potential viewers to fork them over. In the case of cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the pursuit of art and money proved to be equally irresistible lure and as the co-heads of Cannon Films, they attempted to shove their way into the world cinema scene with a collection of productions that ran the gamut from avant-garde Shakespeare adaptations to violent B-movie vehicles for the likes of Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris to stuff that pretty much defies any rational explanation. In the end, it didn't work but their efforts made for one hell of a ride that has been chronicled in the entertaining new documentary "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films."

The film charts the rise of the two Israeli-born cousins who joined forces in 1965 to begin producing a number of films in their home country--Golan handled the creative aspects while Globus stuck to the business end--that met with great success with one, 1964's "Sailah," receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Yearning to break into the international market and flush with cash after a couple of big hits, they purchased the British distribution company The Cannon Group and made their big move. Their first efforts were not particularly notable--when the infamously campy sci-fi musical "The Apple" premiered with a giveaway of the soundtrack album, audience members began hurling their records at the screen in disgust--but after a while they struck gold with a string of cheaply made and hugely profitable exploitation films such as "The Last American Virgin," "Death Wish 2," "Missing in Action," the Lou Ferrigno version of "Hercules" and the infamously title "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo." Fueled by a concurrent boom in the home video industry and its insatiable need for product, Golan and Globus turned crap into gold and helped to create a new cottage industry at the same time. Many of these films were junk, of course, but they had a weirdo energy to them that could not be denied--who else would dream up a film in which an aerobics instructor found herself possessed by the spirit of a vengeful ninja and transform it into the likes of "Ninja III--The Domination"?

However, in much the same way that Roger Corman found himself distributing the works of Fellini, Bergman and Truffaut at the same time he was putting out women-in-prison sagas, Golan was equally obsessed with attaching his name to films with higher artistic aims and before long, he was producing and distributing films by such notables as John Cassavetes ("Love Streams"), Robert Altman ("Fool for Love") and Franco Zefferelli ("Otello") who could not get the major studios to take a chance on their chancier projects. In one of the most infamous examples, he put together an adaptation of "King Lear" that was to be have been written by Norman Mailer (who soon bolted this project, though Cannon did finance his adaptation of his own novel "Tough Guys Don't Dance") and which was directed by Jean-Luc Godard (who reportedly never read the play) and which included the likes of Molly Ringwald, Burgess Meredith, Julie Delpy, Leos Carax and Woody Allen in its cast. Not only did he make these types of films, he went out and sold them with the same fervor that he deployed when hyping the likes of "Invasion U.S.A." It couldn't last, of course, and the combination of a lack of any gigantic smash hit at the box office, a desire to compete with the bigger studios that led to spiraling budgets (they paid Sylvester Stallone the highest salary for a single film at the time to appear in the arm-wrestling epic "Over the Top") and the eventual cratering of the home video market that had proven to be their lifeline for so long led to the demise of Cannon and the acrimonious split of Golan and Globus at the end of the decade. (Bizarrely enough, the two would each go off to make their own lambada-related film in order to cash in on that craze--the two projects opened on the same day and cancelled each other out.)

Put together by Mark Hartley, who explored the histories of other alternative cinemas in the documentaries "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation" and "Machete Maidens Unleashed!," "Electric Boogaloo" examines the Cannon story through interviews with numerous participants in their films, all of whom have an insane story or two to tell. We learn that the then practically unknown Sharon Stone was given the female lead in their ghastly remake of "King Solomon's Mines" because Golan insisted on casting "that Stone woman" and nobody realized he meant Kathleen Turner, who had just appeared in the hit "Romancing the Stone." Then there is the legendary tale of how Barbet Schroeder, having learned that Golan was getting cold feet about producing "Barfly," turned up at Golan's office with a power tool and threatened to start lopping off his fingers until he agreed to put up the money. Of course, there are also a generous selection of clips from the studio's output that will leave viewers with an intense desire to see them in their entirety, at least until they realize that in many cases, the clips are more entertaining than the actual films.

As someone who more or less grew up watching Cannon's output--both the arty stuff and the crap--on cable and on video during the 80's, I was entertained throughout by "Electric Boogaloo." I do wish that it had delved a little more into the backstories of films like "King Lear," "Tough Guys Don't Dance" and Tobe Hooper's apocalyptic space vampire extravaganza "Lifeforce," if only because they are personal favorites of mine, but concessions presumably had to be made or the film could have gone on for another two hours. (In fact, the Cannon story has also been told in a second documentary, "The Go-Go Boys," that was made at the same time as this one, mirroring the Lambada imbroglio. That quibble aside, "Electric Booglaoo" is a fun and fascinating romp through popular culture at its goofiest that most film fans, especially those with a taste for the outré, will thoroughly enjoy.

"Electric Boogaloo" is getting only a brief theatrical run--it is only screening in Chicago this Thursday night--before appearing on DVD a couple of weeks from now. The DVD version adds to the fun with an additional 25 minutes of deleted scenes, covering such topics as the super-sleazy Charles Bronson film "10 to Midnight," Cannon's doomed attempts to get a "Spider Man" movie into production and what they did manage to achieve with their take on "Captain America," as well as a half-hour of trailers for some of the studio's craziest efforts, including the aforementioned "The Apple," the Bo Derek sexploitation item "Bolero" and "Superman IV--The Quest for Peace," a film so bad that even "Man of Steel" looks good by comparison. For those with a little more money to spend, there is also a box set that includes the documentary and 9 Cannon productions, including "Missing in Action," "Invasion U.S.A.," "Cobra" and "Masters of the Universe."

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=27674&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/16/15 05:01:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 London Film Festival For more in the 2014 London Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2014 Fantastic Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2015 San Francisco International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  18-Sep-2015 (R)

UK
  05-Jun-2015 (18)

Australia
  06-Oct-2014 (M)


Directed by
  Mark Hartley

Written by
  Mark Hartley

Cast
  (documentary)



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