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Published on December 1st, 2015 | by Craig Silliphant

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Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films isn’t as wild as the title suggests, but it’s a highly engrossing look at Cannon Films.

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When I see the Cannon Films logo, I’m instantly transported back to the video stores and sleepovers of my youth. As kids growing up in the 70s and 80s, Cannon Films were aimed right at us, that is to say, less discerning movie watchers (ie: dumb kids). They were often explosive and weirdly imaginative, while simultaneously showcasing an uncanny lack of quality or attention to detail. We brought home VHS tapes from the mall and dined on breakdancing movies, sex romps (with boobs!), and ninja flicks and action cheapies where Chuck Norris and Sho Kosugi (and maybe Michael Dudikoff) kept thugs at bay.

Cannon Films pumped out content at an insane rate in those years, always trying to tap into pop culture, yet often cutting corners drastically, resulting in a lot of subpar fare. There’s an old joke that seems apropos when you talk about Cannon: “The bad news is, all we have to eat is shit. The good news? There’s plenty of it.”

Electric Boogaloo (whose name is taken from the subpar sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) tells the story of the rise and fall of Cannon. Two Israeli-born cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who grew up watching American movies, started the company. In a weird way, the cousins and their American dream will quickly remind you of a schlocky, Bizarro World version of the Weinstein Brothers and Miramax Films.

The movie is full of great inside sources giving hilarious and telling anecdotes that give you a window not only into Cannon, but also pop culture of the period, Hollywood ins and outs, and even things like junk bond financing. Best are the stories of how the cousins played fast and loose, while also maintaining a healthy lack of self-awareness and a tin ear for American idioms.

The cousins could sell a film, often just based on a half-baked idea and some poster art, and at least once, by pitching to a monkey. But the odd thing was that they thought many of the films they did push out were bound for Oscar glory. Brooke Shields won a Razzie Award for her role in Sahara, an overblown, Frankensteined mix of Lawrence of Arabia, The Blue Lagoon, and The Great Race. This is, after all, the Cannon way — a movie that resembles something great, but without the execution, and especially without good taste. Golan and Globus were a weird contradiction — guys who loved cinema, but didn’t seem to care about the actual quality of what they released.

While the film tells some raging and epic yarns, the documentary itself is fairly standard in terms of the execution. There’s some file footage, some talking heads, and some nice titles, but nothing that pushes it beyond similar fare into stylish The Kid Stays in the Picture territory. For a movie with the word ‘wild’ in the title, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s also worth noting that the film doesn’t get access to Golan and Globus, though there is a funny explanation that makes total sense (I don’t want to ruin it, so I’ll let the movie tell that story).

As a funny side note, when I was writing this, I realized that Electric Boogaloo reminded me a lot of the entertaining 2008 documentary about the Aussie exploitation film industry of the 70s and 80s, not just because the subject was similar, but also because the doc itself felt the same. I looked up the title of that earlier movie for this review and laughed when I found out it’s called Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!  And of course, I then found that both movies were directed by the same guy — Mark Hartley.

All that said, there’s nothing wrong with being a solid and reliable source of information and there’s no need for every documentary to be brilliantly executed in some stylish orgy of cinematic ideas. The story is well laid out in workmanlike fashion and the anecdotes Hartley uncovers are highly amusing. The bottom line is, I eat stuff like this up. So Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a must see for anyone who loves movies, regardless of whether you grew up watching Cannon releases or not.

 

 

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About the Author

Craig Silliphant

is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.



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