Cannon Films is one of the main reasons for my life-long love of B-movies. The simple phrase "A Golan-Globus Production" before a flick helped me while away many hours in my youth and even if it didn't always promise much in the way of quality, or even sometimes competence, it usually guaranteed cheap entertainment. This is a studio that brought Chuck Norris to the forefront, gave aging veteran Charles Bronson a second wind as a grey haired ass-kicker and jumped on the latest trends to give us the "let's put on a show!" silliness that is the Breakin' series - this documentary even borrows the sequels sub-title for its name.
In the hands of Mark Hartley you know I was expecting only the best from Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. This is a guy who shined a light on the ozploitation world with Not Quite Hollywood and the low-budget craziness of the Philippines in Machete Maidens Unleashed! His obvious love of films made off the beaten track with more ambition than money has always shined through and, in my personal opinion, he's the perfect person to dig into the machine that was Cannon.
After buying the company in 1979, Israeli producers/cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus somehow managed to gather together a stable of talented (and some not so talented) people to make what really was a circus sideshow of filmmaking. They pretty much brought ninja movies to North American audiences with the likes of Enter the Ninja and the (batshit insane) Ninja III: The Domination, they gave us three completely unnecessary Death Wish sequels, there was the post apocalyptic musical The Apple, Chuck Norris kicking terrorist ass in Invasion U.S.A., the "what were they thinking?" Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling vehicle Over the Top, and even the occasional serious films that squeaked in there such as Runaway Train and Tough Guys Don't Dance. And that's just to mention a few. These are guys who dug to the bottom-of-the-barrel to make a buck and were incredibly successful at it - at least until their egos overshadowed their product.
Golan and Globus were shysters and promoters to the first degree and that's the main focus of Hartley's documentary. Sure, we're given tons of clips of their flicks that made me giddy and nostalgic for my youth of the 80s, but there's a surprising amount of insight into two guys who we really never knew anything about - despite getting excited every single time their names popped up at the start of whatever latest schlock they pumped out. These guys were my "rock stars" of the film world growing up. I was too young to remember Roger Corman (though now, obviously, appreciate the heck out of him) and Golan-Globus gladly filled that void for my easily pleased developing mind.
Hartley has gathered an impressive array of subjects here and they offer up many stories of Cannon's iffy business practices and cheapness. Many of the best reminisces involve multiple impressions of Golan and an absolutely hilarious moment where Menahem pitches the plot of the terrible 1987 kiddie movie Going Bananas to orangutan Clyde from Every Which Way But Loose. It was great to see cult movie goddess Sybil Danning, Cannon's always busy go-to director Sam Firstenberg (Avenging Force, the aforementioned Breakin' flicks), and even Django himself Franco Nero. I also really loved the segments involving American Ninja star Michael Dudikoff as he recalls them trying to make him into the next big young action hero and Tobe Hooper's recollections of basically flipping the bird at them by making his Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequel more of a black comedy than horror. There's just so many hilarious stories on hand and astonishing details of the studio's inner workings that this is essential viewing for anyone who remembers their anticipation when they'd see that famous logo and hear the iconic "dum-dah-dum" music before the movie they were about to watch. However, the lack of interviews with Chuck Norris is a little bit disappointing.
As much as I loved Hartley's prior documentaries, Electric Boogaloo tops them. If you grew up with Cannon like I did you're going to adore this. Even if you didn't this should still be essential viewing if you have any interest in the behind-the-scenes workings of a company that played it fast and loose but somehow had a Hell of a run. This has been my most anticipated doc since it was originally announced and I came away from it with a huge grin plastered on my face. (Chris Hartley, 1/13/15)
Directed By: Mark Hartley.
Written By: Mark Hartley.