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Fantastic Fest Review: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Words to live by, especially if you’re having a conversation with someone who suggests that one of their favorite films includes the likes of Jean Claude Van Damme’s Cyborg, Masters of the Universe, Delta Force, or Death Wish 2. All of these films have a single studio to thank for their existence: Cannon Films. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films presents to the world the tale of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two Israeli cousins who built an empire on the back of B-movies, action stars, and questionable business practices. From their initial success in Israel to an unflattering fall from grace, Boogaloo looks at what made the studio and its builders a household name. Well, in a few very specific households, at least.

Sifting through the complex and sometimes contrived history of Cannon Films, Boogaloo’s directors smartly focus squarely on Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Interviewing many of the actors and staffers of Cannon, the film creates a fairly coherent through-line about the heads — they were starf–kers of the highest order that had no real idea what they were trying to sell. The cousins’ approach to filmmaking was very much that of a shotgun blast: load up as many films as possible as quickly and cheaply as you could, then use the returns of the one or two moderate successes to finance the next batch. Their earliest films often included as much sex and violence as humanly possible and were, by all means, prototypical B-movies.

In 1978, the cousins achieved moderate success with their film Lemon Popsicle. A teen sex comedy sold as romp, the film grossed enough money for Golan and Globus to pursue Hollywood ambitions. The pair relocated to Los Angeles and began producing an almost continuous run of cheaply made films. In 1979, the flailing Cannon Group sold to the cousins, and that’s when the shit really hit screens.

The documentary takes us through a litany of terrible films the pair championed including The Apple, one of the most infamous box office bombs of all time. It also takes a look at their wins, like Breakin‘, but does an amazing job of explaining the fluke nature of those results, and how the cousins always failed to capitalize on that success in a positive way. While the odd hit would float to the surface, the continued exploitation and sensationalism of the films often delivered horrible box office returns. Underhanded dealings are described in detail and the most carpetbaggery of carpetbaggers are depicted as you begin to wonder, “Why did anyone work with these guys?”

The pair was able to maintain a ridiculous production slate upwards of 30-40 movies a year by pre-selling foreign rights to films in advance  to raise capital for production. The cousins would often sell the rights based on a couple notes of an outline and a mocked up movie poster. This practice has since become the norm in Hollywood, with many studios “parking” their pictures in foreign territories as well for the tax incentives. If this sounds like a Mel Brooks-produced-level farce, it was.

While the documentary is fair in its depiction of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus as hard workers, their abusive office environment and outlandish desire to be famous themselves creates an accurate caricature of two men who loved bad movies, they just didn’t understand they were bad. As Golan continued to borrow from banks to build it’s ridiculous production slate and purchasing spree, the firm’s reputation began to loom over it like a dark storm cloud waiting to pour.

Interview highlights include Alex Winter, Mary Catherine Stewart and He-Man himself, Dolph Lundgren, as they describe their experience with the doomed company. Fans of Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, one of the greatest horror comedies of all time, will want to take special notice of Tobe Hooper’s conversations as he describes theit lack of understanding at what he had made.

Massive overspending on the purchase of several theater chains in Europe, coupled with bigger and bigger salaries for stars against bank debt began to put Cannon on shaky financial ground. Instead of shoring up efforts into a few smaller pictures and hoping for one hit, Golan doubled down on his most notorious disasters. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe may have sealed the fate of the company. Shuttered in ’93, Cannon’s body will continue to be autopsied for years to come, but this film gives a wonderful once over and analysis of their most important works and personalities. For the cinephile, this is a must watch doc.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 burritos

3.5 burritos

 

 

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