DVD Review: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

– by David Morgan-Brown

electric boogaloo posterThe Cannon Group Inc was a film company that, although not the biggest or most well known or most loved, was one of the most prolific and defiant movie companies of the ‘70s and ‘80s. They released hundreds of films, sometimes releasing one per week and many of those being low-to-mid budget. Though they closed in 1993, all sorts of the films they produced have attracted interest from a variety of cult film-lovers, with plenty of them investigating this company that produced this eclectic mix of movies. One of these fans is Mark Hartley, the Australian documentary filmmaker who made Not Quite Hollywood, a loving dedication to Australia’s Ozploitation era that would surely introduce many viewers to these films of the past, and it seems it’ll happen again with the Cannon films and this new doco Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

The story begins with Cannon being run by its original founders throughout the ‘70s, but towards the end of the decade when the company suffered unsuccessful flops and financial issues, it was bought out by two Israeli cousins, Meneham Golan (the filmmaker) and Yoram Globus (the businessman), who decided after making several films in their homeland they wanted to start up a production company in America. From that point on, they would sign up almost any script that came their way and make a film out of it, making and releasing films at an exuberant rate. Because of this, they become one of the most prolific film companies in America, with very mixed results.

Cannon were mostly remembered for their schlocky B-grade action films like Missing in Action, Delta Force, and electric boogaloo poster 3Invasion USA (helping kickstart action star Chuck Norris’ career) and due to the commercial benefit of this, many other companies followed in their footsteps and later produced similar films. Canon also tried capitalising on current trends like making the first break-dancing film Breakin’ and its inevitable sequel (and doco namesake) Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Yet if you make enough trashy films, you’re eventually gonna come out with a hit, as was the case with Runaway Train, a ridiculous sounding film that ended up with some very favourable acclaim from critics and audiences, as well as a few awards and nominations. Canon continued with their small budgeted films and began making dramas from acclaimed directors like John Cassavetes, Jean Luc-Godard, and Fred Schepisi, giving them not only enough money, but also a grand amount of creative freedom they might not be able to get from other movie companies.

The main joy in this doco, like in Not Quite Hollywood, is the assembly of some of the best clips from these movies strung together, giving us viewers the best parts of these films. I’m now keen to check out the likes of Invasion USA, though I hope the whole film is as good as the bombastic, explosive, bullet-ridden footage we’re shown.

electric boogaloo poster 2Unfortunately, there’s no input from Golan and Globus themselves, who declined to be a part of this doco, but I’m sure they would’ve had plenty of entertaining insights and behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the crazy times that occurred during the highs (or lows) of their careers. Instead, we have a bunch of filmmakers, actors, and crew-members giving their takes on their productions and they all seem to have an even head about how awful their films may’ve been. There’s also great joy in seeing these folks look back on the Canon experience as either a terrific and creatively-fulfilling opportunity or an awful time of abuse, bad filmmaking, and disappointments. Either way, the stories that resulted from Golan and Globus’ style of working are always entertaining, though sometimes shocking to hear.

The ending of the doco could’ve let us know a little more about what Golan and Globus did after their split and when Cannon Group Inc went kaput. The overall tale this doco weaves is one about a movie company constantly in forward motion, raking up more and more debt until it inevitably couldn’t take it anymore. It had its moment, and although it’s done now, its legacy lives on in this doco and in the films the company has inspired.


Picture credit: Umbrella Entertainment, Regalo, SFGate, Official Facebook Page

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