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Review: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (TIFF 2014)

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (TIFF 2014)
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PLOT: The story of Menahem Golan, and Yoram Globus, two Israeli cousins who, in the eighties, ran the exploitation film studio Cannon Pictures.

REVIEW: I grew up watching Cannon Films. Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Sly, Dolph, I loved 'em all. Their Ninja movies with Michael Dudikoff or Sho Kosugi were staples of birthday parties everywhere and whenever we'd see the Cannon Films logo with the instantly familiar theme music, we always knew we were in for a good time. Were the movies always good? Absolutely not, but to a gang of rambunctious kids they were awesome, and as the Midnight Madness programmer noted in his introduction to the TIFF screening, how often do you see people wearing t-shirts with Sony, Warner Bros or any other legit studio logos on them? Cannon is cult, and appropriately, this gets the cult treatment from director Mark Hartley, who gave the same treatment to Aussiesploitation with NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, or thrilla's from Manilla with MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED.

More than a comprehensive documentary on the studio itself (for that, one probably needs to check out the authorized Cannon doc – THE GO GO BOYS) ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is mainly an appreciation of the movies themselves, sandwiched between as many wild stories from the Cannon offices as they could squeeze in. The Cannon Films were usually exploitation films, and this gets the full exploitation treatment, with all the clips judiciously chosen to highlight the skin and action that made the films so profitable...for awhile.

Like NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, this doc is so much fun that you'll wish it went on for three hours rather than the relatively disciplined 100 minute running time. There are so many great stories and clips to wade through, although I think you have to be pretty familiar with the studio's product to get the most out of it. The most fascinating parts of the film revolve around Golan's often eccentric and surreal behavior, with former writer Boaz Davidson (THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) talking about how Golan once threatened as Israeli army pilot with an Uzi when he refused to do a retake. Even crazier is a story where a former exec mentions how Golan brought Clyde – the orangutan from EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE – in for a meeting, where he treated him like a full-on movie star, pitching his film directly, with the fact that he was talking to a primate seemingly eluding him.

If the doc has a failing though, it might be that the studio's actual good films are under-served a bit. While yes, they made a lot of crap, there were more than a few gems, but the only film that really gets respectful treatment is RUNAWAY TRAIN (without a doubt a masterpiece) but their exploits in the art world are under-acknowledged. At their height, they did indeed try to make good movies, but – as the film says – they simply were not tapped in to what mainstream American wanted to see outside of the exploitation genres.

That's a minor criticism though. Even being in the midst of my TIFF coverage, I've been making a list of Cannon films to revisit once the festival is over (a little lowbrow detox) and most of my favorites get their due. The only sad part is that one of the biggest stars, Chuck Norris, declined to be interviewed, as did Golan & Globus themselves, although coincidentally that gives them a hilarious ending truly in the Cannon tradition as they went out and made their own knock-off doc.

Otherwise, the interviews are pretty amazing, with one former Cannon starlet going so far as to burn an old VHS tape of the Luggi Corzzi MAD MAX ripoff she starred-in. Bo Derek (who's still a jaw-dropping beauty) gives one of the lengthiest interviews, with the story behind her film BOLERO being pretty fascinating. Michael Dudikoff winds up being one of the most affecting people interviewed, with him expressing regret about how his never quite hit the Chuck Norris level following AMERICAN NINJA, with a lot of execs agreeing that had Golan-Globus put him in better movies, he had the potential to be a breakout star. One juicy bit involves the shooting of KING SOLOMON'S MINES and the follow-up ALAN QUARTERMAIN & THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, with everyone, including star Richard Chamberlain and Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) agreeing that Sharon Stone was an insufferable diva. Mark Rosenthal, who a few years ago recorded an incredible commentary track for SUPERMAN IV (which he wrote) is also on hand to do the postmortem on that film, which, coupled with the $12 million paid to Stallone for OVER THE TOP, was pretty much the final nail in Cannon's coffin.

Clearly, if you're a Cannon fan (and I bet a whole lot of you readers are), ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is going to be right up your alley. I had a total blast watching it, although I must admit I also want to see THE GO-GO BOYS now to get the other half of the story, from Golan-Globus' lips themselves. Part of me also hopes there's a three-hour director's cut out there somewhere, as I could have kept hearing the Cannon stories and watching the clips for hours more.

Source: JoBlo.com

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