Title: Electric Boogaloo:The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films
Director: Mark Hartley
Major Players: As themselves – Elliott Gould, Franco Nero, Bo Derek etc
Out Of Five: Four
They called them The Go-Go Boys, two Israeli movie makers who came to Hollywood, bought Cannon Films and got a name for making films at breakneck speed and making them cheap. Forget the quality. But they probably changed the film world for ever.
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had already dominated the Israeli film scene when they bought their way into Hollywood and it’s their extraordinary rise, even more extraordinary films and eventual demise that’s the subject of Mark Hartley’s documentary, Electric Boogaloo. And, if you’re wondering about the title, it’s half of the name of one of their films – and the subject is as crazy as it sounds.
For most of the 80s, you couldn’t go to the cinema without at least being aware of one of their films. There were so many you may have actually seen one of them and, if you didn’t, you were probably watching other movies sat in one of their seats. As they expanded into the UK, they took over Thorn EMI and ABC, the big cinema chain at the time. Their films, however, were so bad that you wondered how on earth they ever came to be made. That was all down to the enthusiasm and salesmanship of the movie-obsessed Golan and Globus. While Globus was the quieter and the more financially minded of the two, Golan was the creative force, who let nothing stand in his way if he believed he had a good idea for a movie. So getting the all-important money on the basis of just the poster – no script, no director, no cast – was par for the course. And when the money came in, the film got made!
Special effects that would make the great Ray Harryhausen turn in his grave, mash-ups of previous hit movies (one was a combination of The Exorcist, a ninja film and Flashdance, if you can imagine that) …… they were all Cannon trademarks. And, even when the duo tried to give themselves some credibility by working with directors like Frankenheimer, Zefirrelli and Coppola, their reputation for schlock was so well-established as to be unmovable. Despite the efforts of The Two Chucks (Norris and Bronson), it was essentially the beginning of the end.
Ironically, they’ve turned out to be the forerunners of the indie film industry, ploughing all their money into the films themselves and trimming the budget to the bone – and sometimes beyond. One of the many talking heads in the film likens them to the Weinsteins, but with one critical difference – Harvey and Bob care about quality. But, while Miramax is part of the Hollywood establishment, the same couldn’t be said about Cannon. Golan and Globus simply didn’t fit the mould and, frankly, didn’t care. Instead, they made a virtue of it, being photographed in garish blue tracksuits at Cannes.
With the films themselves and ample interview footage, especially with the more extrovert Golan, director Mark Hartley had plenty of archive material to draw on, but he’s assembled an impressive, and lengthy, parade of talking heads, all with their own stories to tell about The Go-Go Boys. Richard Chamberlain almost visibly winces at the money that wasn’t spent on his Allan Quatermain films, which bore a striking resemblance to the Indiana Jones series. Elliott Gould recalls a ferocious argument with Golan that shut down production for a whole day and Franco Nero is clearly still put out at the way he was dubbed with an American accent in Enter The Ninja (I wonder where that title came from). There’s plenty of other comments and anecdotes from a whole host of people usually found on the other side of the camera, some affectionate and some not.
Their films were, in the main, dire. The same can’t be said of the documentary. It makes great use of its material and wastes no time in telling its story – just like The Go-Go Boys themselves – doing it chronologically. There’s nothing flashy about it, but there is plenty of energy and fizz. And when you’ve a subject like this one, that’s pretty much all you need. Fans of bad movies will completely lap it up, keen movie goers won’t be far behind them and even those with just a passing interest in film will find the behind-the-scenes shenanigans both fascinating and funny.
The film ends with a caption about how, once Golan and Globus got wind of Hartley’s documentary, they served notice that they were making one themselves. And they did. Not only that, but it was released three months before Electric Boogaloo. I’ve not been able to track it down, but I doubt that it’s half as good!
Electric Boogaloo goes on limited release on Friday, 5 June.