DVD: Electric Boogaloo – The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)

October 17, 2015 | By

 

ElectricBoogalooFilm: Excellent

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Warner Home Video

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  September 29, 2015

Genre:  Documentary / Film History / Cannon Films

Synopsis: Lively, often hysterical chronicle of Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus, the buoyant cousins who founded the most iconic 80s exploitation film company, Cannon Films.

Special Features:  Deleted & Extended Interviews / Cannon Films Trailer Gallery.

 


 

Review:

Mark Hartley, director of the lively and critically lauded film genre documentaries Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) and Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Tale of Ozploitation! (2008) returns with a zippy examination of The Cannon Film Group, the company founded and managed by director Menachem Golan and producer Yoram Globus, two movie-loving Israelis who leaped across the pond to America in the seventies and created perhaps the most robust and prolific exploitation company with a house style best described as odd. (Golan had in fact worked for a brief time as an assistant to Roger Corman.)

Ninjas, break dancers, Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff, Charles Bronson, Michael Winner, and knock-offs to bigger studio productions were their core fodder, resulting in enough profits from international sales to keep the company’s engines running at full steam, producing and / or releasing an extraordinary volume of B-movies and franchises.

Much ass American International Pictures [AIP] was the leading indie force in the 1960s, building an influential power base with the youth market via their bikini / beach films, Edgar Allan Poe series, biker films, and assorted foreign pickups, Cannon nestled itself into a unique niche market when cable TV and international home video markets needed product.

At least in North America, there’s a sense it didn’t matter whether a movie made it to theatres, but its house style tended to embrace varying genetic make-ups of guns, explosions, fast cutting, nudity, but when the duo dreamed bigger and aspired to see Cannon become a major studio, the seeds to the company’s dissolution were sown.

Big name and art house directors – John Frankenheimer, J. Lee Thompson, Tobe Hooper, Franco Zefferelli, John Cassavetes, Andrei Konchalovsky, and Jean-Luc Godard – were signed, but what materialized, if coherent and quality-laden, seemed like an accident, if not a project that would’ve flourished at other studios had the filmmakers been left alone.

Hartley’s plethora of interview subjects paint a vivid picture of zeal propelled by an earnest, pastrami & coffee-fed dream to be the best in spite of lacking a measured plan, discipline, and financial prudence. Globus was the money man, Golan the dreamer, and the two formed an unusual force that clicked, tempering the other if one went too much astray, but when the company finally folded in 1994, it was after budgets had significantly soared on duds, and an ambitious expansion in Europe to grab various theatre chains racked up massive debt.

The company was at its best when the pair’s yin & yang chemistry yielded slick commercial product for a dime, but when they believed their own hubris, believing Cannon could become a major studio, like many mini-majors, they imploded.

Signs of the company’s problems were evident in both their bad films – MGM / UA made headlines twice for signing a deal to distribute Cannon films, and later dumping the company after their roster (which included stinkers like Sahara) tanked – and highly troubled productions whose budgets were ultimately hacked to pieces, if not the films themselves.

The most intriguing chapters of woeful experiences belong to told by Rusty Lemorande and Albert Pyun, two filmmakers who had varying degrees of career success with Cannon. Pyun’s reputation was established with the big budget The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), a gory medieval fantasy, but his efforts at Cannon were both B-level and kinda awful. The budget for Captain America (1990) was radically scaled down (although nothing could’ve helped the film’s poor script), and Pyun’s reshoots for Lemorande’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988) was representative of a much-touted production that ended in absolute disaster.

It’s easy to see why the film remains a sore spot, if not a career killer. JTTCOTE was touted in an issue of Variety among several high-profile productions including Jean-Luc Godard’s teasing but ultimately godawful spin of Shakespeare’s King Lear (1987), and after a long delay Lemorande’s effort emerged on tape, utterly incoherent with radical cast changes and a bizarre ending.

In a moment that’s sure to tease fans of this disastrous production, Hartley puts images from the final film against rough cut footage of Lemorande’s edit which lacked needed special effects, and no doubt there’s a hope by genre fans that someone (Scream Factory?) might assemble some kind of special edition pairing the theatrical with the rough cut, and a compelling making-of documentary. The film’s a turd, but it’s a fascinating case study on how a studio can massively mismanage a production.

Hartley’s doc will certainly spark an interest in Cannon’s catalogue of B-films – the company really defined eighties exploitation moviemaking, and there’s no doubt many of the films are cherished by fans of specific franchises, actors, or bad cinema – but it also brings a rare opportunity for indie labels to license titles from MGM, and create definitive special editions, as these films deserve contextual extras, if not tributes, given there’s a pent-up demand for the massive library that’s been limited to bare bones DVD editions sporting transfers that are quite old.

Case in point: Twilight Time’s excellent 10 to Midnight  (1983) Blu-ray, Scream Factory’s Invaders from Mars (1986), and Scream Factory and Arrow Video’s separate editions of Lifeforce (1985).

One aspect not lost amid the amusing anecdotes, cheeky comments, and crazy clips is a shared affection by most of the interview subjects for the ‘go-go boys,’ especially Menachem Golan, whose love of film was never in doubt. Electric Boogaloo’s been criticized by some as being a bit negative, but it’s really a warm, wry tribute to a cocky type of indie film company that’s impossible to recreate on such a massive scale, since a contemporary version of the Cannon Film Group would’ve been bought out by a major multinational after the first Oscar Nominated film and first set of blockbusters. Their streak of rebelliousness, naïve optimism, and keen sense of profitable B-elements would’ve been diluted or tempered, much in the way the Weinsteins saw Miramax and Dimension Films transformed into shingles for respective Oscar bait and direct-to-video fodder.

Cannon did on occasion take a poke at class – That Championship Season (1982), Runaway Train (1985), and Barfly (1987) are fine examples – but they weren’t box offices successes, and one can argue Cannon didn’t’ know how to market A-level films.  There’s a telling comment in the doc where an a film preceded by the famous dum-dum-dum-dum Cannon logo was doomed to be ridiculed, as the company had established itself as makers of B fodder, not Oscar bait. (When AIP or fellow B-brand Allied Artists took rare swipes at A films, the studios eventually vanished, as though quality with art house or studio-quality filmmakers was more of a one-off.)

Electric Boogaloo is thus far only available on Blu-ray in Germany and the U.K. – a weird disconnect, given plenty of docs are released on Blu in North America. Warner Home Video’s released the film solo, or as part of a 10-pack that includes 9 classic Cannon films: Missing in Action (1984), Invasion U.S.A. (1985), Cobra (1986), Delta Force (1986), Masters of the Universe (1987), Over the Top (1987), Bloodsport (1988), and The Hitman (1991).

Extras on the Boogaloo DVD include a batch of Cannon trailers (quality gold, really), and deleted / extended interviews, including an interview with Andrew Stevens and some discussion of the Charles Bronson cult classic 10 to Midnight, an example of Cannon’s peculiar genre hybrid, but one that actually worked quite well as a Death Wish-slasher film-serial killer mélange.

Note: the story of Cannon films was also profiled in The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films (2014).

Music by Jamie Blanks, director of Urban Legend (1998) and Storm Warning (2007).

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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