DVD: Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films, The (2014)

September 1, 2021 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label: Multicom Entertainment / MVD

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released: July 20, 2021

Genre: Documentary / Film History

Synopsis: Chronicle of Cannon Films, the infamous independent film corporation, as through the words and antics of producers Menachem Golan and Yorum Globus.

Special Features: Theatrical Trailer.




Produced and released around the same time as Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014), the approach by director Hilla Medalia (Daughters of Abraham, Transkids) is a more authorized chronicle built around interviews with founders and cousins Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus, the latter 14 years Golan’s junior. The upside of their heavy participation is rare self-reflections on their meteoric careers and influence on world cinema as hyper-kinetic producers, but Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films is also a warmhearted chronicle of their legacy, minimizing conflicts among artists and colleagues until the last third, when the cousins must address the company’s dissolution, and the marital-like break-up of their decades-long partnership.

Medalia’s chronicle is also limited to shopworn clips of Cannon productions, but there’s a wealth of rare archival footage, especially from Golan and Globus’ early years in Israel, where they inarguably helped build a national industry with award-winning films and a string of hits. The teen comedy-drama Lemon Popsicle (1978) became a cross-border success, and enabled the pair to move to the U.S. and build an empire, crafting an outrageously substantive catalogue of exploitation films that still delight new generations of fans. Cannon’s final act began in 1989 when severe debt became unmanageable, after which the company lingered through further changes in ownership for another 7 years before folding in 1996.

The company’s tumble was due to a combination of elements as weird as their films: instead of some executive’s embezzlement or a few disastrous studio-killing super-productioins, Golan the dreamer kept moving forward, making even more movies to outrun mounting financial debt, while Globus was compelled to fund Golan’s dreams as well as his own – building a studio with near-total vertical integration of production, exhibition, and ancillary distribution networks. The increasingly conflicting visions were furthered by a hunger to ‘conquer Hollywood’ and become almost as big as Paramount, hence the sudden courting / napkin deal-making with established filmmakers in the late 1980s, and a burning quest for an Oscar winner. (Golan’s Entebbe actioner Operation Thunderbolt / Mivtsa Yonatan, earned a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Nomination in 1978.)

The films which were the company’s bread & butter stemmed from the pair’s exploitation sensibilities – great for drive-ins, double-bills, and later home video -but the skills which produced cult films starring Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff, and Jean-Claude Van Damme didn’t translate as well when the pair wanted prestige, and industry respect.

Perhaps lost to both cousins was how by the 1980s most Hollywood studios could no longer achieve prestige without multinational treasure to fund their Oscar successes, gambles, and blundering failures; pre-1989, Cannon remained firmly in the hands of Golan and Globus, whereas corporate patrons had already absorbed Paramount (a Gulf + Western company), Warner Bros. (morphing into Warner Communications), Columbia Pictures (Coca-Cola, and later Sony), Universal Pictures (MCA, Matsushita, then Seagrams, and more), and MGM (soon to become MGM/UA after the Heaven’s Gate debacle).

Golan and Globus bought Cannon Films in 1979 for $500,000, and as the rebranded Cannon Group, the cousins were able to seemingly go it alone for roughly a decade – testament to Globus’ genius for financing, and the pair’s catchy, kitschy self-promotion style. The gamble worked, and much like iconic early Hollywood studio bosses (a frequent comparison by interviewees, such as actor Jon Voight and director Andrei Konchalovsky), both industry players and avid movie fans knew Cannon’s Go-Go Boys by their respective names. Their iconoclastic stature reached an amusing peak after a Newsweek cover story, and a Cannes press junket where the pair donned matching blue satin jumpsuits with the beloved company logo.

Medalia had a tough challenge in making Go-Go Boys: whereas the pair’s non-participation in Electric Boogaloo enabled director Mark Hartley to get frank comments and contrasting anecdotes and recollections from a stunning swathe of filmmakers, actors, and former staff & associates, Medalia had a narrow groove to inject sobering criticism, some of which comes from the cousins’ children and spouses. Those segments in the doc’s denouement come at a natural juncture, where the toll of chasing dreams and big money took their toll on family lives, but whereas Globus was willing to step back and reflect with sobriety, Golan tends to hover between a fondness for chasing his dreams, and in a short segment filmed during his final months, he feverishly refuses to discuss any work tied to failure – a hard stubbornness which hints at Globus’ frustration in trying to curtail Golan’s manic production slate that burned through Cannon’s coffers during its final years.

The doc’s running time and editing style may be somewhat evocative of the cousins’ manic energy, but rare archival footage is never allowed to flow for long, making it frustrating to follow segments with English subtitles, or rapid film clips with film titles and filmmaker credits fleetingly superimposed for context. Most of Go-Go Boys is in Hebrew, so chasing visual, aural, and subtitled content becomes exhausting, and by disallowing her footage to breathe and keeping the doc at 88 mins., the film doesn’t resonate as well as Hartley’s more generous 106 min. opus.

Whereas Hartley’s doc allows time to examine Cannon’s creative and financial failures, both filmmakers celebrate the innate wackiness and weird DNA of Cannon product, which fan & filmmaker Eli Roth venerates in a handful of short interviews. It’s also worth noting that while Medalia’s inclusion of archival interviews with the Go-Go Boys and a recent interview with Konchalovsky present Golan and Globus as fellow dreamers who gambled on unknown talent – a deserved acknowledgement – Cannon was known to meddle with productions, such as the notoriously messy Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988), and Tobe Hooper’s costly Lifeforce (1985).

That Cannon’s catalogue of explosions, machine-gunned bodies, breakdancers, and wonky sequels are B-movie gold is undeniable, and even their attempts to realize deals with critically lauded filmmakers (Konchalovsky, Jean-Luc Goddard, John Cassavetes, Norman Mailer) are fascinating productions, making the company’s history as vivid as the early days of the major studios before the colourful bigwigs were tempered by corporate boards, ousted by shareholders and jealous siblings, and neutered and pastured after corporate takeovers.

MVD’s DVD features a clean transfer of the film with a small trailer gallery. For connoisseurs of Cannon’s wild history, it’s worth starting with Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, followed by Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films, and the superb Lemon Popsicle: Of Winners and Losers / Eskimo Limon – Eis am Stiel: Von Siegern und Verlierern (2018), which demonstrates the ruthlessness of the cousins, and the sometimes tragic fates of actors caught up in a moviemaking dream whose rewards can be ephemeral, toxic, or downright tragic.

Also of note is Charles  Bukowski’s amusing 1989 novel Hollywood, in which the poet & author recalls with little veiling his involvement with the Go-Go Boys when Cannon produced the critically acclaimed adaptation of his novel Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. Barbet Schroeder’s 1987 film was part of Cannon’s grasp at prestige and Oscar gold.



© 2021 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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