Sunday, 12 July 2015

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015)

The Cannon Group, Inc Presents: A Golan-Globus Production. 

        If you’re a film fan who grew up in the 1980s you probably saw that credit more than a few times, usually on video rather than at the cinema, and if you were a fan of exploitation oddness Cannon's movies probably formed part of your regular viewing. Loved (by fans) and loathed (by critics, other film companies and pretty much anyone who despised their anything-goes attitude to film), there’s no arguing that the Cannon name, like Hammer before them, became a byword for a very particular and unique kind of product, one where the quality varied as enormously as the quantity of movies they produced during their existence.

Menahem Golan does Ken Russell, or at least he thinks he does

This entire review could consist of just a series of stills from the worst, craziest and most bizarre of Cannon’s output and it still would not do justice to what it was like growing up in a decade when video was young and every other cassette in the rental shop seemed to feature ninjas, breakdancing, Chuck Norris, or the promise of all three - in a sequel to a part one you’d never even heard of. Now Mark Hartley, the man responsible for the excellent documentaries NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (about Ozsploitation) and MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED (exploitation cinema in the Philippines ) as well as the cracking remake of PATRICK from a few years ago, has put together what may well turn out to be the ultimate talking heads documentary on this near-legendary film company.

What Cannon thought people wanted to see in the late 1980s
We kick off with the roots of Cannon (before it was bought by the infamous team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus), when all the company did was produce English language version of Swedish softcore porn films like Joseph Sarno’s INGA. Then it hit serious financial difficulties and was bought by the man who directed THE APPLE, and his cousin. You might like to go and read my review of THE APPLE to give you some idea of how utterly insane it was to allow someone who had that movie in their head to run a movie production company. 


After that Cannon went nuts producing everything from Chuck Norris action pictures (MISSING IN ACTION, INVASION USA, DELTA FORCE), Ninja movies (ENTER THE NINJA, RETURN OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION & AMERICAN NINJA), crazy big budget SF (LIFEFORCE), and a string of actually rather good movies (RUNAWAY TRAIN, Zefferelli’s OTHELLO) before plunging all their money into SUPERMAN IV and a film about arm-wrestling lorry drivers starring Sylvester Stallone.

A true star. The director was truly something else.

With such material to talk about it would be virtually impossible not to make a fascinating documentary about all of this, but we all know that worse has happened in the past. Happily, however, Hartley’s documentary is just excellent, relying very heavily on numerous interviewees that include actors (Lucinda Dickey, Sybil Danning, Bo Derek, and Laurene Landon actually setting fire to a Cannon film to show what she thinks of them) directors (Sam Firstenberg, Boaz Davidson, Luigi Cozzi and Pete Walker) and many others. 

Everyone wants to see Franco Nero as a ninja! 

Over the course of nearly two hours Hartley paints a picture of a remarkable, and remarkably bonkers, movie company that constantly stared up at the stars even though it barely made it out of the gutter, ending up by flushing itself down the drain with its own financial mistakes. It’s never less than fascinating, and completely essential viewing for anyone who watched and loved  Cannon product in their heyday. It may even have you hankering to watch some of Cannon's movies again, or possibly feeling relieved that you don't have to.

Metrodome are releasing ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS on Region 2 DVD on 13th July 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment