For anyone who came of cinematic age during the heady days of cheesy 1980s cinema, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films – the documentary by Australian writer / director Mark Hartley – will be like a nostalgic blast of fresh air, in today’s world of PC obsessed blockbusters.
With help from a galaxy of stars ranking everywhere from A to Z, Electric Boogaloo charts the career ups and downs of filmmakers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who changed the face of modern cinema as we now know it. The Israeli cousins, who clearly made films because they simply loved the medium, had one aim – to provide audiences with entertainment pure and simple, as opposed to many of today’s movie hotshots who often appear to have ulterior motives behind their productions.
Cannon Films – the ailing production company which Golan and Globus bought in 1979, and proceeded to rejuvenate during the following decade, were never known for a particularly high-end product – they had been responsible for such dubious dramas as Maid in Sweden (1971) and Northville Cemetery Massacre (1976). However, under the guidance of Golan and Globus – who were as much showmen as they were professional filmmakers – the company began to do something which it hadn’t been doing before, namely make money. Launching the careers of many high profile Hollywood stars – without the help of Cannon Films the world would probably not have become aware of Dolph Lundgren and Chuch Norris – the company was also responsible for such cult films as the sci-fi vampire epic Lifeforce (1985) as well as milestones in the fantastic film genre like Masters of the Universe (1987). In Electric Boogaloo an endless stream of iconic names including actors Mimi Rogers, Bo Derek, Elliott Gould and Martine Beswick along with director Tobe Hooper queue up to reminisce – in both glowing and not such flattering terms – their memories of working with the company.
The cinema going public are however, on the whole, a fickle bunch, and the days when everything these cinematic magicians touched seemed – for a while anyway – to turn to box-office (if not critical) gold, were numbered. Audiences began to loose interest in films whose production values appeared unable to keep up with the times. As the young audiences which had grown-up with Cannon’s films began to become more sophisticated, they also became increasingly turned off by the company’s dodgy effects and slapstick gore and violence. Eventually, by the turn of the next decade, the company had folded, whilst Golan and Globus themselves had gone their own ways, each pursuing other avenues in both film and television production.
The fact Golan and Globus refused to take part in Electric Boogaloo – they were co-operating at the same time with a rival documentary on their careers – may be interpreted in one of two ways. Either it could be thought of as a scandalous piece of muck raking on two men whose only crime was to bring pleasure to countless millions of movie goers, whilst providing some of the most iconic and enduring – though not necessarily erudite – moments in cinema history. Equally well the lack of input from two such strong characters – who would most likely have believed that they should have had some degree of control over the direction of the finished film – could be seen as playing in Hartley’s favour: the lack of first-hand participation from the subjects of a documentary allows a filmmaker to take a more middle-of-the-road – and hopefully unbiased – approach to the story around which their revolves allowed, resulting in a more rounded and honest final product. Whether Hartley achieves this with Electric Boogaloo may be open to conjecture. There’s no denying however that – like Cannon’s films themselves – the end product is wonderfully, if perhaps slightly trashy, fun.