Saturday, February 21, 2015

“Electric Boogaloo”– Movie Review



This week, I attended opening night of The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s “Film Comment Selects” series, where we viewed the documentary “Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films”. 


When Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus formed Cannon Films, would they be taken seriously in Hollywood or forever be known as schlockmeisters? 


Back in the 1980’s, Israeli filmmakers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus became partners based on their mutual passion for movies; together, they created Cannon Films, which bestowed upon international audiences countless horrifyingly tasteless films – and occasionally, some decent ones.  But as quick as their rise was, their rapid decline was equally as speedy.  Depending upon whom is asked, there may be differing reasons for their ultimate failure.  But one thing is for certain:  Cannon’s output of movies during that period is difficult to beat by either a major studio or independent production company. 

Eventually known as The Go-Go Boys, the team produced low-budget movies that included many sequels to Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish”, but also introduced much of the country to break dancing and eventually aspired to more artistic goals by providing noted Italian director Franco Zefferelli an opportunity to direct his own version of Shakespeare’s “Othello”.  While many of these films weren’t worth the time it took most critics to sit through a screening, Cannon sometimes – and usually, accidentally – wound up with actual box office hits which kept the company afloat. 

By the mid-1980’s, the team saw great success and Cannon Films had conquered Hollywood – or so they thought.  After setting up headquarters in Los Angeles, they quickly tried to expand their business based on the successes of their recent past.  However, this resulted in Cannon making more movies than they could support, which required extensive financing from banks.  After a few box office flops, Golan-Globus found that they would have immense difficulty in paying off their loans.  But would they be able to revive the company and continue their filmmaking?


If you are of a certain age, you have most likely seen at least one Cannon Film in your lifetime – in fact, you’ve probably seen many.  What might be more difficult to admit, however, is the fact that they hit a nerve with you – specifically, a movie such as “Breakin’”, “Delta Force” or even “Missing In Action” may be on your secret list of guilty pleasures.  With lovers of insipid films such as “Hercules” (where Lou Ferrigno, starring as the title character, flung a bear into outer space), who among us would dare to deny the thrill of sexploitation as seen in “classics” like “The Last American Virgin” or “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”?  

Precisely.  Whether they know it or not – and whether some movie fans may be willing to acknowledge it or not – Cannon Films has provided us with endless entertainment over the decades.  Oh, sure, a good deal of it was nonsense.  But seriously, what are movies if not escapist entertainment?  Yes, we may have used their product for comic fodder; that, however, doesn’t matter.  Even if much of what The Go-Go Boys produced was stupid (and yes, it was), it was nevertheless something that we were able to use for distraction and entertainment.  And for this, we should be thankful. 

If there is anything about this documentary that is worthy of criticism, it is the fact that it runs a little long.  Although it is only about two hours, it does seem to drag a bit at times; after a while, you feel, “OK, we get it – let’s get on with the rest of the story”.  Following the screening was a question and answer session with the filmmaker and some participants in the Cannon Films experience.  One thing that all of them seemed to be able to agree on was the fact that just about everyone could do an imitation of the unintentionally funny Menahem Golan. 

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) on IMDb

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