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

Director: Mark Hartley

If nothing else, I now know why there were two Lambada movies back in the day, a mystery that hasn’t exactly taxed my imagination for a quarter of a century has now been solved… Anyway, this is Mark Hartley’s most recent venture into feature-length film documentary, this time narrowing his focus down from aspects of national industries to the adventures of a single company, Cannon Films. I was a bit apprehensive of this, cos when it comes to the crunch an awful lot of their product basically seems to have been dogshit. Was there going to be much of interest to this story? Well, yes, vastly more so than I’d thought there would be, and much of that interest lies in the frankly peculiar double act—cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus—that drove the studio; basically, the film charts (in initially somewhat breathless fashion) their rise through the Israeli film industry (which, in the 60s and 70s, seems to have mostly consisted of just them), then their move to Hollywood, where they bought a struggling business called Cannon (the pre-GoGo period of which is unfortunately only minimally dealt with), then their astounding rise and equally astounding collapse, ending in the cousins splitting and producing those rival Lambada films. And yeah, it’s pretty unabashed about how much of Cannon’s output was rubbish with barely any redeeming features, but the overall portrait is more complex… basically, the “bad news Jews” were guys who loved films but lacked the care or discipline to make them, you know, good, and yet, even though they were oddly old-school exploitation hucksters, they had aspirations to be an even more old-school “proper” studio, and a desire to be respected that saw them make films by John Cassavetes, Franco Zeffirelli (who called GoGo the best producers he ever worked with) and, most amazingly, Jean-Luc Godard. As someone says at one point in the film, if Cannon’s “prestige” products had come from anyone but them, those films would’ve been far better regarded, but the Cannon logo was like the kiss of death. There’s something weirdly admirable about Cannon’s rise and just as weirdly tragic about its fall, and Hartley charts this fascinating story well. However, amidst the many talking heads, there are two significant absences, i.e. Golan and Globus themselves… but their absence is explained in a brilliant end credit, which notes they declined to be interviewed and instead announced their own Cannon Films doco, which beat this one into release by some months. Golan died only a week after the first showing of Hartley’s film, and I daresay he wouldn’t have complained too much about that…

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