by Elliot Davies
A must-see for anyone who values films that’re so bad, they’re good. Electric Boogaloo had a UK preview at the 2015 Derby Film Festival.
Electric Boogaloo is subtitled The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.
So. Who are Cannon Films? Short answer: they made Superman IV . That’s the one that’s renowned for being so unwatchable it makes Superman III look like Superman II.
Long answer – well, let’s paraphrase a few gobbets from the film:
- Cannon Films took vague ideas and stripped them of anything resembling good taste
- Cannon Films once made 43 films in 12 months
- Upon being told that they owed their bank $5m, Cannon Films were disappointed to learn that they didn’t owe their bank $10m
- Cannon Films gave Michael Winner a platform to indulge his worst excesses
- Cannon Films are singularly responsible for the cult of Chuck Norris
Throughout the 70s and 80s, there were thousands upon thousands of cinemas across the world that needed films to fill their schedules. The films that drew the biggest crowds were invariably full of violence, explosions, and nudity. A large proportion of these films were made by Cannon Films.
Electric Boogaloo is actually the story of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus – two cousins from Israel who were absolutely obsessed with cinema. They weren’t responsible for establishing Cannon Films. By 1979, the company had already released such respectable productions as Joe and Blood on Satan’s Claw. But between 1979 and 1989, with an initial investment of $500,000, the Globus cousins changed film forever, through putting into production any idea that had even the slightest chance of becoming successful.
The secret of the cousins’ success was speed. They could take any concept, no matter how vague, and transform it into a cohesive film within the space of a few months. Whether or not the resultant film was any good wasn’t important. What matters is that, rather than talking about making films, the cousins instead committed to making films.
And when it came to making films, they were more prolific than anyone. Case in point: the cousins declined to appear in Electric Boogaloo, but when they learned that a film was being made about them, they immediately set about producing their own “inside story”. As a testament to their unique abilities, their version of this story, entitled The Go-Go Boys, was released three months before Electric Boogaloo.
Similarly, upon noticing some kids breakdancing, the cousins were quick to capitalise on this trend. In no time at all they managed to assemble Breakin’:
It was a huge success. So inevitably, a sequel was made, which had to be bigger and better in every way. As a result, a series that started with straight portrayals of the breakdancing scene, ended with a disasterpiece that featured a character called Turbo dancing on the ceiling:
It didn’t go down too well, so Cannon Films suffered a significant blow to their finances and their reputation.
Electric Boogaloo actually takes its name from the subtitle of Breakin‘ 2 , and it’s easy to see why. Breakin’ 2 essentially sums up the Cannon Films approach to movie-making – you take an idea, any idea, and throw money at it until it resembles a film. If the end result proves to be popular, you do it again – only this time, you make it bigger. Wash, rinse, repeat.
This restless, reckless, wildly experimental approach to movie-making eventually ruined Cannon Films. But over the course of one insane decade, they assembled one of the most ridiculous catalogues of films ever produced, and by the looks of things, they had a lot of fun doing it.
Like the production company itself, Electric Boogaloo moves at breakneck speed. The story is told in a series of interviews with writers, directors, actors, editors, and musicians – all of whom still seem baffled that this whole thing was allowed to happen for such a long stretch of time.
Among the interviewees are Tobe Hooper, Elliott Gould, Bo Derek, Michael Dudikoff, and Franco Zeffirelli – who happens to describe the Globus cousins as the finest producers he ever worked with. We’re also treated to the considerable joy of seeing Alex Winter express his contempt for Michael Winner. That’s Bill, from Bill & Ted, dissing Michael Winner, from Winner’s Dinners. Brilliant.
People recall the time Menahem pitched a film to a monkey. Not about a monkey, to a monkey. As in, a monkey was sat in a chair, and Menahem excitedly pitched a story to him.
And whilst that’s undoubtedly the strangest story told, it certainly has some competition. Like the time the two cousins simultaneously produced two rival films about the same dance craze. Or the time they hosted a party in a multistorey car park to celebrate the launch of Chuck Norris’s Delta Force. Or the time they hosted a press conference to complain about the depravity of their own Bolero – a film they had themselves pushed to be as extreme as possible.
Whilst watching Electric Boogaloo, I compiled a mental list of films that I knew I’d have to see for myself. Unfortunately, it seems that if I’m to see a lot of this stuff, I’ll have to rely on pricey Region 1 imports. Luckily, The Derby Film Festival made the inspired decision to screen a Cannon Films production immediately after their screening of Electric Boogaloo.
Ninja III – The Domination didn’t disappoint. A ridiculous cross between Enter the Dragon, The Exorcist, and Flashdance, it told the story of an aerobics instructor who found herself possessed by the spirit of a ninja assassin. It featured ninjas on a golf course, a love interest with a very hairy back, and this golden nugget of dialogue, which was somehow delivered with a straight face:
You are under severe stress, of course, but otherwise doctor Bowen, the psychiatrist you saw, says there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Aside from your exceptional extrasensory perception and your preoccupation with Japanese culture. No harm in that!
I felt it happening and I was powerless to resist: Electric Boogaloo kickstarted a brand new obsession. I am now committed to seeing as many Cannon Films as I can, which will involve making some fundamental changes to my lifestyle. Electric Boogaloo changed me, and that must be the highest praise possible for a documentary.
Electric Boogaloo is released in the UK on June 5, 2015.