Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is easily the most kinetic documentary I have ever seen. If you were to ask me to name some fast paced films before seeing Electric Boogaloo then I would no doubt have talked about action films and thrillers without any documentaries crossing my mind. Now, after seeing the film, the term fast paced is synonymous with the words: Electric Boogaloo. During the film I looked down at my watch, not out of wondering when the film was going to end but because I was curious about just how long I had been watching. I could have sworn that I was less than 45 minutes into the film and was shocked to find I had been watching Electric Boogaloo for 90 minutes; at first I thought I must be reading the time wrong, I was in a darkened room after all, but sure enough a little over 10 minutes later the credits began to roll.
Looking back it’s clear I’m getting ahead of myself and should do the usual review thing of giving a brief synopsis of the film. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films tells the story of Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who purchased The Cannon Group film studio in 1979 and produced hundreds of cheesy action and exploitation films during the 1980’s. The film features many clips from Cannon films, recordings of phone calls between the film makers and behind the scenes footage all of which are tied together with interviews with film writers, producers, editors, directors and actors including Franco Nero, Dolph Lundgren and Molly Ringwald.
The film never stays on the same interviewee or clip for more than twenty seconds and yet, despite the schizophrenic editing, the film is always easy to follow. Praise has to go to the writer, director and editor Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed) for managing to keep a compelling narrative through line with its snappy and untiring pace. However I would of liked the film to have spent more time with Golan and Globus in Israel before they came to the US so we can get a better sense of the men and their personalities other than just their films.
There is no doubting that the documentary is warts and all with no shortage of complaints and insults directed at Cannon films and Golan and Globus. The cousins were asked to take part in interviews for the documentary but unsurprising declined. However the film is in no way a completely negative representation of the film studio; for most of its running time it feels like more of a celebration of Cannon and their enjoyably bad films. The documentary never picks one side over the other. For every complaint horror master Tobe Hooper has about Cannon, Franco Zeffirelli counters it by saying Golan and Globus were the best producers he ever worked with.
While Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is consistently frank and funny (pretty much every interviewee does an impression of the fast talking and nasal voiced Golan) it fails to offer much depth on the political and business side of Cannon. The quick reason given for Cannon film’s downfall is that they made lots of bad films that no one paid to see. That is the reason but in its most basic form and the film was lacking in more explanation of the studio’s bankruptcy and what happened between Golan and Globus after they departed Cannon. Like the beginning, the ending felt rushed.
What the documentary lacks in depth and analysis it makes up for with a wealth of entertaining clips from Cannon films. One minute we’re seeing Chuck Norris blowing up Robert Forster with a missile firing motorbike, the next it’s Charles Bronson shooting a plethora of criminal stereotypes in the face. Then we see a badly dubbed Franco Nero take on an army of ninjas by spitting spikes into their faces and then a few seconds later we are subjected to awful dancing from 1979 musical science fiction film The Apple. The clips are being constantly presented and they are never repeated. I’m not sure if the praise for that should go to writer/director/editor Mark Hartley or Cannon films for producing such a huge number of so bad they’re good films that there are enough clips to fill the 102 minute running time.
It’s amazing just how many people were interviewed for the documentary. A new interviewee pops up for a few seconds, the documentary then shows us a brief film clip and then another new interviewee appears on screen. They appear so briefly near the start of the film that you barely have time to read their name and job title, which is shown in the bottom left, before another ex-Cannon employee appears. It wasn’t until about half way through the film when the interviews slowed up enough to actually see the person who was talking instead of franticly looking for their name before it disappeared. Despite this the interviews are very insightful in both the day running of Cannon and for giving us a detailed overview of the complete rise and fall of the studio and the Israeli cousins who ran it.
To conclude, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is as funny as it is frantic. A documentary in which the infamous film clips steal the show from a range of intriguing and interesting interviews with people involved with Cannon on every level . As brash as its subject material, it’s a worthy documentary to hold the Cannon name despite, or maybe even because of, it’s lack of depth. A film that film fans can’t help but love.
Have you already seen Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films or have I persuaded you to check it out? Let me know on Facebook or on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and like the Out of Lives Facebook page. Join me next week when I look at the ever increasing array of extended editions released on home entertainment platforms.