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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Best of SFIFF: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 11:00 AM


We're only human, okay? We try our best, but there's only so much SF Weekly can do. And yet, I have no good excuse for why we didn't properly inform you about the single most important film playing at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. And it already had its two showings this past weekend — which is another tragedy, that it was only screened twice, and not nightly during the duration of the festival — but I attended the Sunday night screening, and damn, it's good stuff. It's a look back at Israeli producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and their glorious reign at Cannon Pictures in 1980s.

Among the pictures they were responsible for on various levels include The Apple, Death Wish III, Missing in Action, Superman IV, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Ninja III: The Domination, The Last American Virgin, Invasion U.S.A., Over the Top, and as you may have gleaned from the title, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. And that just barely scratches the surface.

I'm arguably biased because I love documentaries about low-budget / outsider filmmaking, but I can say without fear of contradiction that you'll want to put it at the top of your list when it inevitably hits streaming later this year.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films director Mark Hartley also made the terrific documentary about 1970s-80s Australian cinema called Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation — which, seriously, no points for originality in the titling department, folks — as well as Machete Maidens Unleashed about the Filipino exploitation film industry.

Cannon Films was really Golan and Globus, and Golan in particular, and the interviewees have a wide range of opinions. Frank Yablans, CEO of MGM during the brief period that they distributed Cannon films, has no sentimentality and was clearly scarred by the experience, while Robert Forster describes Golan as one of the best directors he's ever worked with (and as one of our most reliable characters, he's worked with a lot of directors), and Franco Zeffirelli says Golan was the best producer he ever worked with, hands down. Curiously, when people do impressions of Golan, they make him sound quite a bit like The Room's Tommy Wiseau. The picture also acknowledges the anti-immigrant sentiment in Hollywood that was particularly strong during the Reagan years; they were Israeli men who never quite grokked the American idiom, and never stood a chance of being truly accepted.

In archival footage, Golan himself comes across as a self-deluded Roger Corman. By that I mean Corman was (is) a similar figure, cranking out product at an astonishing rate, but Corman has always known he's making trash, while Golan talked about making epic, important, Oscar-winning movies. Like, you know, Sahara starring Brooke Shields. Which, yeah, no.

In a moment of more reasonable self-reflection, Golan commented, "Sometimes we made good films, sometimes we made not so good films, but we made films." Bingo. Exactly. That's what matters in the long run.

A fair amount of time is given over to the twin disasters of Superman IV and Masters of the Universe, which resulted in Cannon overextending themselves and lead to the company's ugly demise. (Paying Sylvester Stallone a then-unheard-of $12 million for Over the Top, pushing its budget up to $25M, didn't help.) Original Superman film producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind gave Golan and Globus $30M to make Superman IV, but Cannon then slashed the budget to $17M, resulting in the famously shoddy final product.

However, I'd always been under the impression the money they cut went specifically Masters of the Universe, but nobody mentions that here, which leads me to believe it was an urban legend. Now I know better! See? A good film documentary can be both educational and a hell of ride, and Electric Boogaloo excels at both.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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