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Fantastic Fest 2014: ‘Electric Boogaloo’ feverishly examines a defunct studio’s cinematic legacy

Fantastic Fest 2014: ‘Electric Boogaloo’ feverishly examines a defunct studio’s cinematic legacy

db_20636Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films 
Written and directed by Mark Hartley
Australia/USA/Israel/UK, 2014

From the late 70s to the early 90s, Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus, two Israeli cousins, ran the Cannon Films studio. The men produced dozens of mindless exploitation films, from Death Wish 3 to The Last American Virgin. Mark Hartley’s film sets out to define the producers’ legacy, with special emphasis on the men’s unorthodox and eccentric professional conduct. The result is a light, funny documentary that could benefit from the inclusion of more insightful material.

Both men started out in the Israeli film industry and produced more than 30 motion pictures before gaining tremendous financial success with the sexploitation movie Lemon Popsicle (later remade as American Virgin). The cousins moved to America shortly after in the hopes of securing international fame. Over the course of  the next decade their studio established itself as a breeding ground for schlocky cinema. Rumors surrounding the terrible working conditions of the film studio further contributed to the cousins’ infamous reputation. Many of their movies were scripted, cast, and shot over only a three-week period, with editors scrambling to assemble the rough cuts into semi-intelligible stories. There are myriad fascinating tales to be told about these hectic shooting schedules, and the fact that Electric Boogaloo attempts to tell all of them is a detriment to the film.

It is clear that Hartley was thorough with his interviews. He speaks with dozens of directors, producers, movielast-american-virgin-the-1982_01actors, and screenwriters who had first-hand experience working at Cannon Films. Most of their behind-the-scenes stories are humorous, albeit dubious, in nature. Rarely, though, do these accounts illustrate anything besides the bizarre relationships that the cousins, particularly Golan, had with their co-workers. Naturally, stories involving Barbet Schroeder threatening one of the men with a chainsaw or Golan attempting to converse with an orangutan are fiercely entertaining, but they fail to provide substantial insight into the lives of these men. Moreover, there are numerous aspects of their careers that are only briefly discussed. For example, little is said about the cousins’ transition from Israel to Hollywood. There is also only minimal screen time devoted to the events that led to the bankruptcy of Cannon Films.

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Hartley’s lightweight approach to his documentary ultimately endows it with an almost frantic structure. A Cannon Films production will briefly take center stage in order for some of the interviewees to disclose a few quick anecdotes, and then the focus will abruptly shift to a new motion picture. The style is lively and entertaining at first, but it becomes more exhaustive as the stories continue to fly out in rapid-fire fashion. Electric Boogaloo is often charming and witty, but it’s too wispy to carry itself through a feature length running time. It sets out to convey the cinematic legacy of Golan and Globus, but the results feel largely incomplete.

– Jacob Carter

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