Film Review: ‘Electric Boogaloo’


There are few Hollywood stories as intriguing as that of Cannon Films, the independent distributor born from the ambitions of Israeli immigrants Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Throughout the 1970s and 80s the pair made a name for themselves as purveyors of low brow, trashy cinema that would almost accidentally engrave their names into Hollywood folklore, and make them infamous among cinephiles for years to come. Through a serious of rueful interviews and archive footage, Not Quite Hollywood (2008) director Mark Hartley relives their pursuit of the ‘American Dream’, which they would achieve by any means necessary.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Canon Films (2014) is a cavalcade of behind the scenes anecdotes, told by actors and film industry professionals whose emotions range from incredulous amusement to decades-old resentment. The stories behind the spectacular failures are always the more fun elements of the film, if only for the fact that someone genuinely thought they were good ideas. From disastrous horror film House of The Long Shadows, to Lou Ferrigno’s Hercules, carefully selected clips make a fine accompaniment to the often shame filled testimony (Dolph Lundgren’s recollection of playing He-Man in Masters of The Universe is a brief but chuckle-filled highlight). The breathless pace of the film means no subject is examined for too long, yet the theme of two men trying to crack the Hollywood code is always present in the narrative.

Their formula of ‘big name + gore/sex/action (or a combination of the three)’ leads to some howling misfires, but just as interesting is when they trip upon something that works. The success of Cannon’s signature hit, Breakin’ in 1984, is an example of when the pair’s ambition and public appetite combined, a small victory and an enjoyable one for the viewer now endeared towards this quest for Hollywood success. It also provides as entertaining insight as the failures, with star Shabba Doo insisting the film did more for inter-race relations than the UN. It’s this emphasis that gives the film its charm. However underhanded or misguided their methods, this was the story of two foreigners who were in love with movies, and determined to make their mark on Hollywood at any cost.

The enormous amount of affection poured into the tone of the film underlines the fact that they have done just that. There is also a joy in celebrating the low-fi nature of their more ambitious efforts, with Superman IV: The Quest For Peace  and Stallone-led arm-wrestling drama Over The Top living longer in the memory for being bad than hundreds of others would for being average. While the documentary’s scattershot approach makes it less examination, more vivid highlight reel, there is no denying Electric Boogaloo‘s abiding fodness for its subject matter. This lovingly put together film makes it a must see for any movie fan, who may be amazed at how some of the techniques employed by these starry-eyed chancers are now common practice for the large studios they tried so hard to emulate.

James Luxford | @JLFilm