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3.8.15

WRITTEN REVIEW: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

By FOREST TAYLOR
Electric Boogaloo is a loving look back to a glorious time in film history when a dance contest could fix everything and if you couldn't add at least one ninja to your film, then it wasn't worth making. Through crazy clips and humorous anecdotes, the documentary chronicles the rise and fall of the infamous Cannon Films, a company so notorious that if movie-goers merely saw their logo before a film they would erupt into a chorus of booing.

The film is pretty straight-forward: in the late 1970s, Israeli madmen Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, after producing a few successful films in Israel, decided to head to Hollywood. They purchased a struggling production company and proceeded to make a series of schlocky, low-budget, quickly-made films, starting with sex comedies and dance films before moving on to the ultra-violent '80s action movies that became their staple. There's not much else to say beyond that.

Their films were a perfect representation of the ultra right-wing sentiment at the time, with their over the top depictions of hyper-masculinity, the fetishization of weapons and a healthy dose of xenophobia. Also, ninjas ... so many ninjas! In fact, Golan has stated that Cannon is the sole reason the word "ninja" ever entered the American lexicon and I can't really disagree with him on that.

We might laugh at how ridiculous Cannon's filmography was, but at the time it served a purpose. Back before every theater in the country was owned by a mega-conglomerate, smaller studios like Cannon, Orion, New Line and even Troma could directly compete with the major studios. They couldn't match their budgets, so they did the only thing they could: they specialized in genre films that the big studios tended to avoid in order to develop a niche audience. Sadly, the days of mid-level indie studios competing with the Hollywood heavy-hitters are pretty much gone now, but it's always fun to look back.


That's the bittersweet part of this documentary. Sure, the films could easily be described as exploitative trash, but there was a genuine love for the craft that seems totally lacking in today's film producers. While today's movie execs talk endlessly about focus groups, market shares and the weekend earnings, it's refreshing seeing a producer watching a scene from his newest movie (no matter how terrible) and saying without a hint of irony "this story is really going to grab people.". I'm not about to make outragous claims and say that Breakin' helped put an end to racism, but I will say that Cannon has definitely earned their place, for better or worse (okay, mostly worse) in film history.

Cannon is long gone, but like any studio that got lost in the shuffle, their memory remains. What are films like The Expendables and Olympus Has Fallen but Cannon films with a much bigger budget? Let me just put it this way; Cannon is entirely responsible for the Internet's love affair with Chuck Norris. My words could never do this documentary justice. You have to check it out and see the insanity for yourself! It will take you back to a simpler time: a time when all your problems could be solved with a rocket launcher or a swift roundhouse kick to the face!

ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

★ ★ ★ ★

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