In the excellent new documentary "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films," there is a really great description of Cannon Films, the legendary low budget movie studio.
It comes from a music supervisor who worked on a lot of Cannon flicks. He’s describing one particular film in their singular archive but he might as well be talking about all of them: "That’s sorta the Cannon way," he says "it completely resembles something minus good taste.
"Electric Boogaloo," which screens at Fantastic Fest this week, was directed by Australian director Mark Hartley, whose previous two films, "Not Quite Hollywood"and "Machete Maidens Unleashed," also focused on trash cinema. Here, the oeuvre of cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who moved from inventing the modern Israeli film industry to coming to America when they bought a small company called Cannon Group and created Cannon Films, responsible for some of the most awesomely terrible movies of the 1980s. From musical bombs ("The Apple," sort of a sci-fi cross between "Tommy" and the book of Genesis, kind of has to be seen to be believed) to teen sex romps ("The Last American Virgin" tagline: "See it or be it!"), Cannon just kept going. Golan, himself a director, and Globus, who kept an eye on the books, are inspiring figures. Unencumbered by taste but hemmed by low budgets and a sense of the foreign market, they are a two-man grindhouse, often making movies after pre-selling the poster.
There’s even an Austin connection, as Cannon was the studio that made "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" which, like the original was directed by Austin born Tobe Hooper. (Hooper also directed the cult classic "Lifeforce" which one talking head refers to as "Tobe Hooper’s Ben Hur.")
After scoring a fluke hit with the breakdancing movie "Breakin’" (which one dancer calls "The ‘Enter the Dragon’ of hip-hop"), Golan and Globus go all in, cranking out various "Death Wish" and Chuck Norris movies and making some fine-ish art now and then (John Cassavetes’ "Love Streams" for example, was a Cannon Film.)
Unfortunately, as often happens in these situations, the cousins suddenly started to act like they were a real studio, spending five-figure budgets on movies such as "Masters of the Universe" and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace." By the end of the 1980s, it was all over but the shouting.
The two cousins didn’t participate in the documentary, but seemingly everyone else did. Look for interviews with Sybil Danning, Bo Derek and Marina "Counselor Troi" Sirtis. A must-see. for anyone interested in terrible movies.
"Electric Boogaloo" screens again 11:25 a.m. Sept. 23.