Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films

One of the slovenly ghost catchers from Insidious sports a rare Masters of the Universe T-shirt with Dolph Lundgren bulging in its centre.

In one of those strange cinematic coincidences only spottable by film critics (and of no significance to anyone but them), Dolph is also one of the interviewees this week in Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (15) *** a documentary about Israeli film makers and cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, whose ‘pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap’ movies and distribution company had huge impact in Hollywood and the UK in the 1980s.

Dolph’s Masters of the Universe was a particular late example of their schlocky approach (they took the “special” out of “effects”), although Death Wish III, The Happy Hooker, Hercules with Lou Ferrigno, Bo Derek’s Bolero (who had the better breasts, Bo or Lou?) and The Apple (as someone calls it: “the Mount Everest of bad musicals”) were more typical of their output.

Arriving in Hollywood after having Israel’s biggest hit with the ever-popular Lemon Popsicle, they made a star out of Chuck Norris and put female Ninjas on the map. They paid Sly Stallone a fortune for arm-wrestling movie Over The Top and blew a fortune on Superman IV. However, this scatter gun approach also included the occasional lucrative hit such as Breakin’ and its sequel Electric Boogaloo which first brought hip hop culture to mainstream screens.

There was also the occasional artistic success, such as Konchalovsky’s existential thriller Runaway Train, Zefferelli’s Otello or Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly.

The documentary, by Australian Mark Hartley, is a fun, campy and often topless dissection of the ridiculous business of movies – my favourite quote is one which describes the no-nonsense Golan-Globus approach to Hollywood glamour as “limousine schmimousine”.

But it’s also about the dreamy passion of film makers with an absence of good taste but an abundance of chutzpah and a certain greed for profit. The Go-Go boys – or the Bad News Jews as another label had it – used to take over the Cannes Film Festival ( in the mid-80s it was briefly nicknamed the Cannon Film Festival, probably by the boys themselves) and their brand of indie hucksterism obtains in the tawdry market there today.

Yet, one must object. This is not an “Untold” story. Hartley’s film rightly ends with a subtitle confessing they’d approached Golan and Globus for comment but that the cousins had refused, only to come out (first) with their own documentary, called The Go-Go Boys, a film which I saw at Cannes in May 2014 in the presence of the still-feuding boys themselves, practically Menahem’s last appearance before his death just a few months later. The old boy could hardly make it up the steps to the stage to accept applause. Yet word on the Croisette then had it, he was still trying to pitch a new script to anyone who would listen.

The Go-Go’s own film is better, sadder on the collapse of the relationship between the cousins; Hartley’s film is flashier and trashier and happier to dish a bit of industry dirt on their somewhat dubious business practices.