“We must beat – Beat Street”
Those words were spoken by Menahem Golan, when he was told that “Beat Street,” another break dance movie, would be released around the same time as Cannon Films “Breakin,” which premiered on May 3, 1984 in Australia. Golan, who ran Cannon Films with his fellow Israeli, and cousin, Yoram Globus, did in fact get his wish, as “Breakin” went on to gross fifty-six million dollars on an approximately one million dollar budget. Unfortunately, in an effort to cash in on the success of “Breakin,” Cannon Films fast tracked distribution of a sequel, “Breakin ‘2: Electric Boogaloo,” that is often referred to as cartoonish and subpar. Decisions like that seemed to be the Cannon Films way, according to a majority of the interviews that are shown during the 106 minute runtime of the documentary.
Throughout the film, viewers are treated to archival footage, film clips from various movies that were produced by Cannon Films, behind the scenes insight, and candid interviews with those who worked for the ostentatious Golan and Globus. Amongst those who commented, some of the more notable were: Emmy winning director, John Frankenheimer (Andersonville); Oscar nominee, Robert Forster (Jackie Brown); director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre); Frank Yablans the former President of Paramount Pictures; and Golden Globe winner, Richard Chamberlain (The Thorn Birds).
Grievances from those who worked for Cannon Films varied from, screenwriters complaining that their scripts were radically altered once filming began, to actors bemoaning the choice of director to helm a certain project. For example, Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) rips into the sadistic type of person he felt director Michael Winner (Death Wish) truly was, and his experience working with him. Bo Derek (10) recalls being angered, and rightfully so, over the fact that personal photographs that she didn’t authorize to be shared with the public were used by Cannon to promote the film “Bolero.” There also those who point out questionable casting choices, such as Sylvia Kristel having been given the lead role in “Mata Hari.” According to those who worked on the film, Kristel was frequently drunk, and by that point in her career a known drug user, also her acting for the most part was wooden.
For all of the negativity directed toward Cannon Films, and Golan and Globus, there are many who had positive things to say about the cousins. In addition, to the director’s credit, he doesn’t make the case pro or con for Cannon Films. Furthermore, he points out instances where Cannon was striving for respect and legitimacy, when they worked with, among others: Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, John Cassavetes (A Woman Under the Influence); Golden Globe winner, Robert Altman (Gosford Park); BAFTA winner, Franco Zeffirelli (Otello); and Academy Award winning director, Jean Luc-Godard (Vivre Sa Vie). For every critical and commercial success Cannon had, as well as low budget films like “Cyborg,” which turned a tremendous profit, they produced a greater number of box office failures; chief among those were “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace,” “Masters of the Universe,” as well as the “Captain America” film that was released in 1990. The superhero movie cost Cannon, an estimated ten million dollars to make, but only recouped a bit over ten thousand dollars in tickets sales. Making matters worse, was the rumored salary of twelve million dollars they paid Sylvester Stallone (Creed) for the 1987 arm wrestling themed movie “Over the Top.” In 1994, after turning out too many big budgeted films that didn’t turn a profit, as well as an investigation against Cannon regarding questionable business practices, the company filed for bankruptcy.
The film was written and directed by Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!). Premiering in Australia on August 2, 2014 at the Melbourne International Film Festival, it can currently be seen via instant streaming on Netflix. The director asked Golan and Globus to appear in the film, and provide commentary, but the cousins refused. Instead, in typical Cannon Films fashion, they put together their own documentary on the history of Cannon called “The Go-Go Boys.” Their movie wound up preceding Hartley’s, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2014.