Tag Archives: B-movie

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Electric Boogaloo
Electric Boogaloo

Format: Cinema

Release date: 5 June 2015

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Mark Hartley

Australia 2014

107 mins

Australian exploitation fan boy par excellence, Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed!) wraps his schlock doc trilogy with this suitably energetic ride through the highs and lows of Israeli film moguls Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’s career – otherwise known as the bold, brash forces of nature behind infamous B-movie studio Cannon Films in the 1980s.

The pair – already the subject of Hilla Medalia’s Cannes-feted and officially sanctioned doc The Go-Go Boys – are notable in their absence from Hartley’s film (Globus and the late Golan reportedly wished to torpedo his efforts with Medalia’s project), and appear only in archive material (much of it drawn from the BBC). But Hartley rises to the challenge admirably. Talking heads – of which there are a staggering 80 in total – fire off anecdotes and sound bites with increasingly gleeful abandon, in an enjoyable ride through one of Hollywood’s more bizarre eras.

Oddly, there is scant mention (or analysis) of the cousins prior to their film association in Israel, nor does Roger Corman (whom Golan briefly worked with) appear to warrant a nod. The trash traders’ about-turn later in Cannon’s life, chasing credibility by pursuing the likes of John Cassavetes, Peter Bogdanovich and even Jean-Luc Godard, is also frustratingly not explored beyond a quick, cursory glance.

But what Hartley’s film does do, it does rather well. The absurdity of Cannon’s low-brow, worry-about-the-plot later mentality, its shameless pre-sales for so-called star-led vehicles that existed in poster form only, its Gargantuan output (up to 50 films a year) and appetite (buying up over 40 per cent of Britain’s film exhibition in one fell swoop) allowed its uncouth stars to shine briefly but brightly. Although few mourned the loss of the pair’s studio – brought down by box-office bombs such as Superman IV and Masters of the Universe, amidst reports of false accounting – many of those interviewed clearly look back with bemused fondness at what went on.

Cannon, as several note in the film, evidently provided a blueprint of sorts for the likes of Miramax (and for recent bone-head franchises like The Expendables) to flourish. It made a star out of Chuck Norris (who is not interviewed), discovered Jean-Claude Van Damme and set a precedent with Sylvester Stallone (both of whom are also absent), with the latter scoring an absurdly inflated pay cheque, in excess of $US10million, for the doomed arm-wrestling romp Over the Top. At one point, Cannon even owned the rights to Spider-Man, Superman and the Captain America franchises, despite its shocking appetite for sexual violence (brazenly on show notably in Michael Winner’s Death Wish sequels).

Golan and Globus’s eventual falling out (and subsequent reconciliation) is less effectively visualized here (see Medalia’s film for that). But otherwise, Hartley’s geek-fuelled journey down memory lane (with its generous serving of clips in tow) delivers a vibrant, often frenetic look at a remarkable pair of film-fawning men who were – if nothing else – determined to take on Hollywood at its own game. That they ultimately failed (or were, at least, kept firmly on the periphery) only adds to the fascinating nature of their screen story. Some detail may be lacking (and the story is hardly ‘untold’), but a ‘wild’ ride it most certainly is. Cinephiles and Cannon obsessives should form a line here.

Ed Gibbs

This review is part of our TIFF 2014 coverage.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street

Format: Cinema

Release date: 31 October 2013

Distributor: Park Circus

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Wes Craven

Cast: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp

USA 1984

91 mins

Released in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a wide-ranging critical and commercial success, establishing the faltering young studio New Line – nicknamed ‘The House that Freddy Built’ – and revitalising the career of writer/director Wes Craven, as well as introducing the cinema-going public to the enduring horror/comedy icons, Freddy Kreuger and Johnny Depp, who together must have inspired a significant demographic of fancy dress and Halloween costumes. Returning to the original film in the wake of the increasingly bizarre sequels, culminating in Wes Craven’s meta-mad New Nightmare and Samuel Bayer’s dourly unnecessary 2010 remake, I was surprised by how much fun it is. For some reason, I had retrospectively given the original film a patina of respectability in the light of the daftness of what was to come, but that daftness was right there from the beginning, and Nightmare is best enjoyed as a pulpy B-movie that sneakily delights in its own absurdity.

Although Robert Englund is credited in the opening titles as playing ‘Fred Krueger’, he really is Freddy from the get go. Forget any contemporary neuroses about the ubiquity of paedophilia; Freddy, the disfigured knife-clawed child murderer, is a cackling, malevolent clown figure who delights in the fear and disgust he causes his victims. His costume is circus-tent red and green, and in an early appearance, his arms stretch out from one side of the street to the other, both ludicrous and genuinely frightening. He’ll happily lop of a finger for a giggle, and his murders are gruesome jokes on his victims, involving peek-a-boo chases and Johnny Depp’s Greg getting sucked into the pit of his bed to be spewed out, like the gushing spill from the elevator in the Overlook Hotel. ‘You’re not gonna need a stretcher,’ a cop tells the rushing medics. ‘You’re gonna need a mop.’

Heather Langenkamp as Nancy, Freddie’s target and adversary, has a goofy awkward innocence and a weird dreamlike nonchalance. Everyone in the film behaves with an odd dreamy logic, though the dreams themselves are never really that dream-like, with the exception of the gooey staircases that melt under Nancy’s running feet. The dreams are more like Hollywood-digested Freud, with the boiler room as the steamy, ready-to-blow site of repression, rage and dark history, in stark opposition to the pastel-coloured suburban life on show. Freddy himself is a product of Nancy’s parents’ crimes, and they are as much a danger to her as Freddy, with Ronnee Blakley as Nancy’s booze-drenched mom and B-movie legend John Saxon as the absent police detective dad.

Ultimately, Nancy will try to inhabit Freddy’s sado-comic world and play by his rules. Anticipating the Home Alone antics of Macauley Culkin’s Kevin, Nancy improvises a series of Wile-E-Coyote traps – a hammer falling from a door, exploding lightbulbs – but these manoeuvres and her attempt at psychological release will be dubiously effective against a cartoonish figure who, like all cartoon heroes, simply won’t die.

John Bleasdale

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Format: DVD

Release date: 26 September 2005

Distributor: Filmgalerie 451

Director: Roland Klick

Writer: Roland Klick

Cast: Mario Adorf, Marquard Bohm, Anthony Dawson, Mascha Elm Rabben, Sigurd Fitzek, Betty Segal

West Germany 1970

85 mins

A young man named Kid, in a dusty two-piece suit and with a bullet wound in his arm, walks across an astoundingly stark and shimmering desert carrying a metal suitcase and a machine gun. After collapsing from exhaustion, his body is eventually discovered by Mr. Dump who opens the suitcase to find a vinyl 45-inch single and a pile of stolen money. His initial plan is to take the money and run, until Kid gains consciousness and forces Mr. Dump at gunpoint to take him with him and remove the bullet from his arm.

Mr. Dump reluctantly drives them back to his refuge, a desolate and squalid mining town whose only other occupants are Mr. Dump’s deranged and psychotic wife and their mute, feral daughter. Refusing to remove the bullet from Kid’s arm, a power struggle between the two men ensues as Mr. Dump desperately tries to exploit the situation for his own means. That is until the mysterious Mr. Sunshine arrives to split the cash and settle old scores. As night turns into day, the situation increasingly escalates towards unhinged paranoia and extreme violence, with any chance of hope obscured by blood, dust and the intrusion of bleak reality.

Although Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970) may have taken its cue from Spaghetti Westerns and classic American crime movies, it’s also fair to say – like the best cult movies of the 1970s – that it takes place within a universe of its own making. Much like Kaneto Shindō’s Onibaba (1964), its small cast of tormented and tormenting characters never leave the confines of their isolated location, with very little indication of an outside world. It’s almost as if a group of classic archetypes have broken free from their own movies and found themselves lost within the last film at the edge of the earth.

Klick uses the sparse surroundings of Israel’s Negev desert to great effect, creating a crumbling portrait of arid decay and brutal, unforgiving desperation. His inventive framing and overtly stylistic compositions give the film a dreamlike quality – with the occasional moment of controlled psychedelic surrealism – without bubbling over into nonsensical self-indulgence. Add to this the superb film score by Krautrock legends Can and you’ve got yourself an incredibly unique and unforgettable piece of German cinema. In fact, the way in which Klick lets the Can track ‘Tango Whiskey Man’ slowly imbed itself into the narrative (it’s the single hidden in the suitcase with the money) is one of the clever touches that gives the film a certain charm.

Despite Klick’s ambitious experimentalism, he never gets sidetracked and thankfully refuses to neglect certain genre expectations, with a plot and place that’s as firm and gritty as the landscape on which it takes place. A thrilling, entertaining and distinctive example of B-movie pragmatism delivered with artistic scope.

Robert Makin

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Format: Cinema

Release date: 26 December 2012

Venues: Limited

Distributor: Vertigo Films

Director: Jon Wright

Writer: Kevin Lehane

Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey

UK/Ireland 2012

94 mins

Grabbers is one of the most persistently entertaining and thrilling films of this year: a throwback to the B-movies of the 50s, it’s a smart film that uses Irish locations and humour to create a unique spin on the genre.

When an island off the coast of Ireland finds itself invaded by aliens, the small community can only rely on their alcoholic Garda (a terrific Richard Coyle), rookie Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley on top form) and love-rival scientist Dr Adam Smith (Russell Tovey doing his usual routine) to save them from being obliterated.

Enjoyment of Grabbers relies as much on the audience’s ability to have fun as anything else: this is not a serious , lofty film but a fun science-fiction ride with some terrific set pieces and some of the best CGI delivered from these shores. Considering the budget of the film, the special effects really shine: they are almost as good as in the pinnacle of the genre, the Korean monster masterpiece The Host.

The structure of the film plays out like any number of B-movies from the past: Tremors, Deep Rising even Attack the Block. However. it’s the local flavour that adds a unique twist to the proceedings: not only as provided by our heroes but also by the members of the small village on the island who all create some memorable and very funny characters that riff on recognisable stereotypes. True, it’s not exquisitely in-depth characterisation, but when the end result is so charming and well put together, that it’s impossible to complain.

Grabbers might not be anything new –most of the film feels like it was put together by taking the best examples of the genre. However, along with Cockneys vs Zombies, it is a refreshing genre film, something that we need more of in UK cinemas. And if that sounds like damning with faint praise, be assured it isn’t. Grabbers will delight not only the fans of the genre but also anyone who wants to spend 94 minutes in the company of some charming and bumbling characters fighting a greater evil the only way they know how – through sheer determination and liberal doses of Guinness.

Evrim Ersoy