Madrid, Aug. 16, 2016
Recently my son alerted me to a documentary about Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus which he thought old muggs might find interested. I viewed the 100 minute documentary made in Australia in 2014 and it brought back so many memories about the two men I called “the chutzpah boys”, whom we met every year at the Cannes Film Festival in the 80s, that I thought I’d pass on the discovery to other muggs who may not have heard of it.
The film is called “Electric Boogaloo” (an unfortunate title, in my opinion) subtitled “The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films” and is a no-holds-barred history of the rise and fall of Cannon Films. Many of us personally witnessed the amazing spectacle of their filmic saga, and knew the cousins first-hand, even if it was only doing an interview with one, or selling them ads, or collecting them (a more difficult proposition), or sitting opposite Menahem slurping his soup.
Certainly, Cannon was one of the biggest advertisers in Variety. Mort Bryer recalls doing a 50-page section on Cannon for the fifth anniversary of them taking over the company. “I even went to Israel,” he writes, “where some people called them crooks. They wanted to know who DID NOT support their section. I gave them a report almost every week. Aka blackmail. They were our best customers for years and used to run a huge number of pages of ads in each year’s Cannes issue as well as at the MIFED and the American Film Market.”
The documentary traces the careers of Menahem and Yoram from their beginnings in Israel to their apotheosis in the States. At their high point they owned a huge building in LA and had bought theatre circuits in Holland, Germany and Italy. In the UK they snatched up the ABC Cinemas circuit and at one point owned 40% of cinema screens in the country. The budgets of their films starting getting higher and higher, and near the end it wasn’t just Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson actioners, with little stories and lotsa special effects and violence, but even Sylvester Stallone. According to the documentary they paid him $14 million for one film, far from the one million plus budgets of their old days, which, they claimed, could not fail to make a profit when sold worldwide.
Electric Boogaloo was made in Australia and premiered at the Melbourne Film Festival in August 2014. It was written and directed by Mark Hartley, who interviewed close to 100 persons all over the world, ranging from dozens of thesps who appeared in the Cannon films over the years to Hollywood executives and film critics.
While at Variety we closely covered the evolution of the boys’ progress and later its downfall and gave them the appropriate space in the paper. As is done by some of those interviewed in the documentary, we’d often mimick their speech. “Ya vanta make a deal?” The film touches on the time that in Cannes Menahem signed a pact with Jean-Luc Godard on a napkin in a restaurant, which I, too, remember and was the talk of the festival one morning. And it touches on other outlandish incidents, with many of those interviewed lambasting the couple and their schlock films. And then there was Paretti… I remember on one occasion Menahem hosted a gigantic reception in the largest salon in the new Palais, handing out invites to just about everyone at the festival. I think it was to announce some new “blockbuster” with Roger Moore. After Menahem made his pitch, the mob was served trays full of ….potato chips! That was all.
After Yoram and Menahem separated, the latter started up a new company, 21st Century Films, and I recall him waiting for customers in front of his stand in the Cannes film market, a very small stand, not like the huge ones Cannon had in its glory days. He was still trying to make the old schlock, but by now his light was fast fading.
In the documentary there is a shot of the two men where Menahem looks old and beaten. At the end of the film it is noted that both declined to be interviewed. Menahem died on Aug. 8, 2014 in Jaffa. Yoram, who is now 75, probably still lives in Israel.
Finally, for those interested, I came across another documentary made on Cannon back in 1986 by the BBC. It was when the Chutzpah Boys were at their peak.
Both films seem to be available on YouTube, for those nostalgic enough to want to have a look-see.
PS: If anyone out there wants to send his own recollections of Menahem and Yoram, please forward them to me for posting on Simesite.