Watching this documentary about 1980s genre cinema staple Cannon Films, it’s hard to believe this is even a studio that really existed. I mean, we’re talking about a studio that sold movie posters to distributors then developed the actual movies being sold, with the plots being invented on the fly. We’re talking about movies shot as sequels being released ahead of their predecessors. We’re talking about a studio head (Menahem Golan) constantly professing his love of cinema, apparently without understanding what makes cinema so poignant. With the help of several former employees and collaborators (which include Dolph Lundgren, Alex Winter, and Bo Derek, among others), the tale that is told is one of hubris and naivete, of abuse and detrimental cost-cutting ventures that risked people’s safety and ruined their careers. It’s pretty dark in some ways really, but luckily director Mark Hartley has the right approach, informed by a love of lived-in ’80s genre movies, so the tone is somewhere between snappy and nostalgic. There are several fascinating talking-head interviews from a variety of interesting performers, directors and former studio heads, and the many Cannon films featured throughout still have the same disreputable appeal they’ve had since their original releases so there’s a certain nostalgic thrill to the experience. It’s an entertaining, informative and illuminating peak at one of the VCR era’s most prolific studios whose cinematic output littered video store shelves for decades, ready to be plucked by generations of burgeoning movie fans.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)