Cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus founded the Cannon film company. Photo: YouTube screengrab
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The Cannon Group: the most disreputable duo in cinema?

Looking back at the exploitation enterprise of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus's cinematic output.

The Cannon Group dominated cinema exhibition in Britain in the Eighties. The company, founded and run by the Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, pumped out cheapo exploitation movies at an alarming rate across the genres (sex comedies, martial arts movies, vigilante thrillers, science-fiction, costume drama), and the duo got their hands on a chain of cinemas.

But they also funded the odd respectable endeavour – Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train, Jean-Luc Godard’s King Lear and John Cassavetes’s penultimate film, Love Streams. These high-calibre highpoints are not overlooked in a new documentary about Cannon, but the main focus falls on the more disreputable end of Golan and Globus’s output, as demonstrated by its title – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. Even when the movies weren’t bad, they were often plain bizarre.

One interviewee puts his finger on it, likening a Cannon film to a Frankenstein’s monster of parts that should never have been bolted together. Ninja III: The Domination, about a telephone linewoman who turns into a martial arts killer after being possessed by the spirit of a dead ninja, is a good case in point, mixing as it does elements of Flashdance, The Exorcist and Enter the Dragon.

I am almost ashamed to say that I haven’t seen the film but it has now zoomed to the top of my must-see list. It is joined there by some of the other movies featured in the documentary, such as The Last American Virgin, a US remake of the Israeli sex comedy Lemon Popsicle (which Golan had produced). Including an abortion scene in a sex comedy is bold enough. Intercutting it with footage of a pizza being sliced seems defiantly peculiar.

I also wonder how I have lived this long without seeing Masters of the Universe, the movie version of the He-Man children’s series. Ropey prosthetics, polystyrene sets, crap effects. It looks so wrong it’s right.

Had I not seen it already, Death Wish 3 would also surely be on the list. This is the third instalment of the morally redundant vigilante series, which was shot in south London to keep costs down, despite still being set in New York.

Alex Winter, the Bill & Ted star who played a thug in Death Wish 3, offers some dryly disparaging remarks about the movie, including his priceless memories of seeing its star, Charles Bronson, being ferried from his trailer to the set to do one of his minimalist, low-energy takes. “It was more like watching a man golf than act,” he says.

Mark Hartley, who directed the Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood (which was similarly slanted toward the sordid and scandalous side of filmmaking), has assembled a lively collection of clips and interviews that gives the Cannon story definition and shape, without stinting on the gratuitous anecdotes.

The analysis here argues that Cannon got too big for its boots: once it ditched the bargain basement production values, and started trying to match Hollywood dollar for dollar, its days were numbered. Golan wooed Sylvester Stallone with a gargantuan paypacket for the arm-wrestling (arm-wrestling!) drama Over the Top, and launched a fourth Superman film (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) without the imagination or budget to pull it off.

Good ideas, like Breakdance – which was rushed into production in time to capitalise on the breakdancing craze – were overshadowed by poor ones like Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo, which took dancing off the streets and into a series of incongruous, Day-Glo settings. And I should know, since I paid to see it aged 13. Cannon lost sight of its raison d’être.

Hartley’s film sometimes veers into casual misogyny in sections where a bunch of braying male interviewees mock the acting talents or conduct of Sylvia Kristel (who starred in Mata Hari) or Sharon Stone (who appeared early in her career in Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold).

“She was hated on set… All the South Africans hated her… ‘Who is that bitch?’” –this is just a selection of the comments made here about Stone. Kristel, too, is viewed without a shred of gallantry: “She was addicted to cocaine; by the time she reached Budapest, she was hooked on booze.” Is a little compassion too much to ask?

It isn’t that those actors are undeserving of criticism – more that it is framed in a way that feels vindictive, and gender-oriented. No one is lining up to slight the acting talents of the male action stars featured here. Chuck Norris is no Daniel Day-Lewis. Last time I looked, Jean Claude Van Damme had nothing on De Niro.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is on release.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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Why does food taste better when we Instagram it?

Delay leads to increased pleasure when you set up a perfect shot of your dinner.

Been on holiday? Take any snaps? Of course you did – but if you’re anything like me, your friends and family didn’t make it into many of them. Frankly, I can only hope that Mr Whippy and I will still be mates in sixty years, because I’m going to have an awful lot of pictures of him to look back on.

Once a decidedly niche pursuit, photographing food is now almost as popular as eating it, and if you thought that the habit was annoying at home, it is even worse when it intrudes on the sacred peace of a holiday. Buy an ice cream and you’ll find yourself alone with a cone as your companion rushes across a four-lane highway to capture his or hers against the azure sea. Reach for a chip before the bowl has been immortalised on social media and get your hand smacked for your trouble.

It’s a trend that sucks the joy out of every meal – unless, that is, you’re the one behind the camera. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that taking pictures of food enhances our pleasure in it. Diners at the food court of a farmers’ market in Philadelphia were asked either to photograph their meal or to eat “as you normally would”, then were questioned about how they found it. Those in the photography group reported that not only did they enjoy their meal more, but they were “significantly more immersed in the experience” of eating it.

This backs up evidence from previous studies, including one from this year in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, which found that participants who had been asked to photograph a red velvet cake – that bleeding behemoth of American overindulgence – later rated it as significantly tastier than those who had not.

Interestingly, taking a picture of a fruit salad had no effect on its perceived charms, but “when descriptive social norms regarding healthy eating [were] made salient”, photographing these healthier foods did lead to greater enjoyment. In other words, if you see lots of glossy, beautifully lit pictures of chia seed pudding on social media, you are more likely to believe that it’s edible, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
This may seem puzzling. After all, surely anything tastes better fresh from the kitchen rather than a protracted glamour shoot – runny yolks carefully split to capture that golden ooze, strips of bacon arranged just so atop plump hemispheres of avocado, pillowy burger buns posed to give a glimpse of meat beneath. It is hardly surprising that 95 million posts on Instagram, the photo-sharing site, proudly bear the hashtag #foodporn.

However, it is this delay that is apparently responsible for the increase in pleasure: the act of rearranging that parsley garnish, or moving the plate closer to the light, increases our anticipation of what we are about to eat, forcing us to consider how delicious it looks even as we forbid ourselves to take a bite until the perfect shot is in the bag. You could no doubt achieve the same heightened sense of satisfaction by saying grace before tucking in, but you would lose the gratification that comes from imagining other people ogling your grilled Ibizan sardines as they tuck in to an egg mayonnaise at their desk.

Bear in mind, though, that the food that is most successful on Instagram often has a freakish quality – lurid, rainbow-coloured bagel-croissant hybrids that look like something out of Frankenstein’s bakery are particularly popular at the moment – which may lead to some unwise menu choices in pursuit of online acclaim.

On the plus side, if a diet of giant burgers and salted-caramel lattes leaves you feeling queasy, take heart: if there is one thing that social media likes more than #avotoast, it is embarrassing oversharing. After a week of sickening ice-cream shots, a sickbed selfie is guaranteed to cheer up the rest of us. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser