Logo designed by Austin Culp
What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.
Cannon Fodder is an ongoing column that will re/visit the entire canon (ahem) of feature films produced by Cannon Films. Launching some of the biggest action careers in film history, such as Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Cannon Films were the ultimate purveyors of mid-budget cheese throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s. Cannon Fodder will explore the entire filmography of this storied production company (in no particular order) and will do its best to prepare AICN readers for the upcoming release of Mark Hartley’s definitive Cannon Films Documentary; Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.
Although Cannon Films was not run for the entirety of its existence by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus, they are the power players that gambled big and eventually lost big with this prolific production house. Each edition of Cannon Fodder will briefly explore what level of involvement the loveable cousins had in each film. Because there are several dozen titles in the Cannon Canon, each installment of this column will cover multiple titles.
UPDATE: I’d like to make the Cannon Fodder column a little more interactive, so I’m going to start planning ahead! From here on out I’ll post what my next planned Cannon double feature is, so you can watch them along with me. There may be unforeseen changes in plan based on availability and timeliness of the column, etc. But for the most part, I’ll let you know what is coming up and we can check these films out together! I’ll still take your suggestions into account and next week’s selections are a couple of the most requested titles I’ve heard mentioned in the talkbacks to date!
For as long as I can remember, there has been BREAKIN’. But I’d never actually seen the film and the Cannon Fodder column was the perfect opportunity to delve deeply into the world of Ozone (Adolfo Quinones) and Turbo (Michael Chambers), the baddest Breakers on planet earth.
Well, to be honest, diving into BREAKIN’ really means you are entering the world of Kelly, (Lucinda Dickey) the boring, smiley, upper class white dancer who will be our surrogate as we are introduced to the far more interesting world of break dancing. Kelly is a jazz dancer being trained by the snobby lothario Franco. She is on track to become the lead dancer in Franco’s big dance show. But when he can’t keep his hands off of her, Kelly decides to partner up with Ozone and Turbo after being introduced to the world of street dancing through her fellow dance class member who happens to be an African American man. Together, Ozone, Turbo, and Kelly will show a rival dance crew who’s boss at the Radiotron. After that, they’ll have to prove themselves to the man if they want to upstage Franco and create their own headlining show. Will these b-boys rock the establishment with their passionate and unreserved style? Nope. They won’t. And it’ll all end in a terrible funk of depression. Yep, of course they’ll stick it to The Man and rock the world with their new moves.
I’m sure other films like this came before BREAKIN’, but as far as I’m concerned, BREAKIN’ casts the mold which all of today’s many “urban dance” films ape. I’m not personally a fan of musicals in general, and especially not dance films. So BREAKIN’ was always going to be a stretch for me to enjoy. And yet, somehow this thing worked its magic on me and I found myself getting goosebumps as some of the world’s greatest b-boys of 1984 just went crazy on screen and forever immortalized themselves.
Michael Chambers’ Turbo is Ozone’s sidekick and the comic relief of the film. But this guy is clearly the most talented of all the dancers in the film. His robot style is amazing and he has a magical dance number outside of a convenience store where he sweeps up the streets with a broom. This dance is pure, sugar-coated, 1984 glee. And it rivals some of the best of Michael Jackson’s famous routines.
What I loved most about BREAKIN’ was just the general joy and freedom that is celebrated throughout. While the dudes playing Ozone and Turbo are not great actors by any stretch, they are incredible dancers and they feel authentic. You’ve got black, white, and Hispanic youth living the birth of the hip hop revolution and Cannon seems to have captured a time and place in history that will never be seen again as hip hop has morphed and changed into a cultural phenomenon the world over. BREAKIN’ has boundless energy and everyone seems invited to the party. Ozone has some legitimately powerful moments where he gets to live out his style and his way of life before the eyes of the rich, white, and pompous; and you can’t help but root for the guy. The movie brims over with optimism and while it may not portray a “real world” scenario, it sure does make you wish the world WOULD be a little more like this.
Things You Will Only Ever See In THIS Movie
- A smiling, hoodie-wearing young man with cerebral palsy dancing his heart out using his crutches to break. Dude will rip out your heartstrings.
- A smiling, black unitard-wearing Jean-Claude Van Damme dancing in the background of the beach breakin’ scene.
- A smiling, Caucasian-jheri curl-wearing Shooter McGavin (AKA Christopher McDonald) actually playing a nice guy in a movie.
How Many Tablespoons of Golan/Globus Are Added?
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus are only credited as Executive Producers. However, I would speculate that their penchant for risk taking was probably the initial reason that this film exists. Like NEW YEAR’S EVIL before it, BREAKIN’ feels like it was expressly marketed to teens and in this particular case, they seemed to have picked just the right fad at just the right time! BREAKIN’ brought the trend of break dancing to an international audience and IMDB claims that BREAKIN’ was ultimately Cannon’s most profitable film as distributors. The promise of a sequel to BREAKIN’ is actually offered before the end credits even roll at the end of BREAKIN’. So they probably knew they had a hit on their hands.
As a matter of fact, BREAKIN’ director Joel Silberg did not return for the sequel, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, because it appears the cousins re-assigned him to cover one of the other 4 fundamental elements of hip hop in 1985’s RAPPIN’.
How Can You See BREAKIN’?
This time around, I actually rented BREAKIN’ from Austin’ own I Luv Video. It doesn’t look like BREAKIN’ has gotten the Blu-ray treatment just yet, but you can buy the DVD here at Amazon. Clicking through that link to purchase will help support this column!
There is also a two-pack DVD that will get you both BREAKIN’ and the sequel, which I’ll discuss in detail below. You can pick up the two-pack right here.
Please do notice that the year BREAKIN’ 2 was released is the very same year as its predecessor! Not only was the second film promised in the end credits of the first film, but it appears that production only broke long enough between the two for its stars to grow out slightly different haircuts.
Actually, it feels like more time has passed inside our movie universe than had passed in the real world. We find Kelly considering taking a dance role in Paris here in BREAKIN’ 2, and we meet her wealthy parents who get to be the figures of disapproval this time around. The show that Ozone, Turbo, and Kelly put on at the end of the first film seems to have closed and they’ve all moved on to new endeavors. When Kelly decides to go visit her buddies, the entire ‘hood ends up dancing their way over to Miracles, a community center that Ozone and Turbo are founders of. Miracles is the kind of place that only exists in movies, but you really want to hang out in. Fun-loving kids are dancing and grizzled old wise men are training up young boxers. Kids are doing their homework and adult volunteers are generally making the world a sun-shinier place to live in.
So, of course, some stuffy old rich white dudes are going to show up and try to tear Miracles down in order to build a shopping mall. The crew will have to figure out a way to raise $200 G’s in order to renovate their property, or the city is going to shut them down. It’s up to Kelly, Ozone, Turbo, and the almighty hip-hop to save them!
BREAKIN’ 2 gets the balance a little off from the first film and becomes, in my opinion, much more hokey and idealized, whereas the first film felt magical and hopeful. The stakes are much higher here in BREAKIN’ 2, but the last vestiges of any idea that this is set in the real world are thrown right out the window. That doesn’t make this a worse film, per se, but I enjoyed it a little less.
I also feel like the dancing in BREAKIN’ 2 is a little more jazz style and less straight up breakin’. I found a general lack of poppin’ and lockin’ in a movie that is supposed to be all about just that!
Those complaints aside, there is one dance number, once again performed by Michael Chambers as Turbo, that bests all the others in this film or the first one. Having fallen madly in love with a young Latino girl who doesn’t speak English, Turbo has to figure out how to woo his chick. The dance number finds him effortlessly dancing up walls and across ceilings as, presumably, his newfound love has him swimming in the clouds or something. I read that the production used a special rig for this dance number that they borrowed from the set of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. And while that is completely awesome, I still can’t quite figure out how they achieved this magical dance number and it is kind of fun to be stumped by the magic of the movies.
BREAKIN’ 2 has perhaps the most famous subtitle in movie history: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. That subtitle has transcended the film itself and is a pop culture reference point for any as-yet-untitled sequel in the works. We all wish WALL STREET 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO had happened, but instead we got MONEY NEVER SLEEPS or some crap.
Aside from the ingenious title and the gravity-defying dance number...
....BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is a step down from its predecessor.
But not a significant one. These aren’t masterpieces by any stretch, but BREAKIN’ and BREAKIN’ 2 capture a fantastic time and place in hip-hop culture and act as time capsules for us today. I’m really glad I checked them both out, and that I did it back to back.
Things You Will Only Ever See In THIS Movie
- An English speaking actress being cast as a fiery Latina who actually has all of her English lines DUBBED over into Spanish. You know, instead of just actually hiring a beautiful, fiery, SPANISH SPEAKING actress.
- A dude straight up break dancing from the ceiling, shot from above through a clear floor. (Must be seen to be comprehended and/or believed.)
- Rich white people learning their lesson.
How Many Tablespoons of Golan/Globus Are Added?
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus are credited as Producers. It seems like they cousins had it in mind to groom Lucinda Dickey as a future starlet because they cast her in another of their films, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (also in 1984.) ELECTRIC BOOGALOO’S director, Sam Firstenberg, also went straight into directing duties on NINJA III as well. So I’m presuming that the Golan/Globus financial wizardry worked it’s magic here to squeeze as much movie as possible out of the talent they had on hand!
How Can You See BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO?
While the first film is not, BREAKIN’ 2 is available to watch on Netflix Watch Instant at the time of this writing. But if you are interested in buying it on DVD, you can pick it up at Amazon right here.
And I’m Out.
Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis