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April 21, 2015

Interview | Breakin’ 2: The Cast & Crew

Finally, the moment I’ve been anticipating for so many years, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, one of my favorite films (if not THE favorite) is being released on Blu-Ray in all it’s widescreen high-definition glory. Today, April 21, 2015, the fantastic Shout! Factory (responsible for the release of the Freaks and Geeks box set and countless horror classics via their Scream Factory imprint) releases both Breakin’ films as a double feature on what is the 31st anniversary of both films. Strange to think kids today who may see these now viewing them the same way I saw movies from the 1950s, as it still feels like only yesterday my Dad was taking me to the theater to see Breakin’ 2 when we lived in West Virginia. After that trip to the local cinema the film stayed with me ever since, and really my love for it has only become stronger. A lot of has to do with my love for music from the 80s which I believe is one of the strongest decades for music (contrary to popular opinion) – and the Electric Boogaloo soundtrack is no exception. What always stuck with me the most about Breakin’ 2 (and yes, I view it in much higher regard than the original film which was released only seven months prior to the sequel, in the spring of 1984) was the complete joy that radiates from every frame. The music, the dancing, the bright LA setting, the Dayglo costumes, and even though the storyline has been done plenty of times before and since, the positive message of good winning over greed. It’s just so hard in my opinion to find even another musical that is filled with so much optimistic energy and that is – more than anything else – completely sincere. Of course there are plenty of films out there which are more technically accomplished, and I would obviously have to say are “better” films. Really, there’s no mistaking it. But I always find myself coming back to Breakin’ 2 when people ask me what my favorite film is. It may not be perfect in its execution, but where its heart lies couldn’t be more clearer, which is a lot more than can be said about movies both then and now.


It was a true pleasure having the opportunity to interview – to celebrate the Blu-Ray release – one of the stars, Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quiñones (who portrays Ozone in both films) and the film’s director, Sam Firstenberg. Both couldn’t have been nicer, and even kinder to take time out of their busy schedules to take part.


The end credits of Breakin’ mentioned a sequel called Electric Boogaloo was in the works. Was a sequel always part of the plan or was that included in case the first was a hit and a sequel was then financially warranted by Cannon?


Sam Firstenberg: I was never aware of that fact but I am not surprised. From the beginning Cannon was a company of sequels, Death Wish 2, 3, & 4 with Charles Bronson is just one example. I presume that you are right and the plan was that if Breakin’ would be successful they would produce a sequel.


Adolfo Quiñones: A sequel wasn’t in the works, during production of Breakin’ it was planned due to the enormous success of the film. I was not contracted for the sequel. After tough negotiations we entered into an agreement to star in the second film.


Sam, how did you become involved as director? Was it your history with Cannon Films, or a specific vision you had for the sequel?


SF: The director of Breakin’ was Joel Silbert and as far as I know he was supposed to direct the sequel. I don’t know why he did not, and I never asked, but at some point after the release of the movie Ninja III: The Domination that I directed with the same actress of Breakin’, Lucinda Dickey (Kelly), I was asked by the head of Cannon Films, Menahem Golan, to take over the directing of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. At that point I did not have any vision for the movie, it was developed later.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v450/neonair/CINEMA/BREAKIN%202/0da37ca9-cc11-441d-b280-5358f4ecf7e1.jpg http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v450/neonair/CINEMA/BREAKIN%202/breakin-2-electric-boogaloo_6e3ade85.jpg http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v450/neonair/CINEMA/BREAKIN%202/146e9006-2199-4f91-a750-91f87a260401.jpg

Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers, Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quiñones


Your history at that point as a director was mostly ninja films (‘Return of the Ninja’, ‘Ninja III: The Domination’). Was the transition to a musical challenging or did that background actually help in some way?


SF: As a matter of fact my background as an action director helped a lot when it came to directing a dance movie. By that point I had gained vast knowledge and experience in directing and creating sophisticated action sequences such as fights and chase scenes. When it came to directing dance sequences I discovered that there is no big difference between the two. It is all about deconstructing the certain piece of action or dance to its elements on the set, in a way that later, in the editing room using the cinematic language, it could be reconstructed in the most effective way, to enhance it to the delight of the potential audience.

Menahem Golan had his own history with musicals, having directed 1980’s The Apple for example. He seemed to have an affinity for the genre. How was it working with him, his partner Yoram Globus, and the notorious Cannon team?


AQ: I personally found working with Menahem and Yoram to be both tough and rewarding. Initially I was tapped to choreograph the film before being cast as Ozone.

This is true, in addition to The Apple, Menahem Golan also directed the musical Kazablan and he did love that genre of films. As a result it was actually very creative and fruitful working with him on that movie. I remember that every weekend we met in his house to discuss the script and potential additions and changes to it. He was engaged in watching the dailies every night and always had suggestions for improvements and additional dance numbers. Yoram Globus was not involved in the creative side of making the movies. During production the entire Cannon team was very supportive. As an in-house director, since I was also part of that team, everyone there was also a friend.


On the set of Breakin’ 2 with Adolfo Quiñones, Lucinda Dickey, director Sam Firstenberg

The film’s plot has been criticized for being standard background filler, but it’s actually said to be based on a real life story. If true, what is that story?


SF: If the plot of Electric Boogaloo is based on a true life story then I am not aware of it and don’t know much about it. But it is really a familiar story anyway, the story of the small guy taking on the powerful authorities for a cause that will benefit the community. Many classical films have tackled that subject so many times, so yes it is standard story but one that people love to be told again and again.


AQ: Actually, my character Ozone and my side kick Turbo were both patterned after our real life personas. I must add, Breakin’ was based on a project I managed to get produced and financed by Topper Carew for Rainbow Productions, Breakin’ and Entering, a documentary based on the west coast street-dance scene in Los Angeles. I eventually headlined and served as the choreographer and talent coordinator for the production.

The look of the film is very bright and optimistic with its neon and Dayglo pastel colors, a bit of a contrast from the first film. What was the thinking in that? Was it simply a result of street fashion at the time or was it a feeling you wanted to get across?


AQ: Well, a little of both to be honest. I personally felt they were going in the wrong direction. I was told they wanted to bring a brightness and a sense of fun and optimism to the sequel.


SF: The “look” of the film is a result of the talks I conducted with the production designer during the pre-production period. Yes it was the fashion of the time among the hip-hop crowd but it was also our intention to exaggerate it to a point of saturation to create excitement, youthfulness and hope.