ELECTRIC BOOGALOO Fantastic Fest Review
Electric Boogaloo completes Mark Hartley’s trilogy on the secret history of exploitation cinema in fine fashion. Like Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed, it’s a talking heads doc that blends limited archival footage, scandalous anecdotes with even more scandalous film clips. By this point you should know whether or not the formula works for you. It’s not like Electric Boogaloo is a radical reinvention of it, nor should it be.
Electric Boogaloo tells the story of Cannon films, run by the cousin team of Golan and Globus. The Cannon strategy was to make as many films as quickly as possible with the hope that in the grand “stick the spaghetti to the fridge” fashion something was bound to be successful. The bigger, stranger and crasser said spaghetti was- the better. In its full fledged commitment to chasing whatever trends happened to gain their notice and the lowest common denominator Cannon films was in many ways the home of the last true exploitation filmmakers. And Golan and Globus ran it as a cross between a fiefdom and a factory.
The main difference between Electric Boogaloo and the first two films in Hartley’s trilogy is that he has the two main personalities to build the film around. Cannon wasn’t a movement or a subgenre, it was the product of two people. Two people on whom there is no such thing as a mixed opinion. Everyone interviewed has an appalling anecdote and an impression to deliver. And as the film goes on the sheer variety of them becomes somewhat awe inspiring.
It is clear that Hartley regards them with some awe as well, if not admiration. Some have criticized the documentary as being two harsh on the cousins, but whose kidding who? The number of films that Cannon produced of actual quality can be counted on two hands. That’s a low batting average by any measure. Hartley is simply upfront about the quality of the Cannon canon, and doesn’t shy away from detailing the unscrupulous business practices the cousins employed. Yet he obviously appreciates the outlaw spirit of Cannon films, highlights the films by John Cassevettes, Jean Luc Goddard and Barbet Schroeder that they made possible. And anyone who doubts that he has lacks affection for the films that Cannon produced should listen to him talk about Lifeforce sometime. It’d be easy, really easy to create a hatchet job about Cannon films, but this isn’t that.
With such a breadth of films to cover, Hartley is forced to cherry pick a bit. Everyone has their favorite Cannon film and so everyone might feel a bit shortchanged. I could have done with a bit more of The Apple (at least mention the “natural natural natural desire to see an actual actual actual vampire!”) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but that’s just me.
In an odd way though all of Hartley’s films are period pieces Electric Boogaloo feels strangely timely. As Hartley pointed out in his Q&A after the screening, Cannon, which based its production model on superhero films, franchises, belated sequels and past their prime stars, basically predicted the modern studio filmmaking landscape. For better or worse it’s Golan and Globus’s world and we’re all just living in it.