Producer of cult classic films Enter the Ninja, Breakin’ and Bloodsport – Menachem Golan – dies at 85

A lobby card featuring Steve James in American Ninja 2
A lobby card featuring Steve James in American Ninja 2

Sadly, Variety and Haaretz have reported that producer and director Menachem Golan, whose Cannon Film Group crafted hundreds of popular low budget movie productions during the 1980s and 90s, featuring the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris, before going bust, died Friday in Israel. He was 85.

Myself, along with millions of American teenagers grew up on a steady diet of Cannon films throughout the ’80s without even realizing it. That’s because Golan was incredibly diverse in the type and style of films he and his fellow film-obsessed cousin, Yoram Globus, produced. The prolific filmmaker worked with everyone from Richard Roundtree & Robert Shaw in the 1975 crime thriller Diamonds, to Franco Nero & Shô Kosugi the 1981 film Enter the Ninja, and Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quinones & Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers in the 1984 street dance movie Breakin’.

Cannon Films, and its “indie” predecessor Golan-Globus Productions, were famous for latching on to pop culture trends and creating low budget films that rose above their peers in quality (at least, sometimes) and competed with major film studios. Whether it was horror, war, action, martial arts or dance, Cannon movies were mainstays in urban movie theaters and later, on VHS at video store rental shelves. Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus began their American movie careers with action exploitation titles featuring the likes of Norris and Charles Bronson. Then, in the ’80s, things grew out of control with Cannon Entertainment. According to reports, that company began increasing budgets, but ironically decreasing the quality of movies such as A Cry in the Dark, Cobra, Sahara, Over the Top and Bolero with talent including Stallone, Bo Derek and Brooke Shields. In all, Cannon produced more than 120 films between 1979 and 1989 and were known to have an aggressive pre-sales policy.

Golan – who was born in Israel and studied filmmaking at the Old Vic School & the London Academy of Music and Drama in the U.K., and then later at NYU – specialized in low-budget films as well as multinational productions through Ameri-Euro Pictures. It should be no surprise that Golan worked as an apprentice to cult movie maven Roger Corman, whose low-budget productions served as a template, according to the Variety report. His company spent $5 million or less per picture, occasionally striking gold with titles such as The Happy Hooker, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, Lemon Popsicle and Death Wish II. Those successes gave Golan and Globus the financial clout to purchase Cannon Films in 1979

They became more ambitious at that time, producing larger projects like 1983’s The Wicked Lady, with Faye Dunaway and the 1985 movie Runaway Train, featuring Jon Voight. But even during this period, Cannon continued to go for pop culture money-makers, such as Breakin’, which took advantage of the incredibly popular street dance craze of the era. Breakin’ was release in 1984, between Wicked Lady and Runaway Train.

Menachem Golan was a true lover of film. He embraced art cinema and, according to the documentary short below, structured release deals that included both his action fare along with his more ambitious productions. He worked with the likes of Jean Luc Godard (King Lear), Barbet Schroeder (Bar Fly), John Cassavetes (Love Streams) and Robert Altman (Fool for Love).

By 1987 money began to dry up and the company began reporting massive losses. The company’s shares plummeted from a high of $45 to $5. According to reports, Giancarlo Parretti and Pathe Communications purchased 39% of the company, not long before Golan and Globus dissolved their partnership completely.

Golan continued to make movies, producing his final exploitation flick, Final Combat, in 2003, then spent the rest of the decade directing poorly reviewed Israeli films.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center held a retrospective called “The Cannon Films Canon” in November of 2010 that Golan and Globus both attended.

There are also two well-reviewed documentaries on The Cannon Group being released this year: The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. The Go-Go Boys premiered in May at The Cannes Film Festival & screened in July at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Electric Boogaloo premiered this past weekend at Australia’s prestigious Melbourne International Festival.

Additionally, Bloodsport, one of Golan’s more popular martial arts film titles, is about to be remade. The original, which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme, has gone on to become a cult classic.

I can still vividly see those VHS boxes with that Cannon logo all over the video store. Those were great days for schlock movies.

Below is a documentary short from 1986 on The Cannon Group, which gives an overview of the production activities of the company at that time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgD-nrVvxSY

The Cannon Group was an American group of companies, including Cannon Films, which produced a distinctive line of low-to-medium budget films from 1967 to 1993. The extensive group also owned, amongst others, a large international cinema chain and a video film company that invested heavily in the video market, buying the international video rights to several classic film libraries. By 1979, Cannon had hit serious financial difficulties, and Friedland and Dewey sold Cannon to Israeli cousins Menahem Golan (who had directed The Apple) and Yoram Globus for $500,000. The two cousins forged a business model of buying rubbish scripts and putting them into production. Golan is still producing and directing films. Globus is the president of Globus Max, which has interests in film production and distribution and runs a 140-screen cinema chain in Israel. This film was made by Christopher Sykes.

Popular Film Titles

  • 2000 Kumite
  • 2000 After Sex
  • 1999 Lima: Breaking the Silence
  • 1999 Speedway Junky
  • 1998 Armstrong
  • 1994 Stickfighter
  • 1994 Death Wish V: The Face of Death
  • 1993 Dead Center
  • 1993 Emmanuelle VI
  • 1993 Mad Dog Coll
  • 1993 Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde
  • 1993 American Cyborg: Steel Warrior
  • 1992 Invader
  • 1992 Prison Planet
  • 1992 Desert Kickboxer
  • 1992 Hit the Dutchman
  • 1992 Dance Macabre
  • 1992 The Finest Hour
  • 1991 Killing Streets
  • 1990 Captain America
  • 1990 Bullseye!
  • 1990 Street Hunter
  • 1990 Night of the Living Dead
  • 1990 O Quinto Macaco
  • 1990 Bad Jim
  • 1990 The Forbidden Dance
  • 1989 The Rose Garden
  • 1989 The Phantom of the Opera
  • 1989 Mack the Knife
  • 1989 Cyborg
  • 1989 Sinbad of the Seven Seas
  • 1989 Red Riding Hood
  • 1989 Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects
  • 1988 Doin’ Time on Planet Earth
  • 1988 A Cry in the Dark
  • 1988 Stray Days
  • 1988 Hanna’s War
  • 1988 Messenger of Death
  • 1988 Manifesto
  • 1988 Haunted Summer
  • 1988 Hero and the Terror
  • 1988 Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • 1988 Puss in Boots
  • 1988 Salsa
  • 1988 Powaqqatsi (Documentary)
  • 1988 Business as Usual
  • 1988 Appointment with Death
  • 1988 Alien from L.A.
  • 1988 Bloodsport
  • 1988 Mercenary Fighters
  • 1988 Braddock: Missing in Action III
  • 1987 Under Cover
  • 1987 Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
  • 1987 Dancers
  • 1987 Surrender
  • 1987 The Kitchen Toto
  • 1987 Masters of the Universe
  • 1987 Going Bananas
  • 1987 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  • 1987 Too Much
  • 1987 King Lear
  • 1987 Tough Guys Don’t Dance
  • 1987 The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • 1987 Snow White
  • 1987 Mascara
  • 1987 American Ninja2: The Confrontation
  • 1987 Barfly
  • 1987 Hansel and Gretel
  • 1987 Shy People
  • 1987 Beauty and the Beast
  • 1987 The Hanoi Hilton
  • 1987 Street Smart
  • 1987 Down Twisted
  • 1987 The Barbarians
  • 1987 Number One with a Bullet
  • 1987 Over the Top
  • 1987 Assassination
  • 1986 Malkat Hakitah
  • 1986 Salome
  • 1986 Duet for One
  • 1986 Aladdin
  • 1986 Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold
  • 1986 Firewalker
  • 1986 52 Pick-Up
  • 1986/I The Frog Prince
  • 1986 Avenging Force
  • 1986 Otello
  • 1986 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre2
  • 1986 Detective School Dropouts
  • 1986 Invaders from Mars
  • 1986 Cobra
  • 1986 Dangerously Close
  • 1986 Murphy’s Law
  • 1986 America 3000
  • 1986 Field of Honor
  • 1986 The Naked Cage
  • 1986 The Delta Force
  • 1985 Ha-Me’ahev
  • 1985 Un complicato intrigo di donne, vicoli e delitti
  • 1985 Fool for Love
  • 1985 King Solomon’s Mines
  • 1985 Runaway Train
  • 1985 Death Wish 3
  • 1985 The Berlin Affair
  • 1985 Invasion U.S.A.
  • 1985 War and Love
  • 1985 American Ninja
  • 1985 The Adventures of Hercules II
  • 1985 Hot Chili
  • 1985 Thunder Alley
  • 1985 Lifeforce
  • 1985 Rappin’
  • 1985 Up Your Anchor
  • 1985 The Assisi Underground
  • 1985 Déjà Vu
  • 1985 Mata Hari
  • 1985 Nine Deaths of the Ninja
  • 1985 Ahava Ilemeth
  • 1985 Missing in Action2: The Beginning
  • 1985 Hot Resort
  • 1984 Edut Me’ones
  • 1984 Breakin’2: Electric Boogaloo
  • 1984 Missing in Action
  • 1984 Maria’s Lovers
  • 1984 Exterminator2
  • 1984 Ninja III: The Domination
  • 1984 Bolero
  • 1984 I’m Almost Not Crazy: John Cassavetes – the Man and His Work (Documentary)
  • 1984 Ordeal by Innocence
  • 1984 Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • 1984 The Naked Face
  • 1984 The Ambassador
  • 1984 Making the Grade
  • 1984 Breakin’
  • 1984 Grace Quigley
  • 1984 Baby Love
  • 1984 Over the Brooklyn Bridge
  • 1984 Love Streams
  • 1984 The Big Tease: Here Comes Another One
  • 1983 Sahara
  • 1983 Revenge of the Ninja
  • 1983 Sababa
  • 1983 Hercules
  • 1983 The Wicked Lady
  • 1983 Nana, the True Key of Pleasure
  • 198310 to Midnight
  • 1983 Private Popsicle
  • 1983 One More Chance
  • 1983 Treasure of the Four Crowns
  • 1983 House of the Long Shadows
  • 1983 I sette magnifici gladiatori
  • 1982 That Championship Season
  • 1982 The Last American Virgin
  • 1982 Hospital Massacre
  • 1982 Death Wish II
  • 1981 Body and Soul
  • 1981 Enter the Ninja
  • 1981 Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • 1981 Yisraelim Matzhikim
  • 1981 Hot Bubblegum
  • 1980 New Year’s Evil
  • 1980 Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype
  • 1980 The Apple
  • 1980 Schizoid
  • 1980 Imi Hageneralit
  • 1980 The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood
  • 1980 The Godsend

www.culttheatres.com

www.culttheatres.com

source: Haaretz,  variety.com,