Mark Hartley’s talking head documentary, much like his 2008 doc Not Quite Hollywood, centres its attention on the rise and fall of Cannon Films; starting in the seventies with sexploitation pictures, through the eighties with its incredibly fast and furious catalogue of action nonsense, till its inevitable implosion in the early nineties.
Cannon films was the brainchild of Israelis Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. What was less clear to me, however, was who was who in the process. The film does a remarkably clear and concise job in pinpointing exactly how this process grew and then went wrong. It’s patently clear that the pair were basically chancers, possessing just the right amount of pizzazz and character and ego, yet entirely missing the point of what made audiences tick. We all know people like this – those who absolutely know when they have a bankable idea, with next to credentials. These guys, though, had the temerity to stake their families on it – with mixed success.
An examination such as this can only really tread familiar ground; anyone who isn’t terribly interested in movies knows at least about the rise of Michael Dudikoff in those American Ninja movies; Chuck Norris’s escapades in the MIA series and, of course, all those silly titles like Masters of the Universe and Superman IV. Cannon were, and always be remembered as, the arbiters of misaligned pop culture at the expense of quality.
It’s certainly something to see the likes of Laurene Langdon, Bo Derek, Dolph Lundgren and Dudikoff himself talking head their way through their emotions – amidst a plethora of participants who served as special effects producers, writers, financiers and – at one point – the executive of MGM turns up to say nothing very nice about them during their distribution-heavy period.
It’s fair to say that without Cannon’s canon, we wouldn’t have the likes of the Fast and Furious franchise, or Olympus Has Fallen. The feature spends far more time on Golem – and rightly so. Globus was more the acquisitons and real estate side. He remains with us to this day. More menacing and bizarre, evidently, was Golem; an ungainly, somewhat messianic egocentric who looked like someone had create a waxwork of Rodney Dangerfield, but had forgotten to add water. You have to admire this fanciful buffoon’s ideals – but it was only ever going to have a short shelf life.
Undercutting the competition was so fierce, we’re told, that when the two finally parted ways, they entered in to a race to see who could produce the next Lambada craze movie first. They ended up realising on the same day – quality be damned.
Golem died in 2014. But the film is beautifully summed up when a final title card reveals that when the two were approached to take part in this documentary, they said no and instead rushed our their own, named “The Go Go Boys”. I thought this was one last parting flippant aside. But no, it’s absolutely true. These dudes were out of their tiny little celluloid trees; and it makes for fascinating viewing if you’re a true cinephile.
Author: Andrew Mackay
To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download the Filmsploitation podcast, part of the All Things Film network.