Israeli B-movie producer Menahem Golan died last Friday, August 8, and his obituaries double as tributes to a bygone era. Golan and his cousin and producing partner Yoram Globus defined a certain subset of 80s film when they headed Cannon films, churning out cheap, often terrible yet wildly entertaining movies sold on sex, violence, trends and stars in grungier movies than usual.
They were the group behind some of the best bad Sylvester Stallone movies of the 80s (“Cobra,” the Golan-directed arm-wrestling movie “Over the Top”), as well as films starring Chuck Norris (“The Delta Force”) and Charles Bronson (the “Death Wish” sequels, particularly the gloriously unhinged third film). They’re responsible for both the breakdancing sequel “Breakin'” and its sequel “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” the subtitle of which remains endlessly reusable for bad sequel jokes.
They also funded some actually damn-good movies like the criminally underseen Mickey Rourke/Charles Bukowski film “Barfly,” John Cassavetes’s “Love Streams,” and, perhaps most unexpectedly, Jean-Luc Godard’s “King Lear.” They even managed US distribution of Neil Jordan’s breakthrough “The Company of Wolves” and “Little Dorrit.”
But more than anything else, Golan should be remembered for the films that weren’t just bad, but charming in their chintziness, their brevity (as opposed to modern elephantine action duds), and flat-out weirdness. Every fan of bad 80s movies has a favorite Golan-Globus film – mine’s the Golan-directed sci-fi disco musical “The Apple” (on Netflix Instant), the bizarreness of which suggests that “The Last Waltz” might not have been the most cocaine-fueled set in movie history. He might have made only a handful of good-good movies, but his legacy of shamelessly entertaining good-bad movies is undeniable.
More thoughts from the web:
Phil Dyess-Nugent, The A.V. Club
Golan-Globus made a specialty of “pre-selling” their films, based on their promised “exploitable elements,” to cable TV and home video companies and film distributors, well before even making the movies. Budgets were kept so low that most of the films scarcely had to perform at the box office to make a profit. In a 1983 Film Comment article that hailed Golan and Globus as “New Hollywood’s kings of the cheapies,” Roger Corman, for whom Golan had once worked as an assistant, called him “a master of the pre-sell on the international market.” Read more.
Andrew Pulver, The Guardian
Cannon became synonymous with its cheap-but-brash style, leading to the pair being dubbed “the Go-Go boys”. Cannon was naturally drawn to the B-movie action movie which was then a profitable and popular genre: Golan and Globus made “The Delta Force,” “Missing in Action,” “Invasion USA” and “Exterminator 2.” (Sequels were also natural Cannon territory: they put out a string of notoriously shoddy follow-ups to Michael Winner’s successful “Death Wish.}) They were also early-adopters of the comic-book and toy adaptation, releasing a “Captain America” movie as well as a film version of the “Masters of the Universe” toys. But their 1987 film “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” proved a failure. Read more.
Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
When it came to deranged B-movies and genre fare, Cannon owned the 1980s. It was Golan’s decade—big, brash, tacky, and, to borrow the title of a 1987 film Golan himself directed, over the top—so it’s weirdly perfect that his reign as the head of Cannon lasted almost the entire decade, from 1979 to 1989. It was a sign of Cannon’s growing, though shaky, power in the latter half of that decade (shortly before its stock plummeted, resulting in a buy-out from Pathe Communications) that Golan could attract no less than Sylvester Stallone to star in the arm-wrestling movie “Over The Top”, which was at heart a “Rocky” rip-off. Read more.
If Golan had done nothing but produce exploitation films, he would have earned his place in the cinematic pantheon in the eyes of many film fans, but what made him truly unique was the way that he was equally determined to produce and distribute films that would play in arthouses as well as grindhouses. At the same time that he was grinding out one film after another with Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris, he was producing films for John Cassavetes (“Love Streams”), Andrei Konchalovsky (“Maria’s Lovers” and “Runaway Train”), Robert Altman (“Fool For Love”) and Franco Zeffirelli (“Otello”). Read more.