Do we have a studio nowadays that will leave a lasting memory for today’s audiences as they look backwards in twenty years? A studio that mass produced a large number of schlocky films mixed in among a few good ones and a whole lot that are gaining in cult status? I’m not so sure but as a card carrying member of the VCR age, Cannon films did just that for the home video market. Not only were they unleashing a lot of films for the weekend rentals, but they had Bronson and Norris policing movie screens across the continent and beyond. Just the look of the logo and the music that accompanied it had me hooked to see what Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had in store for us each and every time. Good or bad and mostly made on the cheap.
So here’s a trio of new to me titles that I’ve dug up from the archives here at Mike’s Take on the Movies where I love to discover or rediscover in many cases, movies from the past.
The Barbarians (1987)
This disastrous import released under the Cannon banner is the reason I put this post together. Think of it this way. Someone posted it’s trailer on facebook last week and I checked it out realizing I had a copy floating around here somewhere. Same day….. I open one of my cases full of discs and the first one that my hand lands on when sifting through the many DVD’s is for this one. Still I wasn’t convinced just yet to invest my 90 minutes. Next day….. I’m moving boxes of VHS tapes about in my garage with the thought of selling some off. I open a box and there glaring out at me is the VHS tape of this Conan wannabe. A trio of weird circumstances telling me/warning me perhaps that I need to watch this low budget fantasy effort that sees Richard Lynch cast in the only type of role he was really effective in. That of the villain.
Muscle bound brothers Peter and David Paul, sounding as if they are hailing a New York City cab find themselves in a “time of darkness, demons and sorcery.” As children, the twins are captured and put to work in mining pits where they will hone their skills in the art of bodybuilding. Like Arnie’s Conan, the two will wind up twice the size of most any normal man and learn to be very effective with sword and axe. Their captor is none other than Lynch who never tries hard to look evil. It just seems to come naturally. In true exploitation fashion, we’ll have Michael Berryman hamming it up in a role that reminded me of Karloff’s bald headed turn as Mord in the Tower of London. Like Karloff, Berryman likes to see a good torturing under Lynch’s guidance. Did you spot his grinning face on the VHS box art above?
A magic ruby and a trio of beautiful women will fill out the pages of this script directed by Ruggero (Cannibal Holocaust) Deodato. Plenty of skin is featured as the boys attempt to free their Mother figure Eva La Rue from Lynch’s harem of beauties who swarm the giants when they catch them inside their chambers. It’s really just another ill fated attempt at injecting humor into this tale of a fantasy world where even a lame looking dragon will make an appearance sprouting buckets of green blood before his screen time comes to an end. If it wasn’t for some brief nudity, this might have been better served as a kiddie matinee in the end.
Paging Hawk the Slayer!
I’ll have to recommend you pass but like me if a trio of weird signs point to checking this out, then do so immediately. Do not pass go and do not collect 200 dollars. Just watch The Barbarians before something more dreadful then the film itself happens to you.
Prior to landing box office star Charles Bronson to a long term contract, Golan and Globus signed the always explosive Klaus Kinski for this thriller that’s an obvious attempt to cash in on the recent success of the slasher films that were taking in cash dollars at movie houses across the continent. While it’s easy to see that this wouldn’t have spearheaded a whole slate of Schizoid sequels as did Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, this scissor wielding flick offers plenty of red herrings and a quartet of possible suspects that are terrorizing poor Mariana Hill.
Miss Hill is a member of a group therapy class that is run by the good psychiatrist, Klaus Kinski who appears to be having sex with most if not all his female patients. Kinski appearing in any murder mystery film qualifies him as a suspect. The we have fellow class member Christopher Lloyd looking as if he had just appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Hold on a minute, he DID appear in that classic film as a fellow inmate to Jack and company. Lloyd being Lloyd makes him an automatic suspect. He also happens to be the janitor at the newspaper building that Hill is employed at as an advice columnist. “Relax. I’m a maintenance man. I’ll fix it.” That’s reassuring. Isn’t it?
Perhaps it’s Hill’s ex Craig Wasson who is knocking off the therapy group members and isn’t fond of the fact that Kinski is now bedding Hill as well. Lastly could Klaus be protecting his troubled teenage daughter played by Donna Wilkes who has some definite anger issues and isn’t fond of the fact that Klaus is bedding a wide variety of women now that her own Mother has passed away.
As the bodies pile up in not overly graphic fashion, our intrepid detectives played by Richard Herd and Joe Regalbuto will have to figure out just which one of our guilty looking suspects is the actual killer with the extra large set of scissors.
Any film that features Klaus Kinski is usually worth a look and that includes a lot of hard to take films. I say this mainly because it’s just so damned hard not to watch him when he’s on camera. Even more so if the movie actually features his own unique voice which this one does. Too many of his films are dubbed and rarely with his own voice track. Such a waste.
Loving a good Kinski story wherever I can find them, as part of the bonus features on the blu ray release from Scream Factory is an interview with Wilkes who says of Klaus…..
“Klaus was easy to work with” this is in reference to her working relationship with the fabled madman of movie shoots.
“He didn’t gain a lot of friends on set.”
“He became enemy number one for the crew.”
“That was just Klaus. He was pretty wild.”
Reading and hearing new stories of Klaus and Oliver Reed raising hell are always just too good to pass up.
Far from memorable yet far better than I expected.
Avenging Force (1986)
While Bronson was the elder statesman of Cannon and Norris was in his prime, Michael Dudikoff was the heir apparent to the studio’s big screen action films. Adapted from what was apparently a Chuck Norris script, Dudikoff plays a retired (very young) super ass kicking ex-agent of some sort for the U.S. military. When his old army buddy, Steve James is running for political office down in New Orleans, white supremacists rear their heads with none other than the always easy to hate, John P. Ryan at the head of an underground organization bent on murder and assassination. Ryan may be easy to dislike but he makes every film he plays in just a little bit better with his talent at playing nasty. I love it!
With James and his family marked for murder, Dudikoff lends a hand. I mean fist. The action soon begins and it’s first rate from director Sam Firstenberg. While Dudikoff may be white, his defence of James and family has put him on Ryan’s marked for death list and if part of this film reminds you of John Woo’s Hard Target which by extension leads us to The Most Dangerous Game than you’d be agreeing with me. Hard Target was also based in New Orleans and also featured the hunting down of men in the Louisiana swamps. Ryan will soon have Dudikoff a featured player in his “warped” game of hunting.
Steve James could easily have subbed in for most any Carl Weathers role and I’m not so sure he really needed Dudikoff’s help here if it wasn’t for the script stating that’s the way the plot had to evolve. He’s just well built as any other muscle bound hero of the movies during the brawny era of Sly and Arnie.
I’ll admit that the film was far more brutal than I expected when it comes to violence and just how far Ryan will go in cleansing Cajun country of the James family. Not to worry though because the final 30 minutes is “swamped” full of action and we all know that our scene stealing Ryan will get his just due at the hands of our self appointed executioner.
Of the three films I’ve featured here, this actioner that helped establish Dudikoff as the heir apparent for the soon to be defunct studio is easily the one I could find myself rewatching in the years ahead. Too bad the implied sequel never materialized. A worthwhile look if you can find yourself a copy should you be into this sort of thing/genre.
Outside of Bronson, Norris or Dudikoff films, one never knows what’s about to materialize when you see that Cannon logo flash onto the screen so be sure to stay tuned. Any love for the studio that Menahem and Yoram built? Any favorites?