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The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1: 1980-1984

Author, Austin Trunick.

If you’re an action film fan who just happened to grow up in the VHS era then surely this logo holds a special meaning to you.

For me it meant a new Bronson film was on the horizon. To this day I can still remember going to see some movie at the theater and while I can’t recall what I was paying to see I can damn sure recall the coming attractions. There was the Cannon logo and an all-new preview for 1986’s Murphy’s Law. Easily one of the better latter day Bronson vehicles.

Don’t forget, this was before the internet and the IMDb kept us all informed about “in production” titles or what was about to be unleashed on movie screens nationwide.

Yeah I was a pretty excited teenager heading home that night mimicking the closing line in the trailer, “Don’t mess with Jack Murphy.” Little did I know that the line had been doctored for the trailer and was much more effective in the actual film. See it for yourself to get the full effect of Bronson’s shotgun blast.

So just like author Austin Trunick, I do have a soft spot for producers Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus aka The Go Go Boys. The men who who splashed there way through Cannes and Hollywood promising movie goers and would be backers one big screen thrill after another and even though it didn’t turn out the success story they may have dreamed of in the end, their part of movie history offers many of us a nostalgic look back. No different then those who may have grown up during the drive-in era of A.I.P. releases or the invasion of Hammer Films upon the shores of North America.

Thanks to Mr. Trunick, we can relive the many titles in the Cannon catalog by starting at the very beginning. But before the chapters dedicated to each production even begin we get a background on the famed Israeli producers who would team up to produce many successful films in their homeland. Some of Menahem’s early directorial efforts include the Audie Murphy/George Sanders spy thriller, Trunk to Cairo. While mainly producing the Cannon films in later years, Menahem still directed on occasion. Notably the explosive, The Delta Force in 1986.

Upon buying the lower tier Cannon Film company the adventures of The Go Go Boys really begins.

From here the author dedicates a new chapter to each production that Golan and Globus would put before the cameras. The chapters offer a synopsis, details of the production, what some of the critics say (usually not so good) and on occasion interviews with some of the stars or crew involved. Among those tapped for interviews include Andrew Stevens (10 to Midnight) Sam Firstenberg ( director of multiple Cannon titles), Catherine Mary Stewart (The Apple) and many more.

From 1979’s The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood starring Martine Beswick right up to Chuck Norris’ Missing In Action trilogy, there are plenty of chapters to delve into on perhaps your favorite Cannon production or one that maybe leaves you stunned at it’s ineptitude. With Bronson comes chapters on the seedy Death Wish sequels and the outstanding J. Lee Thompson thriller, 10 to Midnight. How about the stories behind the making of Hercules that apparently had Lou Ferrigno at war with Sybil Danning off camera as well as on? A chapter that includes an interview with cult director Luigi Cozzi.

Some chapters are longer than others so expect an in depth discussion on the story of box office bombs like The Apple or Sahara. A sure fire Razzie nominee that had the audacity to paste a mustache on leading lady Brooke Shields! Say it ain’t so.

For a self proclaimed film buff the chapters also serve as a reminder to the excitement that Golan and Globus attempted to bring to movie fans. After all that’s exactly what they were as well. Movie fans. A good example would be uniting the four remaining Legends of Horror, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine on screen in The House of the Long Shadows (1982). Though the film might not be the classic it was intended to be, I still tip my hat to Cannon for giving us one last treat from these masters of horror movies.

Still to come are chapters on Ninjas, one of which looks just like Franco Nero, breakdancing, Art House entries from John Cassavetes and softcore efforts with Bo Derek and Sylvia Kristel. Then we get Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed and Roger Moore moonlighting from his 007 gig.

Yes Cannon tried it’s hand at most any genre in an effort to secure a box office hit.

A must have book for Cannon aficionados who love to recall the 1980’s when the filmmakers were riding high and there seemed to be a new Cannon release in movie theaters twice monthly and a new VHS release on shelves weekly.

Trunick does his best to celebrate the films of Cannon and the excitement The Go Go Boys put into the movie business. More importantly he reminded me personally just how much fun many of the company’s releases were. Even when they weren’t meant to be.

If my count is correct there are 40 films covered within the 500 plus pages of this book with the kick ass cover art. How many have I seen? Just 24 so if I’m too play catch up I guess I’m going to have to finally watch Breakin’ and the follow up, Breakin’ 2 : Electric Boogaloo.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see the Cannon goodies in store for us when Volume 2 hits the shelfs. Any one care to offer up some suggestions to Trunick for a catchy subtitle to the follow up/sequel?

Before I sign off here’s a look at a couple of my own spotlights on Cannon features.

Cannon Fodder 1 and Cannon Fodder 2. 

 

10 Comments »

  1. If I had to pick out one film representation of the 80’s, Cannon Films would be it. Many of their productions, save for a select few, really are a product of that period, but that’s what makes them fun too. That Charles Bronson had a few of his last hurrahs there before he got too old also makes them stand out as flicks like 10 to Midnight and Messenger of Death are pure Bronson.

  2. Oh yes indeed Mike that logo means so much. A teenage boys dream. With that logo appearing at the opening credits you knew action pack wide eyed entertainment was the order of the day. A dish served with steroids, guns, fights, massive explosions and more than likely, fingers crossed, some boobies.
    I got asked if I fancied doing a review of this one too but with my recent track record of slackness of reviews I had to put it on the back burner. Really good to see you doing it justice as of course you would.
    Haha never heard of the “Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood!” LOL…
    SAY WHAAAAT!!! “The House of the Long Shadows” That cast!!!!? Never heard of it but sounds essential!?
    Not even heard of that great sounding title of “The Naked Face” lol..

    “Breakin” on the other-hand I had seen along with the Orion production’s more superior “Beat Street” in the same year. Yeah I was one of those kids spinning on his knee cutting a rug.

    • Yes I know what you mean about that logo. The book sets out to cover the productions but doesn’t go into the many titles the company would license for VHS distribution. Mostly foreign action flicks from the Philippines and the like. Yes House of Long Shadows is a nostalgic affair that should be seen. Looking forward to the next volume. Author told me yesterday he just interviewed Kathleen Wilhoit last week who played the loud mouthed street gal handcuffed to Bronson in Murphy’s Law. Pretty cool!

  3. “Push it to pop it!” Oh, Cannon Films, what am I going to do with you…so many goofy but interesting titles coming out of the 1980s. I think this book would be a fantastic read…I’d never heard of it until now, so hopefully I can track it down somewhere…and NOT pay $45 for it. And to show just how often I was willing to plunk down valuable $$$ at the theater or video store to watch a Cannon movie, I just went over the forty titles covered in the book…and I’d only seen ONE at the theater (The Last American Virgin) and three others on video!

    • It’s a book meant for us who lived thru the era. I know damned well that the studio put out plenty of flops but they did it with style. Advertising campaigns and name stars helped but I think for most of us fans it’s the action flicks that really remain thanks to the big three, Bronson, Norris and Dudikoff. And by the way, I’ve still never seen The Last American Virgin. Have a poster though.

  4. I just got my PDF copy a few days ago, so I’m having a total blast reading up. I used to collect Variety for the bigger issues and remember one issue that had a TON of ads for Cannon’s lineup, including a few films that I think never were released. I wish I still had that here, but it’s lost to the ages (booo!).

    • That would be cool if you still had that and yes they put out plenty of ads and posters for flicks that never got made. It’s a read that had me recalling those VHS rental days and learning to look for the logo on the box cover. Have fun.

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