Thursday, December 2, 2010
An Evening with Golan & Globus
Devotees of this site have long heard me pontificate upon the Cannon films of Golan and Globus, and recently, you've probably heard me prattling about the Cannon Films Canon at Lincoln Center, which I was lucky enough to attend on the weekend of November 19th. Said weekend involved the screening of many a Cannon gem (with the selection of arthouse films overshadowing the zanier flicks of the catalog). In my recent review of BARFLY, I wrote a bit about the post-screening Q&A, which involved Barbet Schroeder, Tom Luddy, Yoram Globus, and Menahem Golan. The next day, I was privy to a double-feature of RUNAWAY TRAIN and THE APPLE which included an hour-long discussion between Golan and Globus, and a sort of disco-themed afterparty whereupon these titans of cinema (and APPLE star Catherine Mary Stewart) were assailed by drunken blowhards and die-hard fans alike as the thrumpin' sounds of ABBA eschewed all traditional audibility. In short, it was pretty fantastic. So I thought I'd write up some of the more compelling moments of the evening and share them with the Cannon fans of the world. (And see the end of the BARFLY review as a sort of 'Part 1' to this article).
Even though I'd seen it before, RUNAWAY TRAIN is something to behold on the big screen- scraping steel, snowy vistas, blood and oil and grease and steam. The sheer, absolutely brutish intensity of Jon Voigt and John P. Ryan is mind-blowing- we see men become animals, we see animals become men. The unexpected touches of comedy are even better with a crowd, too- from insults about "your momma's farthole" to the swishy, hot-pants-wearing prison boxing ring cheerleader to John P. Ryan dunking a man's head in the toilet and telling him to "clean the piss off your face!" After the screening, Golan & Globus revealed that it is their favorite of all their films, and began a moderated discussion which jumped to and fro, from the serious to the absurd to the sublime. Since there was no true direction to the chat, I'll tackle random, salient points.
Golan (left) and Globus (right) during Cannon's heyday.
On Andrei Konchalovsky (Cannon alumni- MARIA'S LOVERS, RUNAWAY TRAIN, SHY PEOPLE):
–Golan said he was always demanding costly shots that ended up eating up significant amounts of the total budget, but then weren't used by Konchalovsky in his final cuts! These included a life-size electric whale on SHY PEOPLE and a barnburnin' flyby under a bridge in MARIA'S LOVERS. But despite some difficulties and even a helicopter crash on RUNAWAY TRAIN, Golan & Globus still sit in breathless amazement at the aerial shots Konchalovsky managed to capture. Golan: "I worry about this train in every shot– how did they do it?!"
On Tobe Hooper (Cannon alumni- TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, INVADERS FROM MARS, LIFEFORCE):
–They had nice things to say about Tobe, bragged about the technical achievements of LIFEFORCE, and Golan said that he was 'too scared' to ever watch TEXAS CHAINSAW 2 in its entirety!
On John Cassavetes (Cannon alumni- LOVE STREAMS):
–They had troubles with his first cut of LOVE STREAMS. It didn't quite flow right, and felt a little long. They asked John if perhaps he could lose about 15 minutes. Instead, John added 40, insisting that "it doesn't matter because now it feels shorter." Of course, being relentlessly pro-director producers (even to the point of their own detriment, on occasion), they released the 141 minute long cut.
On Golan's ENTER THE NINJA:
–They bragged about the $1.5 budget, and Globus proudly proclaimed that "Menahem invented the ninja movie!"
– Golan: "I was on the beach in Venice and I saw the black people doing a dance I have never seen before...and so we made BREAKIN'." Golan explained that he brought the finished print to MGM, who was to distribute the film in the U.S. MGM brass watched the film in disgust, claiming it was a "schwarze movie only for the blacks." Golan defended it with that patented Cannon moxie, and demanded another screening- this time with an audience of real people plucked from the streets, not just MGM stuffed shirts. Cannon secretly recruited street dancers for the screening who, once the film had begun, erupted into impromptu windmills, applejacks, kip-ups and worms in the aisles, wowing the excutives and giving Cannon the greenlight!
Globus on Golan (the two haven't been seen together in 20 years!):
–"There is no greater storyteller than Menahem."
–"He is a Globus, he betrayed and became a Golan!" (Menahem changed his name to Golan for patriotic reasons while in the Israeli air force in the late 40's.)
–"The best salesman in the world."
On their youthful days:
–Golan and Globus always loved movies, ever since they were children, but Globus never had any aspirations to actually making them- he just wanted to watch them (he worked as a projectionist in high school). Golan had some grand plans and instructed Globus to go to business school and return, and then they'd take the world by storm– and indeed they did!
On Chuck Norris:
–Golan: "We signed him to a seven-year contract. It was like the golden days of Hollywood."
On Charles Bronson:
–Golan: "He hated the press appearances and the PR"- but they made him do 'em anyway! –Golan: "I wouldn't say that he was a theater actor. On the screen sort of like a great fish." [I have no idea what this means, if I misheard Golan, or if perhaps in some roundabout way he meant to compare Bronson's squint and facial hair to that of a catfish?]
On THE APPLE:
–There was some amazing bickering between G & G about the exact budget of THE APPLE, they finally decided that it cost $5 million.
–On a serious note, Globus told the following story as Golan solemnly nodded in concurrence: at an early screening of THE APPLE in Montreal, the French-Canadian crowd booed the film throughout. After the screening, Golan was nowhere to be found– he was discovered on the roof of his hotel, contemplating suicide. He spoke with Globus, and came down soon after. At this point, Golan commented to us all: "Not everybody likes the movie." [Who could have forseen that thirty years later, he'd be presiding over a screening in New York City packed with psychotic, BIM-marked APPLE die-hards?]
On directorial freedom:
–Golan believed in complete artistic freedom, Globus, generally speaking, did not. On MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, spiraling out-of-control budgets and weak dailies made Globus want to fire director Gary Goddard. Golan refused ("I have never fired a director."). Of course, the film ended up being a terrible flop and another nail in Cannon's coffin, but Golan still stands by the decision.
On television in Europe:
–Golan: "At any moment, any day, any time of day, you can flip the channels and find playing a Cannon film!"
On 'will they ever work together again?':
–Golan revealed that he's trying to pitch to Globus a new project, and perhaps, one day soon, we will see a new movie emblazoned with that glorious "Golan-Globus" banner! Globus sort of half-smiled and, while not ruling anything out, clarified that to say anything would be premature. Golan proceeded to explain that it would be a simple New York City story called THE SNIPER. Or possibly a romantic comedy called I LOVE MY WIFE.
On Jean-Claude Van Damme:
–Golan: "I discovered the bastard." Apparently Golan was eating at a Los Angeles restaurant when a young waiter, carrying three bowls of soup on a tray approached him. 'Are you Menahem Golan, the producer?' the young Belgian asked. 'Yes, I am,' Golan replied- whereupon young Van Damme spun his leg above his head without spilling a drop of the soup. Impressed with the limber limbs of the Muscles from Brussels, Van Damme appeared as an extra in Cannon films like BREAKIN' and MISSING IN ACTION, and later got his chance to star in BLOODSPORT, KICKBOXER, and CYBORG. Golan added that Van Damme took an interest in post-production and worked uncredited on BLOODSPORT and CYBORG as a co-editor!
On pre-selling (the process of getting funding for a screenplay before there even is a screenplay- sometimes it's just a few words scrawled on a napkin):
–Golan: "We invented pre-selling!"
–Golan: "Ah, the arm-wrestling script. Sly demanded the highest salary in Hollywood. We asked around, what they were paying him. It was six million a movie. So we offered him ten. He did it. Once you're that big, you're working only for money. So we could snap him up to do our movie."
–Golan: "He had a fear of being kidnapped. His home had sixteen guards and seven dogs."
–Golan: "He was so scared of his wife. What was her name?" [someone yells out Brigitte Nielsen] Yes. She comes to the hotel where we are shooting. 'Where is Sly?' she is asking. Sly comes to my room and asks me to hide him from her. So I did."
On Sharon Stone:
–Golan: "Sharon Stone is our discovery. She was a nobody before us." [One must understand that the demeanor and delivery of the preceding statement somehow nullified any pomposity.]
On cutting costs:
–They invented the low-budget Cannon contract. Golan: "Why should an electrician be flying first class on a film with a small budget? We are eating sandwiches at the office, not going out on the business lunches." And so they devised a contract with the unions that insured protections, but made both sides admit that all Hollywood budgets are not created equally. Golan and Globus devised a system of VHS distribution and theater ownership that ensured their films would always have an outlet, and would (almost) always make their money back, no matter how poor the word-of-mouth or how outré the director. LOVE STREAMS, SALSA, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, PUSS IN BOOTS, POWAQQATSI and BLOODSPORT are not targeting the same audience– but, hey– theoretically, the same person might accidentally rent all of them!
In all, it was a fantastic evening. I got to shake Golan's hand whilst clad in a Cannon t-shirt. I got to see a surprise appearance by Catherine Mary Stewart (Bibi in THE APPLE, THE LAST STARFIGHTER, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S). I was furnished with BIM marks and complementary beverages. And I got to see two Herculean figures of cinema reunited, and in conversation. This is about as good as it gets, ladies and gentlemen. Writing this, even a week or so later has got me excited all over again. Now I'm gonna go home, pull down a well-loved Cannon VHS from the shelf, and have myself one helluva evening. God bless Golan and Globus.