Thursday, August 14, 2014

RIP, Menahem Golan

It saddens me to report that Menahem Golan, mastermind of Cannon Films and bringer of joy to moviegoers everywhere, passed away last Friday.  He was 85, and he had a hell of a good run. 

Longtime readers of this site know that I adored the man (and his cousin/Cannon partner Yoram Globus), and have referred to him in turns as "the king of the 1980s," "an arm-wrestling auteur," "breakdance pioneer," "Norris whisperer," "Mama Rose to Van Damme's Gypsy," and "a Charles Bronson casting agency."  He made trash, he made art– and all of it was fabulous:   he presided over the most seminal action flicks of the 80s (BLOODSPORT, DEATH WISH 3) as well as genuine high art (Konchalavsky and Bunker's RUNAWAY TRAIN, Cassavetes' LOVE STREAMS, Schroeder & Bukowski's BARFLY, etc.).   He directed films personally (THE APPLE, OVER THE TOP, THE DELTA FORCE), and was an unparalleled wheeler-dealer who believed in the integrity of every project, whether it was THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 or Zeferelli's OTELLO.

I cannot describe how much joy this man has brought me.  As a child, the first film I ever saw on the big screen carried his stamp (SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE), and there have been times in my life where I was broke, depressed, bored, what have you– and just what the doctor ordered (Doc Golan, that is) was BLOODSPORT, DEATH WISH 3, RAPPIN', BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, or whatever the case may be.

It was my pleasure to see he and Globus in person several times during a Lincoln Center retrospective a few years ago, and it was my honor to meet the man himself (albeit briefly, but while wearing a Cannon Films t-shirt) at the after-party to a screening of THE APPLE.  You can read about those zany experiences here.

So this weekend, pick a Cannon Film (or one that Golan worked on outside of that glorious company), have some friends over, pick up some junk food, some beers, or whatever floats your boat, and watch it.  Watch the hell out of it!  And raise a toast to a man who empirically raised the levels of fun on this sorry planet.  I'll be doing MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE myself, but I have a few others I can recommend:

Splits, full-contact, and JCVD crazy-face in BLOODSPORT.

BIM exercise hour and disco dystopia in THE APPLE.

Chicken's good and it's my car in DEATH WISH 3.

Acting greatness and a light dose of Danny Trejo in RUNAWAY TRAIN.

Boomboxes and Bronson's loose in DEATH WISH II.

The Ninja film finds its voice in ENTER THE NINJA.

Robby Rosa treats himself to "mucho money" in SALSA.

Not payin' and not punkin' in DEATH WARRANT.

Dennis Hopper double fists chainsaws and 80s Gran Guignol reaches operatic heights in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2.

Gutter Rouke and Bukowski realness in BARFLY.

John Glover and Clarence Williams III scare the bejeesus out of Roy Scheider in 52 PICK-UP.

High-steppin' Chris Walken and feline grace in PUSS IN BOOTS.

Poor man's Indiana Jones and holy Chuck in FIREWALKER.

Chuck's Rambo routine in MISSING IN ACTION.

High fashion, low blows, and killer soccer balls in DEATH WISH 5: THE FACE OF DEATH.

Naked space vampires and slummin' Patrick Stewart in LIFEFORCE.

Explodin' Trejo, roller-skatin' panic, and Bronson sandwich makin' in DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN.

Chuck "treats that lady nice" in THE HERO AND THE TERROR.

Ninja madness and mustache choppin' in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.

Bronson, Mormons, and a dearth of action in MESSENGER OF DEATH.

Oscar-chasin' Christopher Reeve and pimpin' Morgan Freeman in STREET SMART.

Flamethrower vigilantes and Mario Van Peebles pushing the boundaries of good (?) taste in EXTERMINATOR 2.

Norris tailpipe action, crabby Lee Marvin, and beers for everyone in THE DELTA FORCE.

The perversions and high-kickin' senior citizens of KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS.

"Toejams" and "fart brains" in MURPHY'S LAW (but hold the mayo!).

Knife-sharpening and facial contortions in CYBORG.

Axe gangs, pizza-scissorin', and AWESOM robot fashion in COBRA.

Bayou Chuck, l'il armadillos, and slick Billy Drago in INVASION U.S.A.

or Menahem teamin' up with George A. Romero and Tom Savini for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD '90.

P.S., the New York Times also posted a surprisingly reverent obituary that's worth your time.


Mike Bradley said...

Hear, hear! From the time I was 6 or 7 and somehow convinced my parents to repeatedly check out "Revenge of the Ninja" for me, to this very day when I annoy my wife with my incessant playing of "Bloodsport" on repeat as I stay up too late reading blogs and playing old NES games, Golan and Co. have probably given me more movie joy than literally all other filmmakers combined! Thanks for the excellent tribute here today and all over this site on all the other days, too.

Sean Gill said...


Indeed, Golan & Co. have left behind a rich legacy; glad you enjoyed the tribute. And REVENGE OF THE NINJA is an excellent gateway drug!

John Guedes said...

Was not aware that he passed, but what an awesome tribute! In his honor I have tracked down STREET SMART at my local library and will be watching it soon. Should be a treat considering I have never seen it before.

Austin said...

85 years--almost too perfect for a man who helped define the 80s.

Roderick Heath said...

That's a helluva roundup and tribute there. The pleasure of watching those films encapsulated.

Sean Gill said...


Thank you, sir– and enjoy STREET SMART!


Indeed! And for some reason I assumed he was younger when the 80s rolled around– it's hard to imagine that the glittery exuberance of THE APPLE (1980) came from the mind of a 51 year old.


Thank you for the kind words. He really did have a hell of a run.

Jack Thursby said...

So many great films (thanks for the list - it reminds me of the ones I've got to catch up on).

Cannon films just had a voice of their own - they were unlike any other studio in the 80s - and I think a lot of that was down to the personalities of Golan and Globus.

Their films were larger than life and above all fun. I know a lot of their decisions didn't always pay off financially (Masters of the Universe for instance) but I hope that Golan took so solace in the fact he produced some kick-ass films that have endless rewatchability.

Anonymous said...

Excellent tribute, sir.

I suppose you've already seen it by now, but I'd love to see a review and what you make of what I believe to be one of the best Cannon / Bronson films, 10 to Midnight.

I'd have no problem ranking it up there with Death Wish 3 and Murphy's Law!

Sean Gill said...


Definitely. And even the financial missteps (MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, the SPIDER-MAN/CYBORG fiasco) resulted in some wildly entertaining fare.


I hadn't seen 10 TO MIDNIGHT for a long time, but finally have remedied that grievous error. I hope to write a proper review of it sometime soon, but am sorta behind on my backlog. I want to do it justice!