Australian exploitation fan boy par excellence, Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed!) wraps his schlock doc trilogy with this suitably energetic ride through the highs and lows of Israeli film moguls Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’s career – otherwise known as the bold, brash forces of nature behind infamous B-movie studio Cannon Films in the 1980s.
The pair – already the subject of Hilla Medalia’s Cannes-feted and officially sanctioned doc The Go-Go Boys – are notable in their absence from Hartley’s film (Globus and the late Golan reportedly wished to torpedo his efforts with Medalia’s project), and appear only in archive material (much of it drawn from the BBC). But Hartley rises to the challenge admirably. Talking heads – of which there are a staggering 80 in total – fire off anecdotes and sound bites with increasingly gleeful abandon, in an enjoyable ride through one of Hollywood’s more bizarre eras.
Oddly, there is scant mention (or analysis) of the cousins prior to their film association in Israel, nor does Roger Corman (whom Golan briefly worked with) appear to warrant a nod. The trash traders’ about-turn later in Cannon’s life, chasing credibility by pursuing the likes of John Cassavetes, Peter Bogdanovich and even Jean-Luc Godard, is also frustratingly not explored beyond a quick, cursory glance.
But what Hartley’s film does do, it does rather well. The absurdity of Cannon’s low-brow, worry-about-the-plot later mentality, its shameless pre-sales for so-called star-led vehicles that existed in poster form only, its Gargantuan output (up to 50 films a year) and appetite (buying up over 40 per cent of Britain’s film exhibition in one fell swoop) allowed its uncouth stars to shine briefly but brightly. Although few mourned the loss of the pair’s studio – brought down by box-office bombs such as Superman IV and Masters of the Universe, amidst reports of false accounting – many of those interviewed clearly look back with bemused fondness at what went on.
Cannon, as several note in the film, evidently provided a blueprint of sorts for the likes of Miramax (and for recent bone-head franchises like The Expendables) to flourish. It made a star out of Chuck Norris (who is not interviewed), discovered Jean-Claude Van Damme and set a precedent with Sylvester Stallone (both of whom are also absent), with the latter scoring an absurdly inflated pay cheque, in excess of $US10million, for the doomed arm-wrestling romp Over the Top. At one point, Cannon even owned the rights to Spider-Man, Superman and the Captain America franchises, despite its shocking appetite for sexual violence (brazenly on show notably in Michael Winner’s Death Wish sequels).
Golan and Globus’s eventual falling out (and subsequent reconciliation) is less effectively visualized here (see Medalia’s film for that). But otherwise, Hartley’s geek-fuelled journey down memory lane (with its generous serving of clips in tow) delivers a vibrant, often frenetic look at a remarkable pair of film-fawning men who were – if nothing else – determined to take on Hollywood at its own game. That they ultimately failed (or were, at least, kept firmly on the periphery) only adds to the fascinating nature of their screen story. Some detail may be lacking (and the story is hardly ‘untold’), but a ‘wild’ ride it most certainly is. Cinephiles and Cannon obsessives should form a line here.