Cannon Films: The Rise and Fall
A short history by Patrick Runkle


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Note: This is an appreciation site. Cannon Films is no longer in operation.


Thursday, November 27, 2008
 

Here's a holiday DVD marathon to be thankful for... The English-dubbed versions of Lemon Popsicles 1-7 are finally available on DVD. These are region-free discs from the UK in PAL format. From what I have seen so far, the full-frame image quality is not great but is very serviceable--certainly better than the old VHS tapes--and the discs even include the original Hebrew language tracks. This is what Popsicle fans have been waiting for! Stateside fans can order the 7-DVD set from HMV.co.uk for less than $30 international shipping included, which is significantly more popsicle for your hard-earned dollar than you may have expected.

[link]    Posted 6:14 PM by Patrick.




Sunday, July 13, 2008
 
At long last, the original Lemon Popsicle series is finally coming to English-language DVD in the UK. Popsicle aficionado Roy Mitchell reports that the discs will be released in early August, and are available now for pre-ordering on the British HMV site for a reasonable price.

[link]    Posted 9:27 PM by Patrick.




Saturday, February 23, 2008
 
Sorry for the long lull in posting... Here are a couple tidbits.

First, there is a fantastic, comprehensive British site about Cannon that has recently debuted: www.cannon.org.uk Trust me, any Cannon fan will spend hours on this site, going through the scans and all the info there.

Next, Film Score Monthly has just released an 8CD box set of Superman music from 1978-1988. This box set contains the completely unreleased score to The Quest for Peace, along with a bunch of synthpop source music that was mostly rejected from the film.

Finally, I have gotten a lot of questions lately about why Thunder Alley has never been released on DVD. I don't know the answer, but I am trying to find out. It seems likely that it has simply fallen through the cracks, as it has no big stars, there might be very little incentive to release it now.

[link]    Posted 7:41 AM by Patrick.




Sunday, November 18, 2007
 
Here's a special treat: A thorough and fun list of altered and/or unproduced Cannon movies, compiled by our friend MightyMcT, who will be helping us update and maintain it. We are hoping to do a whole section of the site with some more of this legendary info. If you have any questions or additions, please send us an email.

I've gotten a lot of requests for Avenging Force and The Frog Prince on DVD, but it doesn't appear as if MGM is releasing a lot of obscure vault material now, having blown a fortune on Lions for Lambs. Both The Frog Prince and Avenging Force are available on DVD in Europe, however, and if you do a little searching on the Web you will be able to figure out how to get those DVDs to play on your computer or home player. There are also new Lemon Popsicle DVDs in Europe; I'm hoping our friend Roy Mitchell might let us know how the quality is.

[link]    Posted 11:28 PM by Patrick.




Sunday, August 05, 2007
 
I get a lot of emails from readers of this site who are looking to license clips and/or stills from Cannon movies for use in all sorts of productions. Luckily, MGM has a whole website and department dedicated to this purpose. The website is mgmstills.com and the contact info is as follows:

MGM Clip+Still Licensing:

10250 Constellation Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Fax: 310-449-3277
Email: clipstill@mgm.com

With some notable exceptions like Superman IV and Masters of the Universe, the core Cannon catalog is mostly owned by MGM. For early and late Cannon films, feel free to email us and we probably know who distributes them at this point.

[link]    Posted 10:42 PM by Patrick.




Thursday, May 31, 2007
 

Our friends at Rotten Cotton are again offering a really exciting Cannon-related shirt... this time "Exterminator 2." Seen above is genre character actor Irwin Keyes in the shirt, be sure to pick one up to show your support for Cannon!

[link]    Posted 8:33 PM by Patrick.




Thursday, January 25, 2007
 
The Apple is screening next Tuesday, Jan 30th, at the New Beverly Cinema on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles. Do yourself a favor and go see it, it's part of a double feature with Plan 9 from Outer Space. I'm assuming this is the nice new print of The Apple that played a few years ago at the Nuart.

[link]    Posted 7:28 PM by Patrick.




Friday, January 05, 2007
 
Here's an MP3 of the Radio Dan show on Talk Radio X that I appeared on the other day, talking about a wide variety of Cannon topics. Thanks to Dan and Jessica for having me on, it was fun.

[link]    Posted 10:35 AM by Patrick.




Tuesday, January 02, 2007
 
I'll be appearing on Talk Radio X tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 9 p.m. EST to talk about Cannon Films. It should be fun, you can tune in over the web.

Also, I recently received a wonderful book written by Paul Talbot called Bronson's Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films. Published by iUniverse, this title has a foreword by Andrew Stevens and is filled with invaluable info about Death Wish and Cannon. I'm going to do a full review of it in the near future and I hope to talk to the author, but I wanted to encourage all of you to purchase a copy today and show your support.

[link]    Posted 10:31 PM by Patrick.




Tuesday, November 28, 2006
 
I hope to have more time for site updates in the coming months ... In the meantime, an observant reader has noted that Golan's Return from India, a 2002 film, is available on DVD and, importantly, from Netflix. And I did some searching and discovered that a 2-disc version of Golan's magnificent Operation Thunderbolt is also available on Netflix. I will report back on image quality.

[link]    Posted 7:33 PM by Patrick.




Thursday, August 17, 2006
 
Cannon fan Jox (of dolph-ulitmate.com) has made a major find in the Spanish horror magazine La Cosa. It's an Albert Pyun interview in which he gives some amazing specifics about how far along in production Cannon's Spider-Man and Masters of the Universe 2 were when the plug was pulled, which he alleges was because Cannon bounced the rights check to Marvel! In true Cannon fashion, Pyun was to have directed both simultaneously, but ended up turning all the prep for both movies into 1989's Cyborg. (Cannon had also attempted to make Spider-Man with Joe Zito as director in 1986.) Below is part of the interview, in English. (Click here for the full interview from Pyun's site):

"Cyborg" was a product of what could have been a career shifting period of my life. I knew that Cannon had the rights to "Spider-Man" and sequel rights to "Masters of the Universe". I also knew that the "Spider-Man" rights were about to expire. I proposed to Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus that I make both pictures back to back in North Carolina (at De Laurentiis' studio in Wilmington). Cannon agreed. And I cast both pictures. I can't remember who we cast for Peter Parker, but big wave surfer Laird Hamilton was cast as He-Man (replacing Dolph Lundgren).

Brooklyn sets for "Spider-Man" were built on the Wilmington stages and I had a number of creative discussions with Stan Lee and Joe Calamari of Marvel. I had wanted to use the Black Spidey costume, but this was vetoed. The script was based on the original story only. The budget was my largest at $6 million. "Masters of the Unverse 2" was based on my story. Sets and costumes were built. The film was fully cast. Mattel Toys had a great many approvals and it was a trying process getting everything okayed by the corporate giant. It had a budget of $4.5 million.

The concept was to shoot 2 weeks of "Spider-Man" first. The section of Peter Parker's story before he was bitten. Then we would shoot 6 weeks of "Masters 2". The actor cast to play Parker would undergo a streneuous 8 week workout regimen supervised by a fitness professor at UCLA, Dr. Eric Sternlicht to build size and muscle mass. After shooting "Masters 2" we would resume shooting "Spider-Man". Two weeks away from shooting, it was discovered that Cannon had bounced the rights check to Marvel, canceling the deal and it was discovered that Mattel was owed a large rights payment as well. With Cannon in deep financial straights, the negotiations with Marvel and Mattel fell apart! Remember this was 1988 and the junk bond market which had fueled Cannon's rise had collapsed.

Having spent well over $2 million on sets, costumes, and prep, Cannon was desperate to find away to recoup their spend. I suggested we do a film that could utilize as much of what had been built and prepped and that would cost very little in addition. I wrote a first draft of what became "Cyborg" over a weekend and brought in a young actor - who wanted to be a screenwriter - to do polishes. His name was Don Michael Paul and he has gone on to write and direct "Half Past Dead" and Harley Davidson and the "Marlboro Man".

I was interested in Chuck Norris to star as he was under contract to Cannon. Instead Menahem suggested a Belgian kickboxer they had just starred in "Bloodsport". That's how Van Damme became the lead. His accent was so thick, that we had to change the character from an over the hill ex-Army Ranger to what the Gibson character became. It pretty much gutted the character arc.

What I remember most from the film was exhaustion. The turnabout from prepping to shoot "Spider-Man" and "Masters 2" to writing and shooting "Cyborg" was punishing. We had to figure out ways to use what had been built and created for two different films in a short period of time. As I recall, the budget on "Cyborg" was less than $500,000 including Van Damme's salary. It was shot in 24 days of principal. All in all, my expectations were quite low for the film's success given the mad circumstances."

[link]    Posted 11:15 AM by Patrick.




Sunday, June 11, 2006
 
For all those NYC Cannon followers: The Apple is playing next Friday, June 16th, at the Landmark Sunshine on the Lower East Side, at midnight.

[link]    Posted 10:20 AM by Patrick.




Thursday, April 13, 2006
 
Longtime Cannon supporter Michael Winner, the colorful UK director of the first three Death Wish films as well as the questionable The Wicked Lady with Faye Dunaway, has just published his autobiography, Winner Takes All. I'm assuming that it has some good Cannon info in it, but I haven't found a copy in the U.S. yet.

And speaking of Death Wish, in the (somewhat) earlier days of the web circa 1997, I had a very awkwardly coded page in which I presented my favorite sound bites from the Death Wish movies, which I had digitized myself. In the spirit of that, here is a video compilation someone has artfully prepared of Bronson's Death Wish body count from all five movies. It's interesting to see the movies turn from an arguably serious look at urban violence (Death Wish) into Bronson and pals running around the ghetto with Gatling guns offing random hooligans (Death Wish 3) and then into geriatric Bronson killing guys with poisoned cannolis and exploding soccer balls (Death Wish V: The Face of Death). Death Wish V is terrible and still strikes me as a tragically blown opportunity; instead of taking the series back to its gritty beginnings, or doing something ironic, director Allan Goldstein made a direct-to-video quality stinker shot on the streets of Toronto.

And last but not least, I found an amazing court case from 1991 in New Jersey in which an accused (and later convicted) murderer allegedly claimed to his friends to take inspiration from Cannon's 10 to Midnight. The issue on appeal was whether the prosecution's decision to show parts of the film--in which an insane Gene Davis goes on various murderous rampages against women who spurn him--was prejudicial to the jury. The court found that showing the film was ok, although I bet very few of the judges on the appeals courts actually watched 10 to Midnight; I can't imagine any court wanting any portion of it to figure in a respectable legal proceeding. This is a movie whose tagline, by the way, is "Forget what's legal ... Do what's right!"

[link]    Posted 10:04 AM by Patrick.




Tuesday, April 04, 2006
 
As a brief update, note that the cache of late era Cannon films like American Kickboxer 1 and Hellbound that were initally released as "exclusive" DVDs from Best Buy are now available more widely. I highly recommend Fifty-Fifty, which I revisited recently and found to be better than I remembered. Also, I've received two separate notes from readers that the Michael Dudikoff/Sam Firstenberg thriller Avenging Force has been released as a Region 2 DVD in the UK. I haven't seen the movie since the mid-90s but I remember it being above average.

[link]    Posted 3:20 PM by Patrick.




Monday, January 02, 2006
 
Happy New Year from Cannonfilms.com! I've received another tip from our friend Eric Lemoine that Cannon's Journey to the Center of the Earth, which is a bizarre late-era movie fraught with production problems, as well as the questionable Chuck Norris vehicle Firewalker, are both out on DVD.

Journey is bizarre in that it is apparently a combination of footage from two movies: an unfinished Rusty Lemorande project, which was to be a cyberpunk update on the Jules Verne tale of the same name, and the unfinished sequel to Albert Pyun's Alien from L.A., which starred swimsuit model Kathy Ireland. The film was probably caught up in the tumult of Cannon's bankruptcy, and at 70 minutes seems quite unfinished and makes little sense. It is also lacking full company and producer credits.

Firewalker was the Chuck Norris vehicle that followed Invasion USA. It has some funny/incompetent moments, and follows one of my favorite Cannon trends. It's a rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark, of course, and to prove it, Cannon gets John Rhys-Davies from Raiders for a supporting role. This is similar to hiring James Tolkan to be in Masters of the Universe, essentially ripping off his own role in Back to the Future.

[link]    Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick.




Saturday, December 10, 2005
 
For those of you looking for great Christmas presents, here are the Cannon Movie Tales on DVD. Please order from the Amazon links below to help support Cannonfilms.com:


[link]    Posted 8:42 AM by Patrick.




Wednesday, December 07, 2005
 
Sorry about the lack of recent updates to this site ... There hasn't been a whole lot of news and I hope all of you Cannonhounds are enjoying this year's DVD releases.

Here's a tidbit: I discovered while searching through a commercial legal database the case of Jeffrey v. Cannon Films, Inc., 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14949, in which Cannon was sued in federal court by the Jeffrey Brothers, a California pair who claimed that they had intellectual property interests in many concepts related to arm wrestling, including the "over the top" technique that formed the basis of the film of the same name. They had, among other things, written a book called Arm Wrestling: How to Become a Champion in 1969 and ran a business manufacturing arm wrestling tables. Here's the description of the case:

Plaintiffs [the Jeffrey Brothers] obtained a patent on arm wrestling table. Plaintiffs were also owners of copyright in arm wrestling book that contained phrase used to describe arm wrestling technique. Plaintiffs obtained California trademark registration on words of said phrase in block letters. Defendants, corporation engaged in production of movies, chairman, and president of corporation, used phrase trademarked by plaintiffs to title film project for more than three years prior to date plaintiffs obtained trademark. Defendants sponsored arm wrestling tournaments in connection with promotion of film and licensed cologne company to market product using film title. Plaintiffs filed complaint against defendants, claiming patent and copyright infringement, and unfair competition under Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. 1125(a). The court found that plaintiffs' complaint stated cause of action so defendants' motion to dismiss denied. The court found summary judgment appropriate on all claims except one unfair competition claim. Summary judgment denied on unfair competition claim regarding defendants' licensing use of phrase trademarked by plaintiffs.

It looks like all but one of the plantiffs' claims were thrown out, as summary judgment was granted to Cannon. The claim not thrown out was the one over the use of "over the top." I'm unsure what the disposition of this claim was ... I'm wondering if it ever went to trial or whether it was settled.

One interesting bit from the facts of the case:

In connection with the promotion of the film "Over The Top," Cannon Films entered into a contract with International Arm Wrestling Council (IAC), on June 6, 1985, for the IAC to produce a series of arm wrestling tournaments in various cities throughout the world. At these tournaments, Connie Glazer distributed arm wrestling rules (Glazer Decl., Ex. "50") written by Marvin Cohen and a registration form and release (Glazer Decl., Ex. "51").

[link]    Posted 2:55 PM by Patrick.




Sunday, September 11, 2005
 
Observant CannonFilms.com reader Eric Lemoine has discovered that Best Buy has released no less than 10 late-era Cannon Films as "exclusive" DVDs. Check the website here, this batch includes some great titles, including the sought-after Norris titles Hellbound and The Hitman, along with American Ninja 4 & 5, and American Kickboxer 1...

[link]    Posted 12:38 AM by Patrick.




Sunday, August 28, 2005
 

I was going through some old videotapes and re-discovered the hilarity of American Kickboxer 1, an anemic 1991 release from Global Pictures, the company Yoram Globus formed after his split with Menahem Golan. The movie is a rather tiresome affair notable only for its title, which is not a joke. Amazingly enough, hardcore fans of AK1 would have to wait two years for the inevitable American Kickboxer 2, which apparently bears no relation to the first one other than its title. You'd think if you named a movie American Kickboxer 1 that you'd have the second one waiting in the wings. Interestingly, Globus would try the same recipe--take a semi-successful Cannon movie, slap "American" before the title and make a terrible knockoff of said film--to limited effect in 1993 with American Cyborg.

[link]    Posted 12:34 PM by Patrick.




Wednesday, July 13, 2005
 
I made a post on my personal blog about The Fantastic Four that touches on some Cannon stuff. And here's a page with some art from Albert Pyun's Spider-Man.

[link]    Posted 9:54 PM by Patrick.