Menahem Golan (born Menahem Globus; he took his name from the Golan Heights) was born in Tiberias, Palestine, on May 31, 1929.
With his curly-haired cousin Yoram Globus, Golan led the Israeli film industry in the 1970s with films like 1974's Kazablan, Golan's Israeli retelling of West Side Story, and Operation Thunderbolt, Golan's story of Israel's 1976 raid on Entebbe, both starring Israeli actor Yehoram Gaon. Lemon Popsicle, an irreverent youth comedy hit set in the fifties, was produced by Golan and Globus and directed by their friend Boaz Davidson.
Golan and Globus, former Israeli paratroopers, moved to the US in 1979 after buying a controlling interest (for 20 cents a share) in Cannon Films. It was a struggling production company that had several minor B-movie hits in the early seventies, including Joe, starring Peter Boyle. The Israelis made a distribution deal with MGM and started producing exploitation fare like Death Wish 2, Enterthe Ninja and The Last American Virgin in 1981-82.
Next came Breakin', Death Wish 3, and Bolero with Bo Derek, Missing In Action, The DeltaForce and Invasion U.S.A. with Chuck Norris.
Golan and Globus wanted to create a seventh movie studio. The Cannon Group produced 125 movies in ten years. In 1986, when Cannonís stock reached its high of $45.50, Cannon produced 43 movies.
Patrick Runckle writes on Inksyndicate.com: "Golan was an aggressive salesman, and he sold the rights to his films to different theatrical and video distributors in many territories before the film was finished, and sometimes, before it was even started."
Golan and Globus bought a large international theater chain from Lord Lew Grade and they invested in the video market, buying the international video rights to several classic film libraries. But they financially overextended themselves. They produced and released expensive bombs like Tobe Hooper's 1985 science-fiction film Lifeforce, s a $30 million investment that had an American box office of $10 million.
In 1987, Cannon released such bombs as Golan's Over The Top, an arm wrestling movie starring Sylvester Stallone, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, and Masters of the Universe starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella.
In 1987 the Cannon Group took $25 million cash from Warner Brothers for some of its video assets. Globus said: "Our only crime is that we love cinema. You don't see us at the Polo Lounge, on the tennis court or at parties. You see us at the office seven days a week.''
Tobe Hooper, who directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Invaders From Mars and Lifeforce, said: "Cannon was really a good company to work for, actually. They made hundreds of movies. They did not have that many hit films, but both Yoram and Menahem just loved movies. They loved films and loved the filmmakers and really treated them well. It seemed more, when I was there, like maybe what the old system was like. I miss it. I miss that kind of showmanship and chance-taking."
Cannon also financed art pictures like Andrei Konchalovskyís 1985 Oscar-nominated Runaway Train, Konchalovskyís 1986 drama Shy People, Barfly, Jean-Luc Godardís version of King Lear, and Norman Mailerís Tough Guys Donít Dance.
Film critic Roger Ebert said in 1987, "No other production organization in the world today has taken more chances with serious, marginal films than Cannon."
Ebert writes about Golanís obsession with the Cannes Film Festival in his 1987 book Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: "Cannonís historical failure to win the Palm díOr was not through a lack of effort. The company has always been cheerfully schizo, announcing its art films with the same gusto it uses for its exploitation product ... For years [Golan] has arrived at Cannes with at least one film he announces as a good bet for the Palm díOr, and every year he has been disappointed ... People wonder how the same company could remake King Solomonís Mines and film Verdiís Otello in the same year."
In 1989, Cannon faced Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and an investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission over mistakes and omissions in its financial records. Golan and Globus fell out and stopped speaking to each other.
Crooked Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti took over Cannon and MGM. Parretti was later charged with numerous SEC violations.
Globus got the Cannon imprint and turned out a few pictures. Golan formed the 21st Century Film Corporation. They competed to see who would release the first film about the Lambada dance craze of 1990.
I spoke to producer Joel Soisson April 11, 2002.
Luke: "Menahem Golam and Yoram Globus of Cannon Pictures."
Joel: "Showmen. I worked with those guys for a while. I remember one time I went to Cannes and they had this big poster selling, 'Mitchum, Wayne, Taylor.' And it was Chris Mitchum, David Wayne, John Taylor. Those guys would do anything. And they're all cheap.
"I got involved after Menahem and Yoram split up and had this holy war against each other. Yoram Globus was my guy. Yoram was more the producer/financial side and Menahem was more of the creative guy.
"I got involved at the time of the Lambada dance craze. I had gone to Cannon Pictures from Dino De Laurentiis after making Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Dino had phoned up his pal [Giancarlo] Paretti. [Fortune magazine article] And we got a call, my partner Michael Murphey and I, to head up the new Cannon Pictures. We were totally jazzed to run a studio. We get there and meet with Chris Pearce, Yoram's backroom manipulating guy.
"We asked, 'So, what do we do?' Chris said, 'I'm not sure yet. There's another guy who wants to run the studio with you.' He sent us down to the script library to see if there was anything we wanted to make into a movie. Something to kill time.
"We come back up after lunch. Chris said, 'We'll figure this all out later. Just go down and get your ID cards so you can get a parking pass.' And I am so passive on these things. I say ok. So I went down and the screening guy asked for my title. I said, 'Story Department.' That got me the Lambada job.
"They had this new dance wave coming. They didn't have a script. So they gave me this old script that had nothing to do with dancing about a math teacher in East LA. 'Just put some dancing in it. Make it the Lambada. I don't care if you know how to dance or not. Just say, whenever they dance, that it is the Lambada. Just put a sexy girl in there and lets go. We've got to beat Menahem. They're shooting now.' They wanted to totally destroy the other guy's company.
Writes a critic on Imdb.com: "This film [The Forbidden Dance] that was hastily made to cash in on the short-lived 1990 Lambada craze is entertaining, to a point. Don't expect great dancing or a great film; this is basically an exploitation flick, what with those scenes of the Brazilian princess, who is trying to enter a national dance contest in the U.S. No, see it for nostalgia's sake, and because one of the things that makes this film entertaining is all the corny dialogue. Not only the Lambada, but also the save-the-rainforests subplot, were timely topics in 1990; remember just how hip an issue ecology was in 1990?"
As for Lambada. a poster on Imdb.com writes: "J. Eddie Peck smolders as Kevin Laird, a high school math teacher who lives in 2 worlds, the Beverly Hills school where he teaches and the east LA world where he came from. Delicious to watch, the dance scenes with the pulsing sexual undercurrents showcase J. Eddy Peck's attributes beautifully as does a voyeuristic butt shot as he writes on the blackboard in front of his Beverly Hills class. The classic themes are all here: there are no bad kids they're just misunderstood (West Side Story), we have more in common that we have differences, acceptance of diversity, you can't judge a book by it's cover. This movie will entertain, it has music, dancing, competition, overcoming obstacles, family values and a happy ending. Great date movie."
Joel: "The two versions came out a week apart. One had something like a two week post. The other had a three week post. Both were awful movies. The box office on ours was $1100 per screen [not good]. But Yoram was triumphant because it was $200 more per screen than Menahem's made. It didn't matter that they were both abject failures. It was that we won. I just realized that so much of this business is all about ego."
[Lambada - Set The Night On Fire grossed $2 million in 1,117 theaters, while The Forbidden Dance grossed $720,000 in 637 theaters.]
Luke: "How long did you last at Cannon?"
Joel: "My history seems to be that I hook up with a company, bankrupt them, and then move on. I never deliberately do this. I bankrupted Sandy once or twice. I got hired by Bob Shaye at New Line and made one of the Nightmare on Elm Streets. I thought they were about to go bankrupt, so I hopped over to DEG (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, everybody in the '80 was an entertainment group) before I drove another company to extinction. And what do I do? I bankrupt DEG. Then I went to Cannon and bankrupted them. Then I worked with MCEG and bankrupted them. I did this horrible movie called Boris and Natasha. That was MCEG's last gasp. I don't think they ever made another movie. I don't think DEG ever made another movie after Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
"Then I stopped bankrupting other people's companies and came close to bankrupting my own when I started Neo Motion Pictures Arts & Logic in 1989 (later became Neo Art & Logic). But we've held together for 12 years now. We've tottered a couple of times. People suggested that I call my company 7/11 Productions because I'm always considering which bankruptcy option to take.
"I'm holding on at Miramax now. I haven't bankrupted them yet. I gave them an off year or two. But I think I've turned the corner."
Golan and Globus reconciled at the 1992 Cannes film festival. Globus told Daily Variety, "Golan came to my table and started to talk, so I talked to him. We are cousins, we are family. We have not made friends exactly, and I never really fell out with him. I wish Mr. Golan all the best from my heart. We went our separate ways because we had separate points of view."
In December 1997 they announced they would run First Miracle pictures together. Globus said as a guest of CNNís Showbiz Today in early 1998, "We divorced us after making between us almost 300 movies and after nine years we agreed both together we're stronger, wiser and we can serve the industry better."
After a few months, the Israelis left to form yet another company, a subsidiary of First Miracle called Magic Entertainment. They put out three flops, including Speedway Junkie. Golan was fired from the company and accused of financial fraud in New York Superior Court by Miracle's owners.
In late 1999, Golan showed up with another film company, Film World Inc. After a corporate re-organization in December 2000, the company got out of the film business to concentrate on making environmentally friendly petrochemical products.
Golan formed New Cannon Incorporated. His partner is young Israeli filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky.
Afineevsky said, "We are doing a remodeling and reconstruction of the old [Cannon] stuff, with new beautiful stories of our time. Menahem wants to use the same concepts of low-budget movies with great stories and slowly rebuild Cannon to make it New Cannon."
Globus also has a new company - Frontline Entertainment. Globus produced Lemon Popsicle: The Party Goes On, the eighth sequel to 1979ís Lemon Popsicle. The original Lemon Popsicle director Boaz Davidson claims to own the rights to the series and has sued Globus in Israel.
(The above article is mainly a rewrite of Patrick Runckle's article on Inksyndicate.com.)
David Poland, 5/13/00, describes Golan as "king of the crap movie and the bounced check."