The Cannon Films Survival Guide
Lo! In a time before time, there were devices we mortals called.. VIDEOCASSETTE RECORDERS. VCRs. Then time would pass as suns rose and set on the horizon and it birthed a new area. The era of DIGITAL VIDEO DISCS. And in these times of dark and evil there set a company that released a bunch of absolutely garbage movies for decades until they died a slow death…
And there came a Cannon Films.
If you’ve seen a cheesy action movie from the 70’s through the 80’s, or a Conan the Barbarian-style sword and sorcery film made in the same era, you probably saw Cannon Films movie. Their first success was porn, so you know it has to be amazing. They they released a kajillion films either financed themselves or merely shoveled into their Cannon Films group, bought for pennies, and put onto VHS tapes you saw in a dollar bill.
And these mostly terrible, often amazing films are the perfect way to survive the apocalypse that is 2020.
Death Wish was THE 70’s revenge thriller that spawned an entire subgenre of garbage. It was the classic formula: an aging Charles Bronson (a tough guy actor in his younger years) on a violent quest to kill random gang members and thugs as an increasing number of people who was related to or kind of knew were raped and murdered.
This movie truly shows what Cannon was capable of: a decent movie with decent direction with a washed up actor followed by 4 sequels with the same basic plot, increasingly worse. Still, if you need to see a bored, aging white man military veteran shoot a bunch of insanely violent thugs in order to protect his neighborhood, this is gold. Think of it as if the Punisher started his rampage when he was a bit too old and bored.
I don’t like Chuck Norris. I mean, as a person he seems lovely despite his questionable political views and awful exercise equipment infomercials. No, he is an awful actor. Charles Bronson was bored making Death Wish movies, but he was a good actor in his youth. Chuck Norris constantly seems bored. His best role was getting killed by Bruce Lee.
Invasion USA takes the formula of Death Wish – a bored white man murders random gang members – and cranks it up, 80s style. A group of vaguely foreign Communist (?) Cuban (?) guys invade Florida and Chuck Norris shoots a bunch of them. Well, until the end when the US military shows and is the real heroes.
The best part, though, is Chuck Norris kills a guy by shooting him through a window with a bazooka!
Tobe Hooper – of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2 fame – directors this movie about space vampires. That sounds fairly awful but I’d say it’s the best actual FILM on this list. It borders on real cinema. It even has Patrick Stewart and that chick from The Jackal. It’s sort of if 2001: A Space Odyssey was written as a comic book published by EC Comics. It’s too interesting and weird to spoil.
Heeere we are! Boooorn to be kings!
Remember that song? Remember Queen? Remember Highlander?! I remember!
In the dark times, Highlander had a movie franchise, a TV show, and a cartoon. It’s basically another surprisingly good bad movie that saw wide release. Sean Connery plays a Spanish guy… for reasons… who is immortal and befriends another man who finds out he’s immortal, Christopher Lambert plants that titular Highlander, Connor MacLeod. It has sword fights, be-headings, and a plot that in later movies involves aliens and stuff… The original Highlander, though, is by far the best both for the over-the-top Sean Connery and the gritty 80’s feel.
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE
Ok, no. I wanted to include Superman IV but, by god, it’s too awful. It’s also sinfully boring. So, skip this one and move on to better Cannon Films.
THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES
If you need your fill of Italian movies dubbed over that still star an American guy who was also the Incredible Hulk that’s full of sexy dudes and sexy women, here you go! Lou Ferrigno stars as Hercules in this sequel to, uh, Hercules. In my opinion this movie is a little better and a little more fun on the silly factor, but both are serviceable sword and sorcery movies.
Hercules needs to get thunderbolts for reasons. He kills a monkey-man. King Minos is back alive because Gods and there’s evil science and magic. It’s basically like a dumber, less nihilistic Conan. Oh, and beautiful Italian women.
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
I personally have no idea how you could make a live action He-Man movie in the 80’s and not make it look laughably bad. I also don’t have an idea how you could make Eternia or any of the fantastical characters on a budget. Two-Bad? Man-E-Faces? Beast Man?
Neither did Cannon Films.
Instead He-Man/Prince Adam (Dolph Lundgren) goes to Earth because it is way cheaper to have He-Man in a random earth city hanging out with the principal from Back to the Future. A handful of real characters you know – Skeletor, Teela, Sorceress, Evil-Lyn, Man-At-Arms – show up. But I guess Orko was too expensive so he’s replaced by some idiot. Beast Man shows up but he’s just some harry dude.
What makes this movie so fun though is Frank Langella. Langella in a man who has won Tonys and Oscars in his life. He has TWO Oscars and was Skeletor. Supposedly he took the role because his kids liked He-Man and he immediately acts like he’s having the most fun of his life, chewing up scenes and being pure evil. He is a delight.
In the 80’s, Cannon Films had the rights to Spider-Man. Imagine the alternate reality where that happened. Spider-Man fighting random thugs and for some reason people being blow up by a bazooka. Also, Spider-Man befriends kids for some reason and none of the bad guys look even remotely like their comic counterpart.
Cannon actually made several good movies. Not bad good or fun good, but legitimately well acted and written. Cannon released a movie that won an Oscar. Also, Bloodsport. If there was an Oscar for Most Manly Nonsense on Film, then Bloodsport would’ve won hands down.
Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD is a great movie worth seeing as well) stars as Bloodsport, the Bloodsport guy who has to join the Bloodsport fight to stop Bloodsport. Seriously, though, Van Damme starts as US Army Captain Frank Bloodsport, trained by Lao Che from Indiana Jones, and goes AWOL to join the illegal Bloodsport Fight in Bloodsport, Hong Kong on Bloodsport Avenue. He and his buddy Ray Bloodsport must fight for their lives while Frank Bloodsport romances Janice Bloodsport nee Kent.
The point is, Bloodsport is awesome and the best title name ever. Also, somehow this ridiculous Mortal Kombat prequel idea was based on a true story. Frank “Bloodsport McBloodsport” Dux is a real dude.
Cannon released a ton of movies. Many of them were well-made or at least made with honestly and conviction. Others were Bloodsport and Death Wish. If you are feeling down, lonely, or anxious, fire up a VCR – or, I guess like some kind of digital streaming device – and watch some Cannon Films. You won’t be disappointed. At their best, Cannon was cranking out non-stop action insanity.