CANNON MONTH 2: Operation Thunderbolt (1977)

This is where the Cannon of the 60s and 70s would meet the Cannon of the 80s.

Distributed by the Dewey-Friedland Cannon, this film was directed and produced by the men who would take Cannon into our hearts: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Based on the hijacking of a flight by terrorists and the mission that freed the hostages known as Operation Entebbe, this movie nearly feels like a documentary.

Originally intended to be a larger budget Hollywood to be made shortly after the actual events with Steve McQueen in the main role, that project died and that’s when the Cannon boys of the 80s came in. They  recreated Uganda’s Entebbe Airport and acquired several realistic scale models of the Ugandan Air Force MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters. Even better, because this wa sproduced with the co-operation of the Israeli Air Force and the Israeli government, three of the four Hercules transports from the actual event are in this movie. The footage is so realistic that Cannon sold te rights to several documentaries to use it.

Anyone in the movie spoke their native langauge, while an international cut was made with just English being spoken.

This same story was turned into two TV movies: the Irving Krischner-directed Raid on Entebbe — with Charles Bronson as Brigadier General Dan Shomron, Yaphet Kotto as Idi Amin, John Saxon as Major General Benny Peled and Robert Loggia as Yigal Allon and Marvin J. Chomsky’s Victory at Entebbe, which had Helmut Berger as Wilfried Böse, Linda Blair as Chana Vilnofsky, Kirk Douglas as Hershel Vilnofsky, Richard Dreyfuss as Colonel Yoni Netanyahu, Helen Hayes as Etta Grossman Wise, Anthony Hopkins as Yitzhak Rabin, Burt Lancaster as Shimon Peres and Elizabeth Taylor as Edra Vilnofsky. Man — look at those casts!

Golan’s film has a pretty awesome list of talent, though. There’s Klaus Kinski as terorrist Wilfried Bose, Sybil Danning as one of his followers and Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Yigal Allon and Gad Yaakobi — all Israeli government officials — as themselves.

This movie was actually a pretty big success at the box officer and with critics, as Golan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

I love Menahem stories and they may not be true all the time, but this one, well…when one of the cargo pilots told him that he was too tired to do another taken, Golan grabbed a prop Uzi and put it to the man’s temple and forced him to go back into the cockpit.

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