CANNON MONTH 2: Street Hunter (1990)

Born and raised in New York City, Steve James was born into an entertainment family. His dad was trumpet player Hubie James, his uncle was James Wall (Mr. Baxter on Captain Kangaroo) and his godfather was actor Jon Seneca, who often took him to 42nd Street to watch action movies.

James’ career started with stunt work in movies like The Wiz and The Warriors as well as small roles in The Land That Time ForgotThe Exterminator and He Knows You’re Alone and Vigilante. His big break came from Cannon, who cast him as Corporal Curtis Jackson in the American Ninja films, as well as roles in The Delta Force, Avenging Force, P.O.W. the Escape and  Hero and the Terror for Cannon.

He also crossed over from the action film genre and made stuff like MaskJohnny Be GoodThe Brother From Another Planet and by beng Kung Fu Joe in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and its little-seen TV sequel Hammer, Slammer & Slade.

Sadly, James was often the second banana in his films but is always memorable. Even sadder, he died way too young at the age of 41 from pancreatic cancer. He was going to play Jax in the movie version of Mortal Kombat before his death and man, I can’t think of a cooler thing that could have happened.

There are two constants about James: everyone that worked with him speaks glowingly of him and Cannon fans absolutely love him. This movie is one of his few opportunities to be the lead and man, I wish we had received so many more.

James is Logan Blade — has there every been a more 90s name? — a former cop turned bounty hunter. He was blamed for several crimes as a cop and cleared, but he never went back, because he’s a man of honor. Now all he has is a trailer and a dog named Munch, a girl named Denise (Valarie Pettiford who is almost fed up with him and, well, still a job to do.

That job is to stop Angel (John Leguizamo), who leads the Diablos in a street war against another gang, the Romanos. He has a weapon to help him do exactly that in the form of Col. Walsh (Reb Brown), who surgically strikes and takes out most of his rivals in the opening. He follows up being a worthwhile asset when he rescues Angels from being transported to prison after Blade catches him.

Reb Brown never got to be a bad guy all that often and that is also a shame. He’s great in this — actually he’s pretty great in everything he did — as he wants to start a new war in the U.S. because he never got to win in Vietnam. He’s pretty much the darkside Rambo, if Rambo constantly wanted to be compared to Alexander the Great and kept referencing historical warfare. He ever tries to bring Blade over to his side, but we know that these two have to fight to the death after he kidnaps Blade’s girl.

Also, yes, Reb Brown screams pretty much for this entire movie. That’s what we want. That’s what we get.

The Romanos are led by Frank Vincent as Don Mario Romano. Vincent is pretty much required if you make a mob movie, as he also appeared as BIlly Batts in Goodfellas the same year as this movie. He was also Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos and Frank Marino in Casino.

Another actor in this, Thom Christopher*, is pretty important to me, as he was Hawk on Buck Rogers.

Yet this entire movie is all about Steve James, who dresses like a western gunslinger with a long duster and cowboy hat, walking the mean streets of New York City wiping out bad guys. This is everything I’ve ever wanted for James and it’s — again that word — sad that this was the only Street Hunter movie when this could have been a direct-to-video series that went on for a long time.

James co-wrote this movie with its director, John A. Gallagher, who is still making movies today.

*Thanks to Andrew Chamen for helping me fix the typo on this name.

You can watch this on YouTube.

CANNON MONTH 2: Bullseye! (1990)

In the divorce of Golan and Globus, it seems as if Menahem got not only Charles Bronson — 21st Century FIlms released Death Wish 5: The Face of Death — but also Michael Winner, who directed, co-wrote*, produced and edited this film. This would be the final collaboration between Golan and Winner.

Michael Caine and Roger Moore are Dr. Daniel Hicklar and Sir John Bavistock, nuclear physicists who believe they have invented a limitless supply of cold fusion energy. They are also con men Sidney Lipton and Gerald Bradley-Smith, who want to use their resemblance to those two men and steal their formula and get rich.

This movie has more dog sex than a Linda Lovelace loop, which should tell you the level of humor you’re about to get. At least it has a cast that you can be excited seeing when they show up, like Sally Kirkland as a former lover of both men, a closing cameo by John Cleese, Deborah Barrymore (the daughter of Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli) playing a British agent named Flo Fleming, Patsy Kensit, Alexandra Pigg (star of British soap opera Brookside), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Dr. Who) and Jim Bowen, who hosted the ITV game show Bullseye.

The final scenes for this film have one of the smallest crews ever on a major movie. Winner operated the camera, cameraman David Wynn-Jones held the reflector and Cleese moonlighted as the sound man as the sound recorder was concealed in a book he carried.

Caine’s agent told him not to do this movie, but he had always wanted to work with his friend Moore. His agent was probably right; he did a much better version of this movie two years earlier with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

*The other writers were Leslie Bricusse (Doctor DolittleScrooged), Nick Mead, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (Marks and Gran worked on the TV shows Goodnight Sweetheart and Birds of a Feather together).

CANNON MONTH: The 5th Monkey (1990)

Based on Le Cinquieme Singe by Jacques Zibi, this film has Ben Kingsley playing Cunda, a man who catches snakes for scientists to earn money to catch the eye of a widow. He ends up being bitten by serpents, which leads to a dream about four chimpanzees and then they show up in his waking life, leading him on a series of misadventures. While he just wants to make money off the monkeys, he finds himself growing to love them.

The Fifth Monkey was directed and written by Éric Rochat, who yes, made multiple versions of The Story of O and produced Jodorowsky’s Tusk, but he’s the man who made Too Much, the story of a robot with a heart for Cannon.

According to The Unknown Movies — and a reader of that site named Maurice — “…after 20% of the movie was completed, Golan wanted to replace the director of photography and partly also Rochat, which really killed the movie. The Brazilian crew quit, Kingsley insisted that Rochat stayed, and a new contract was written which made Kingsley, Rochat and the new director of photography, all directors of the movie.” This same writer also claims that Bubbles the chimp was in this.

Rochat himself emailed that site too, saying: “For your information, I was actually the producer of the film as well by contract, then the titles were made in LA by Menahem Golan. At the screening of the first copy, to my great surprise, Menahem had given himself the credit of producer. When I complained about it, he came up with the following line: “You have enough credit as it is, writer, director! You’re not going to fight me over this, are you?” I was so exhausted by the whole fight during the shooting that I let it go. Now one word in favor of Menahem, he loves movies and gave a lot of people the opportunity to have a go at it.”

I love that 21st Century keeps being an untapped mine filled with magical gold.

CANNON MONTH 2: Captain America (1990)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally appeared on the site on May 2, 2022.

Written by Stephen Tolkin and directed by Albert Pyun — who interned on a Toshiro Mifune TV series under Akira Kurosawa’s director of photography before making movies like Cyborg, Alien from L.A.Radioactive DreamsThe Sword and the Sorcerer and so many more — this film started at Universal, who got the rights after the CBS TV movies.

The rights were then sold to The Cannon Group with the idea of Michael Winner directing a script by James Silke (Ninja 3: The Domination) and supposedly starring Michael Dudikoff as Cap and Steve James as the Falcon, the sheer idea of which makes my brain delirious. The Variety ad that announced this movie initiated Jack Kirby’s lawsuit against Marvel, as it claimed that Stan Lee created the character and not he and Joe Simon, who invented Cap all the way back in 1941 and Lee didn’t bring the character back until 1964.

After two years of development, Golan left Cannon in 1989 — stay tuned for August on this site for a sequel to Cannon Month — and as part of the settlement, he was given control of 21st Century Film Corporation and the film rights to Captain America.

Then, comic book fans waited. And waited.

It premiered in 1991 in the Phillipines as Bloodmatch as part of a double feature with Snoopy, featuring an ad that trumpeted Golan as the producer of Superman. Maybe it was better to say that instead of saying that he produced Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Also, Jean Claude Van Damme is not in this movie, no matter what that ad claims.

So that’s how we got a Captain America played by Matt Salinger, the son of the writer of The Catcher In the Rye, and fighting Scott Paulin as the Red Skull, who was a child prodigy that the Axis experimented on, sending Dr. Maria Vaselli (Carla Cassola, Demonia) to America where she creates the Super Soldier Syrum.

There’s some good casting here, and by that, I mean character actors that get me a -typing. those would be Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin (the younger version of his General Fleming character is played by Billy Mumy while his A Christmas Story wife Melinda Dillon is in the cast as Steve Roger’s mom ), Ronny Cox as the President and Michael Nouri.

The one thing I do like about this film is that in the years after World War II, the Skull has built a conspiracy crime family with his daughter Valentina De Santis (the character Sin in the comic books, she’s played by Valentina De Santis) that has assassinated everyone from the Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King to Elvis, which he claims was the one time they did the wrong thing. Now, they want to brainwash the President and Cap, along with Sharon Carter (Kim Gillingham, playing that role and Bernice, the 1940s girlfriend of our hero), must stop him.

So how weird is it that the son of J.D. Salinger, whose book was often in the hands of programmed assassins, is battle the man who programmed said assassins, at least in this movie?

Ronnie Cox once said that the script to this movie “remains to this day the finest script I have ever read… how those guys messed that film up, I will never know.” And Stan Lee, ever the PR man, said that the reason for the reshoots was because “Pyun did it so well and so excitingly that everyone in the audience (at the screening) kept clamoring for more.”

Sure, True Believer.

As for Jack Kirby, everything you know in comic book movies is the result of his creativity. Even after his death, his family has attempted to gain the money and recognition that that creation deserves. When most comics these days struggle to be released once a month, Kirby was at one point — according to Mark Evanier — drawing twenty pages of comics a week, up to five pages a day, which is about a full issue of a comic every week. All for no real ownership, no insurance and no promises. For just one month’s example, in November 1963, Kirby drew 139 pages of comics and seven covers. His Fourth World era contract was for 15 pages a week, so Kirby gave then twenty.

Think about that the next time you watch everyone make money from his work.

CANNON MONTH 2: Edgar Allan Poe’s Buried Alive (1990)

21st Century Film Corporation put out several Edgar Allan Poe films and why not? They’re all well-known names from a well-regarded horror author and best of all, you don’t have to pay to use them. All four 21st Century Poe movies were produced by Harry Alan Towers and having him teamed up with Menahem Golan is like when the X-Men and Teen Titans united to fight Dark Phoenix and Darkseid.

New teacher Janet Pendleton (Karen Witter, Playboy‘s March 1982 Playmate of the Month) has come to Ravenscroft Reform School, which also has head doctor Gary Julian (Robert Vaughn) and Doctor Schaeffer (Donald Pleasence in a really bad wig and worse accent) in the faculty, so certainly nothing bad can happen, like a Reagan-masked killer walling young women into the basement, right?

You don’t remember that time when Poe wrote about guys in Reagan masks?

How about when he had a girl using a mixer to curl her hair and scalp herself?

Arnold Vosloo from The Mummy plays a cop, Ginger Allen plays the worst of the bad girls, Nia Long plays Fingers who gives her friends switchblades, Gary’s father is John Carradine in his last role and guys from the all boys’ school head down to the dungeon to party with the girls and that’s how murder happens.

Director Gerard Kikoine also made Edge of Sanity and Master of Dragonard Hill — as well as plenty of adult films and editing Jess Franco’s Countess Perverse and Lorna the Exorcist — while writers Jake Chesi and Stuart Lee have only this movie to their credit. Most of the music from Frederic Talgorn is taken from Edge of Sanity. The song “Love Bites” from Ninja 3: The Domination is also in this which makes me wonder if Menahem also got the rights to a bunch of music when he left Cannon.

You can watch this on Tubi.

When this movie was over, I thought to myself, “How has Vinegar Syndrome not released this?” Within an hour, it was in their new releases. Get it now!

CANNON MONTH 2: The Appointed (Hameyu’ad) (1990)

Just looking at the IMDB description of this movie has made me crazy to hunt it down: “A rabbi’s son rebels against his roots and becomes a magician. A woman enters his life and turns his tricks into metaphysical phenomena. The son is forced to choose between love and living up to his father’s expectations.”

And that’s it. 33 people have seen it on IMDB with no reviews. It has nothing on Letterboxd. I’ve hunted what’s out there on the internet and can tell you this much: Shemya is a stage magician, as well as the prodigal son of a family of rabbis who wants to escape his “hereditary position as the next leader of a small but zealous community.” Shout out to Killer Movie Reviews for filling me in on so much of this.

He soon meets a mysterious woman named Oshra who can make things catch on fire. Is she the demon Lilith, calling him away from religion, or is she created from Shemya’s subconsciousness? And what’s the story with the prophecy that Shemya must die and rise again?

Director Daniel Wachsmann’s best-known movie is Hamsin, which was selected as the Israeli entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 55th Academy Awards but was not accepted as a nominee.

CANNON MONTH 2: Deceit (1990)

Directed and written by Albert Pyun to be shot in three days — 35 pages of script a day! — on one set from Cyborg during reshoots for that film — with no special effects other than a single cube, Deceit starts with this quick blast of info: “The following is crucial plot information needed to understand this motion picture. If for some reason you fail to read all of this data in time, then you are really screwed because you’ll end up sitting there for two hours wondering what the hell is going on and realizing that you’ve just thrown away hard-earned money and one-hundred and thirty minutes of your life. So here is the crucial information.”

There is none.

An unknown man commits suicide by bleach and his body is possessed by an alien named Bailey (Norbert Weisser). A month or so later, a group including Wilma (Diane Defoe) and Eve (Samantha Phillips) is on her way to Las Vegas for a wedding and pick up a hitchhiking Bailey. He kills everyone in the car except for Wilma, telling her that he’s here to destroy the polluted Earth but first, he wants to have sex with her.

Bailey could be an escaped mental patient as his therapist Brick (Scott Paulin) soon arrives, but he also claims to be a planet-destroying alien. He also wants to have sex with Wilma, who is saved by Eve, now possessed by a space cop who has an all-powerful cube. She places the fate of the Earth onto Eve and tells her that whenever she wants the planet to die, all she has to do is ask.

According to Justin Decloux, who wrote Radioactive Dreams: The Cinema of Albert Pyun, this movie “cost $22,000 and the actors would have to limit themselves to a single take for each shot.” He also thanked Jean Claude Van-Damme for making the movie possible, which is a back-handed compliment, as Pyun wanted to make a gritty western called Slinger and Van Damme just wanted to do another kickboxing movie. That meant that Cyborg needed some reshoots and that’s how Pyun was able to wrap up his real job on a Thursday night and could shoot for free — other than film — all weekend long.

You have to admire the sheer maniac zeal it takes to make a movie like this within the system outside of the system against the system.

After an entire movie of people yelling at one another, the cop takes a look at Wilma and says, “Today is almost tomorrow. And remember if you’re looking for someone to fall in love with – try yourself.” And then realizing that she can stop life as we know it at any time, she looks right into Pyun’s camera and says, “Today is tomorrow. And things better get better. Or else.”

The film closes by catching on fire.

CANNON MONTH 2: Bad Jim (1990)

B.D. Sweetman (James Brolin), July (Richard Roundtree) and John T. Coleman (John Clark Gable, yes, the son of Clark, born four months after his death) buy Billy the Kid’s horse and decide to become outlaws themselves. The men only need ten grand to get their dream of opening a farm, but after their first job, they end up killing two members of the posse after them.

While Ty Hardin appears as a wagon master, Rory Calhoun as a ranch hand and Harry Carey Jr. is here as well — their last westerns — this movie is an absolute mess, from wanted posters that look like they were made with modern desktop publishing software and pencil drawings to a long montage scene set to the song “Renegade” by Jeff Scott Soto — the lead singer on Yngwie Malmsteen’s first two albums as well as a member of Journey from 2006 to 2007 and also a member of holiday metal band Trans-Siberian Orchestra — that is a mix of outtakes, still action photos and posed model shots of the cast.

I wonder if Gable asked Brolin about the time the future Mr. Streisand played his father in Gable and Lombard.

This was directed and written by Clyde Ware, who also wrote All the Kind Strangers and 12 episodes of Gunsmoke.

Anyways, it ends badly, as most westerns do, with the three stuck in a gunfight trap in a small town. And there you have it, a movie possibly made to cash in on Young Guns and Silverado but getting there a few years too late.

But man, that montage!

CANNON MONTH 2: Prey for the Hunter (1990)

Director John H. Parr also directed The Pin-Up GirlNightslave and Pursuit while writer Paul S. Rowlston did much of his career in TV. In this movie, four big game hunters end up getting bored with animals, so they start paintball hunting journalist Simon Rush (Todd Jensen) but come on, there’s no way that that’s going to be good enough either.

If four rich dudes offer you some money to be hunted while they carry paintball guns, I’m telling you right now to say no. Rush ends up beating them pretty easily and that’s when the richest guy, Bob Jenkins (Andre Jacobs) tells everyone that they’re switching to real guns. The others in the group, Alex (David Butler), Eric (Alan Granville) and Jason (Evan J. Klisser) have to just agree because they’re all rich white guys and that’s how they do murder business.

Or course, Rush is too busy romancing the girl who got him into all of this, Yvonne Pearl (Michelle Bestbier), all while the other members of the elite start getting killed off and he gets blamed for it. Oh man, The Most Dangerous Game, you know? Have you played it?

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Warriors from Hell (1990)

Matt Butler (Deon Stewardson) has joined soldiers battling Communist rebels and — yeah, this movie was made in South Africa during Apartheid when people were like, “Hey, don’t make movies there” and 21st Century and Menahem Golan were like, “I’m sorry, I’m going into a tunnel.” — the white mercenaries get the black tribesmen to fight their battles for them by murdering their families and obviously, hell is South Africa.

This was directed and written by Ronnie Isaacs, who was behind a lot of low budget action movies like Cobra Force and Rhino as well as The Pin-Up Girl and a sequel to that one.

There’s a decent amount of gore in this and lots of stuff gets blown up real good and isn’t that why we rented these movies? Ah, maybe it was the synth soundtracks, too.

You can watch this on Tubi.