CANNON MONTH 2: Ninja Vengeance (1993)

Jesse (David Lord) says he’s a ninja, but he has all these books on being a ninja in his gear and I don’t think that real ninjas learn from a book. They’re raised as ninjas, right? Or they come in as adopted ninjas like Snake Eyes or Nero in Enter the Ninja. I also don’t want to tell ninjas what to do — I mean, Menahem Golan, whose 21st Century Film Corporation made this should know better than me — but I also don’t think they battle the Klan, even if that’s a noble enough cause.

Karl Armstong only directed this movie and Perfect Mate, mainly working as an editor, often on animated films like How to Train Your Dragon and Over the Hedge. Perhaps he found his calling because making ninja movies was not it.

Despite flashbacks from his ninja master (real-life ninja master and let’s not be racist, but non-Asian man Stephen K. Hayes who was in kung fu magazines a lot, so your mileage on him being an actual ninja master may vary), I wonder exactly how much Jesse learned. Mostly he rolls around in the mud. He does ride a Ninja motorcycle, which is the kind of thing that I also don’t think ninjas do.

Someday, someone will make a ninja against the Klan movie and it will be amazing. This, however, is not it. Ninja Vengeance was made in 1988 and not released until 1993. I imagine it had some type of bad movie radioactive half-life and therefore had to be kept from the rest of the world. Avoid at all costs.

CANNON MONTH 2: Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde (1993)

What if Bonnie and Clyde were alive in 1993 and pulled the same crimes? Well, this movie has that for you and it has Maureen Flannigan as Bonnie and Scott Wolf as Clyde.

Directed by John Shepphird (FirestormJersey Shore Shark Attack), who co-wrote the script with Steve Jankowski, who wrote several of Shepphird’s movies like Chupacabra TerrorBlood Money and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

Wolf was best known for being on Party of Five while Flannagan was Evie on Out of This World. This movie was her attempt at changing her image, which mainly means lots of violence and even more sex. It’s kind of wild that this movie got out there a year before Natural Born Killers and does a lot of the same things without all the meta commentary and multiple film stocks.

The true revelation for me was that the cop who is tracking them down, Sanchez, is Don Novello. Yes, Father Guido Sarducci. He’s great in this and he’s completely serious.

The other thing is that this goes from Clyde being in love from afar to a romance on the run to an actual relationship, yet the darkness that grows around them gets intense, as we all know where the movie ends. And yes, the close is bleak and bloody and it’s unexpected even though it’s expected. I mean, the squib budget for this film must have been the entire budget.

CANNON MONTH 2: Dead Center (1993)

Steve Carver has a pretty good track record. I mean, if he only made Lone Wolf McQuadeAn Eye for an EyeSteelJocksThe ArenaBig Bad MamaCaponeFast Charlie…the Moonbeam Rider and River of Death are all pretty fun or weird or at least have a moment that entertains you.

Joe (Justin Lazard) is a killer. He’s not elegant, but he’s ruthless. But the law has finally caught up with him and he’s facing the chair.

Or maybe not. Mary (Rachel York) makes him an offer on behalf of the U.S. government: train to be an elite hitman or die. Under the watchful eye of Saunders (Eb Lottimer), Mary trains him to be an unstoppable assassin.

His first mission is to kill Ambassador Chavez (David Carradine) at a Washington, D.C. art gallery. He easily pulls it off, but angers Saunders when he leaves a loose end: an innocent tourist who photographed the crime scene. That woman is killed in a fire.

So yeah. El Butch Nikita.

Mary gets suspicious of her boss and learns that he’s really working not for the interests of the U.s. but instead using his killing machines to commit legal murders for crime boss Emilio Cordoba (Frank McCarthy). Saunders next commands Joe to kill Congressman Clark (JoeStraderr) and also tells Mary to erase him afterward. Of course, Joe is in love with Mary, so they run off together, pulling off their own killings, like wiping Cordoba off the map.

Then, the two infiltrate the toxic chemical lab that is Saunders’ base. Joe blows it up real good and heads off to sleep with a blonde, just like James Bond would, but Mary ends up saving him from her, as his love interest — for the evening — ends up being a killer.

After having his books The Park Is Mine and The Fourth War into movies, Stephen Peters started writing movies of his own. He got set for life when he wrote Wild Things. For this one, he had Menahem Golan giving him the initial story, which for all we know was a few words, as his story for Ninja 3: The Domination was “Female ninja.”

CANNON MONTH 2: Deadly Heroes (1993)

Sure, Deadly Heroes is pretty much The Delta Force and it has the same chase scenes from Killing Streets, but if you’ve learned anything from Cannon Month, it’s that I forgive Menahem Golan on a level that I only extend to Joe D’Amato, Bruno Mattei and Jess Franco.

A young kid learns named Paul Cartowski learns that terrorists are taking over a flight out of the Athens airport with plastic guns. He tells his dad Brad (Michael Paré), a former CIA agent and Navy SEAL, who tries to stop them and is injured. The terrorists take his wife and head to North Africa, with Cartowski in hot pursuit along with his former SEAL buddy Grant (Jan-Michael Vincent). Our hero is taken and tortured — I mean, what action hero didn’t get electroshock trauma in the direct to video era — but he comes back with a ton of SEALs and everyone dies.

That said, the bad guys seem badder because their leader, Carlos, is Billy Drago. Man, Drago is from Kansas and is part Native American, but I never have any idea where his accent is coming from other than being lunatic Drago. Whether he’s Frank Nitti in The Untouchables or fighting Chuck Norris in Delta Force 2: The Columbia Connection, he’s always menacing in a way that seems non-acting.

Damian and Gregory Lee wrote this, using the secret name Joseph Goldman. Damian is probably best known for the movies Abraxas and Ski School.

The main reason to watch this is that it’s a Menahem-directed movie. Nearly all of the film’s crew members were Israeli, including cinematographer Yelhiel-Hilik Neeman, art director Avishay “Avi” Avivi and actors Alon Abutbul, Uri Gavriel and Galit Giat, who is Alya, the female terrorist who tortures Paré. This was her first movie and she’s incredible. Gabi Arami, who was the awesome cab driver in Killing Streets, has the same role here due to this using so much of that footage.

I mean, this is very nearly a Cannon movie. How do I know? Yehuda Efroni is in it. And wow, there’s Menahem himself as a fisherman!

CANNON MONTH 2: Rage (1993)

Jack Dameron (Richard Norton, Rage and Honor) was raised by Mr. Fung (Joe Mari Avellana) after his family was gunned down. Seeing as how Fung was business partners with his father, he feels bound by honor to raise Jack along with his son Chiang.

Fast forward and Jack is getting promoted to chairman of his adopted father’s company — Chiang (Franco Guerrero) is into some dark stuff — and his wife Sarah (Karen Moncrieff) is going to be a trial attorney in Thailand despite being a gaijin.

To get back at Jack, Chiang sets him up for the murder of Noi (Tetchie Agbayani), a woman who Jack maybe got drunk and slept with at a trade show. He has his Jamaican henchman I-Ron (Chuck Jeffreys) force her to call Jack, who rushes over just in time to find her stabbed, and then the police arrive just in time for them to find her blood all over Jack.

Chiang is now in charge and Jack has to rely on his wife as his lawyer, but he also has to tell her that he cheated on her. And now she’s pregnant, too? Oh man.

If direct to video martial arts movies have taught me anything, complex legal matters and relationship issues are best solved with kicking someone really hard.

Director Anthony Maharaj also made Return of the KickfighterInnocent AdulteryThe Fighter and Secrets of the Shell which promises to be about “Seduction, Betrayal, Obsession – Erupt to the Rhythms of an Exotic Caribbean Island.”

Writer Tom Huckabee produced and wrote Taking Tiger Mountain as well as being involved with writing four episodes of the Ghostbreakers series.

CANNON MONTH 2: Midnight Witness (1993)

Paul (Paul Johansson) is in trouble. He accidentally filmed Officer Garland (Maxwell Caulfield) beating a suspect to death, so now that evil policeman wants to get the tape and take out the cameraman. Paul screws up by bringing his girlfriend Katy (Karen Moncrieff) into all this danger but things go from bad to worse when redneck maniac Lance (Jan-Michael Vincent) and his equally messed up girlfriend Devon (Kelli Maroney) kidnap them Kalifornia-style.

Director and writer Peter Foldy does fine with this except for when Lance and Devon completely disappear and you miss them, because they’re the best part of this movie.

Unless you love direct to video action movies — well, this is not really all that filled with action, but that’s the closest it gets — or want to see Maxwell Caulfield in a cop uniform and I know who you are, you can skip this.

Or you can watch it on Tubi.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY BOX SET RELEASE: seaQuest DSV – The Complete Series (1993-1996)

Get ready for the adventures of the seaQuest DSV 4600, a deep submergence vehicle of the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO). The UEO? Well, that group was created in 2018 — in the continuity of this show — after a battle within the Livingston Trench.

Designed by retired naval captain Nathan Bridger (Roy Scheider), the series begins as humanity finds itself out of natural resources and begins to mine the ocean floor. Several gold rush-style mining communities now exist within this unexplored territory and the seaQuest seeks to protect them from other countries and sometimes each other.

Bridger just wanted to stay retired, particularly after his son Robert died in a naval battle and he promised his dying wife that he would never go back to the sea. But you know…they keep bringing pulling him back.

This show debuted to great fanfare, with the first season’s plots all about oceanographic research, environmental issues, politics and the interpersonal relationships of the crew. By the end of the first season, low ratings led to a cliffhanger where Bridger sacrificed the ship to prevent an ecological disaster.

And that’s where things get weird.

When it was decided the show would come back, NBC and Universal moved production from Los Angeles to Orlando, which led Stephanie Beacham, who played Dr. Kristin Westphalen, to leave the show (all of the battles between the producers and network didn’t help either). It’s also why Stacy Haiduk (Lieutenant Commander Katherine Hitchcock) left, but Royce D. Applegate (Chief Manilow Crocker) and John D’Aquino (Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg ) were let go because NBC wanted a younger crew.

The original crew also had Lucas Wolenczak (Jonathan Brandis), Commander Jonathan Ford (Don Franklin), Lieutenant Tim O’Neill (Ted Raimi) and Sensor Chief Miguel Ortiz (Marco Sanchez). They’d be joined by the telepathic Dr. Wendy Smith (Rosalind Allen), weapons officer Lieutenant James Brody (Edward Kerr), genetically engineered gill-breathing Seaman Anthony Piccolo (Michael DeLuise), Lieutenant Lonnie Henderson (Kathy Evison) and Dagwood (Peter DeLuise), a GELF (genetically engineered life form) who served as the ship’s janitor.

Whereas season one often had serious science — and each episode ended with facts from oceanographer Dr. Bob Ballard, the technical advisor for the show, inspiration from Bridger and the man who actually discovered the wrecks of Titanic, Bismarck and Yorktown — other than finding an ancient spaceship, season two had a monster of the week feel to compete for better ratings. Demons, aliens, fire-breathing worms, the god Neptune, time travel, a prehistoric crocodile and so much more was, well, too much for Scheider to handle.

He referred to the new storylines, giving multiple interviews to the Orlando Sentinel where he said the show as “Saturday afternoon 4 o’clock junk for children. Just junk — old, tired, time-warp robot crap” and “…childish trash…I am very bitter about it. I feel betrayed… It’s not even good fantasy. I mean, Star Trek does this stuff much better than we can do it. To me the show is now 21 Jump Street meets Star Dreck.” That 21 Jump Street dig must have been directed at the DeLuise brothers, who were once on that show before joining the cast.

By the end of the second season, it seemed like the show would be canceled — yet again — so the final episode “Splashdown” has the crew being abducted by aliens, then fighting in a civil war that destroys the seaQuest — yet again! — and everyone dead.

And yet the third season happened!

Scheider requested to be released from his contract with NBC but was asked to appear in a few more episodes. Edwin Kerr asked to quit as well and was asked to stay long enough to die in season 3’s “SpinDrift,” while NBC’s scheduling — which contributed to low ratings as the series moved around all the time — caused the episode “Brainlock” to air with his character still alive.

Now, only Jonathan Brandis, Don Franklin and Ted Raimi stayed on, as if the show was a band playing ribfest with hardly any original members left (even Dr. Bob Ballard was gone). Now called seaQuest 2032, the crew arrived ten years back on Earth ten years later, Bridger retired and Michael Ironside came on as Captain Oliver Hudson. He immediately set some boundaries: “You won’t see me fighting any man-eating glowworms, rubber plants, 40-foot crocodiles and I don’t talk to Darwin.”

Oh yeah — Darwin was a talking dolphin voice by the man who is every talking animal, Frank Welker.

Elise Neal also joined the show as Lieutenant J.J. Fredericks as storylines moved more toward corporate greed running the world and political tension. Only 13 episodes aired before finally, the show was done for good.

There were model kits, trading cards, video games and even Playmates action figures (check out this article on seaQuest Vault), but the show always struggled to catch on with viewers, if they could find it.

Going back and watching this again in box set form, it’s fascinating to see how the show changes and struggles for direction in a condensed format. Week by week, it’s not as strange. When binged, it seems absolutely deranged. I’m glad in some way that I wasn’t in love with the show when it aired. It would have broken my heart.

The Mill Creek blu ray box set of seaQuest DSV has every episode of the show, plus new interviews and featurettes with the series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon, as well as the directors and crew. Plus, you get several deleted scenes. Get it from Deep Discount.

CANNON MONTH 2: Night Terrors (1993)

So yes, by adding Cannon Video and this late in their life movie, we can say that Tobe Hooper did four movies for Cannon. Written by Rom Globus — I’m unsure if he’s related — and Daniel Matmor, this was produced by the revised Cannon team of Yoram Globus and Christopher Pearce along with Harry Alan Towers and Allan Greenblatt.

Robert Englund was signed early, thinking that this was a movie about Marquis de Sade based on his short stories, but then he’d be playing an evil relative of de Sade named Paul Chevalier. Then the movie moved from a period movie to a modern story. Then the shooting location changed from Egypt to Israel. Then the original director Gerry O’Hara quit.

In an issue of Fangoria, Hooper spoke highly of the movie, saying “Nightmare is not exactly a horror film, even if there are many horror elements in it. It’s more of an erotic thriller, and I’m very happy to be able to do something different.” The title changed along the way as well.

Beth (Chandra West) goes to Israel to meet her father, the archaeologist Dr. Matteson (William Finley, who like Englund was in a much better Hooper movie, Eaten Alive) who is studying Gnostic cult ruins. One night, as Beth wanders the streets, she’s nearly attacked by some men and saved by a woman who has a book from de Sade. Her father is killed as he finally gets into the burial ground and the cult kidnaps her for a sacrifice when she’s not passing out and having dreams about a horse racer making sweet love to her. Then the girl helps her escape the cult and then some monks save the day, then we go back in time to the day de Sade died.

You may read that and say, “That makes no sense.”

You’re right.

Honestly, if Jess Franco made this, I would have loved it. That said, he would have found a way to make it more interesting. This is an absolute mess with wild overacting, non-stop sex dreams that get in the way of the plot and no plot for them to get in the way of.

This was a Global Pictures movie, even if it has the Cannon logo.

You can listen to The Cannon Canon episode that discusses this movie here.

CANNON MONTH 2: American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993)

World War III has made the human race sterile. If that’s not bad enough, an AI now rules all of humanity. So when Mary (Nicole Hansen, who was in the Billy Idol videos for “Cradle of Love” and “L.A. Women”) is able to bring a fetus to life, she must take it through the most dangerous city on the planet.

Charleston, South Carolina.

Anyways, she has to get the baby to Europe, where humans still run things, but an android killer (John Saint Ryan) is tracking her, but luckily, she has another mulleted cyborg, Austin (Joe Lara, who was Tarzan on the syndicated Tarzan: The Epic Adventures), protecting her.

Directed by Cannon vet Boaz Davidson and written by Bill Crounse and Brent V. Friedman, this is the kind of movie that puts a baby in the kind of tube that you would use at a drive-thru bank. Yes, I still use the bank instead of the internet. I fear the computers in this movie.

CANNON MONTH: The Mummy Lives (1993)

You may notice that after Cannon breaks up, both Menahem and Yoram go to the works of Edgar Allan Poe — this is based on the story “Some Words with A Mummy” — and if you think for a second, it makes sense, as Poe has a great name for horror but is also dead and his stories are in the public domain.

Aziru (the very Egyptian Tony Curtis) made love to Khonshu’s — called Xoth here — concubine Kia and had to pay the price, getting entombed for centuries until a Rupert Murdoch-esque media owner named Lord Moxton (Jack Cohen) loots the temple that Aziru has been buried inside. Lesie Hardy plays Sandra Barnes who, you guessed it, is the reincarnation of Kia and now, Aziru must act as Dr. Mohassid and make his way through modern life to find her.

Also: this movie starts with nearly five minutes of explosition about how the Egyptians invented astrology and I was there for all of that.

This is a movie where Tony Curtis says stuff like “Get out of my tomb!” and decides that if they say it’s based on Poe, no one will realize that it’s the same exact movie as the Universal version of The Mummy, except you know, really boring. Yes, a movie where Tony Curtis is a mummy who must killed the people who robbed hsi tomb and also kill Sandra so that he can pay back his debt to Xoth ends up being slow and that’s ridiculous.

This was the last movie directed by Gerry O’Hara, who guided me into puberty with his Oliver Reed-starring Fanny Hill and Joan Collins movie The Bitch, and it was written by Nelson Gidding, a far step removed from his scripts for The Haunting and The Andromeda Strain.

At one point, Ken Russell was going to direct this and Christopher Lee or Anthony Perkins would star. Producer Harry Alan Towers said it was a mistake to hire Curtis, as he didn’t fit the movie. I know — I just wrote a few hundred words saying exactly that and didn’t put up thousands of dollars to make this movie.