VHS Revival’s Brad McCormick resumes his rundown all things Cannon.
If Grindhouse laid their claim back in the 70s, Cannon Films made theirs in the mid-80s with the VHS era.
Not so much a film company at that point, but rather a genre unto themselves. Aerobic-instructor ninjas, Vietnamese prison camps, inner-city gangs, vigilantes, breakdance battles, arm wrestling, excessive rape, Chuck Norris, 357 Magnums and Superman questing for peace, these are just a few of the things that come to mind when the name Cannon Films pops up.
These boys spit out classics faster than the bullets from a Charles Bronson hand cannon, releasing as many as forty-three films during 1986 alone. Hard to choose from so much greatness, but I’ll give it shot by cherry picking.
Round two, Cannon fans, and here we GO!!!
Please try and remember, this was the 80s…
Cannon was considered by many to be a springboard for first-time actors who couldn’t act but could kick really really high, and Jean Claude Van Damme took full advantage of that fact. Faster than smashing the bottom brick, Bloodsport took the Enter the Dragon concept of full-contact competition, gave it the Cannon touch, and released this split-crotch popping, Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds having, bad acting—but is awesome anyway—classic, and it wore our VCRs out.
Hiro – He’s the American shit head who makes tricks with bricks.
The fights showcased many styles that were fun to watch, even if they were laughable at times, but this is Cannon’s good/bad stuff and I wouldn’t have had it any other way, bad dubbing included, even though everyone in the film spoke English. I really wish that was intentional.
Revenge of the Ninja (1983)
The intro was great, the plot was irrelevant, the ninja kills were many, the no-pants-wearing chick in the dojo was a treat to look at, the kid was kick-ass, the granny got down like a warrior, and the villain wore a silver mask under his ninja hood for some reason.
Only a ninja can stop a ninja. -The Ninja
Reflecting all that light from your face must make it really hard to Ninja (they like to hide), or see for that matter, but that doesn’t stop our villain from doing his thing. The 80s were slammed full of bad ninja flicks; this was definitely one of the better ones. A ninja star to the eye, sharp jacks to the face, dragged by a van, home invasion, instant-no-fire-ninja smoke bombs, a great score, and another white-guy ninja. What more could we ask for from Cannon?
Exterminator II (1984)
Here’s the lowdown: we have bangers on roller skates, breakdancing, rape, assault, the mafia, Mario Van Peebles wearing black shoulder pads with no shirt, cult sacrifices, a token black-guy buddy, a love interest, and a vigilante who is never without his cliched army jacket.
You’re thinking too much. -Be Gee
Now, attack the vigilante’s woman and refuel the flamethrower tanks. This is the gist of the extra-crispy Exterminator II. The gangsters were cartoons and the hero was past giving a shit, much like the screenwriters. This movie is so Cannon that the DVD should have come with tracking issues.
Death Wish 3 (1985)
Booby traps, stealing car stereos, purse snatching, rape, intimidation, extortion, murder, and ridiculously dressed gang members all crammed into one square block of the city. Some think they can do whatever they want. Run amok. Act a fool. But there’s men on the other side of that equation and fortunately for us, one of them is Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey.
Paul Kersey – You have to kill them all, otherwise what’s the use?
Fresh from the ultra-violent Death Wish 2, Cannon shot from the hip and added a lighter touch to the violence, but I feel it wasn’t intentional to a large degree. The kills seem to generate laughs because of the outlandishness of it all, which crosses this one into the Good/Bad territory. Some shots even have a Sergio Leone appeal that fail miserably (check all the angles in the police station when Kersey is getting recruited for this). An awesomely bad B-movie that the Eastwood era and 80s teens could enjoy in harmony.
RIP Charlie. You are missed.
Enter the Ninja (1981)
Before Ninja III: The Domination, there was Enter the Ninja. Considered the granddaddy of ninja movies, it sadly lacks the genius mesh-up of Ninja III: The Domination. The voice-over actor wasn’t quite suited for the part (he sounded too white), and neither was Franco Nero (he was too Italian), but I’d bet the freedom of three Djangos that if they would have used Franco’s real voice, Enter the Ninja could go toe to toe with the best of the bad any day of the week.
Cole – My friend, a ninja doesn’t kill. He eliminates and only for defensive purposes.
They didn’t, but the movie does end with our hero winking at the camera before going into freeze-frame. Awesomely comical in places without trying to be, and with performances that seemed like rehearsals instead of takes, Enter the Ninja should be watched at least once by the “bad movie” crowd.
American Ninja I and II (1985-1987)
“He possess great skill.” But of course he does. He’s Michael Dudikoff, and he came very close to taking the ninja crown away from the ever-so-lovely Lucinda Dickey. This is Cannon fodder at its best and includes an evil ninja armed with a wrist-laser shooter and a mask that doesn’t seem to cover up his nose for some reason, think an upside down Batman mask maybe?
Sgt. Curtis Jackson – Have you ever heard of ninjutsu, sir?
Capt. ‘Wild Bill’ Woodward – What’s that?
Sgt. Curtis Jackson – The secret art of assassination.
Capt. ‘Wild Bill’ Woodward – Yeah, of course I have!
Both films have great things going for them, so it’s hard to choose between the two, but I usually gravitate towards the sequel. It just has that cheesier touch. The plot? They are breeding a small army of ninja warriors. Yes. Breeding ninjas. The plot is straight from the Cobra Commander Handbook for Domination, and I just so happened to love G.I. Joe as a kid, so maybe I’m biased.
But hey, when it comes to American Ninja, aren’t we all?
The Last American Virgin
The story was already in place; just needed a fresh coat of paint. An official remake of the Israeli film Lemon Popsicle, The Last American Virgin attempted to hit the U.S market with their very own teen-sex romp, and they pulled it off in fine fashion.
Millie – This is the best Columbian I’ve ever had.
Hideously-dated attire, silly scenes of penis measuring, snorting Sweet-N-Low, one unibrow, drowning crotch crabs in a swimming pool, REO Speedwagon on repeat, nerds as cartoonish as Saved by the Bell, a sad ending, and paying for one of the ugliest prostitutes working the streets; that is The Last American Virgin.