Menahem Golan, Producer of 1980s Action Movies, Dies at 85

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Legendary filmmaker Menahem Golan, co-founder of The Cannon Group production company and Israeli cinema pioneer, has died. He was 85.

According to multiple Israeli news outlets, Golan lost consciousness while visiting the city of Jaffa with family members in the early hours of Friday evening. Ambulances immediately rushed to the scene, and following attempts to resuscitate him, paramedics pronounced him dead.

With cousin and partner Yoram Globus, Golan ran Cannon Films for a decade, releasing more than a dozen films a year in its prime. They bought the ailing company, which was launched in 1967, for $500,000 in 1979 and fueled an appetite for B-films that was created by the invention of the VCR. For a time, Cannon was on the brink of becoming the seventh Hollywood &ldquomajor&rdquo studio.

Golan produced more than 200 films including the action hits The Delta Force (1986) starring Chuck Norris and the Death Wish sequels toplined by Charles Bronson.

Golan also produced such high-octane fare as Missing in Action (1984), also starring Norris, and its sequels; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986); the lightly regarded Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), which effectively killed the franchise for years; Masters of The Universe (1987), starring Dolph Lundgren; and Jean-Claude Van Damme&rsquos Kickboxer (1989).

Cannon, though, also was behind much loftier fare, like John Cassavetes&rsquo Love Streams (1984), which won Berlin&rsquos Golden Bear, Robert Altman&rsquos Fool for Love (1985), Franco Zefferelli's Otello (1986), Jean-Luc Godard's King Lear (1987) and Barbet Schroeder&rsquos Barfly (1987).

Born Menahem Globus to Polish immigrants on May 31, 1929, in the Northern Israeli city of Tiberias, he changed his surname for patriotic reasons to the Hebrew name of Golan upon serving in the Israeli Air Force during the country&rsquos 1948 War of Independence. After finishing years of filmmaking studies at the Old Vic School, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and New York University, he returned to Israeli and directed for the stage.

In the early 1960s, Golan started working for cult film producer Roger Corman on The Young Racers, which led to his own 1963 directorial debut of Israeli film El Dorado. A year later, he served as producer of Sallah Shabati starring noted Israeli actor Chaim Topol, which went on to win the Golden Globe for best foreign film and became the first Israeli feature to be nominated at the Academy Awards in the category.

Golan co-founded local production company Noah Films; named after his father, it was his first business endeavor with his cousin Yoram. Noah Films was behind Academy Award nominated films 1972&rsquos I Love You Rosa and 1973&rsquos The House on Chelouche Street. In 1977, Golan directed Operation Thunderbolt, based on the previous year&rsquos real event of the Israeli raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda, a movie that was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language Film and led the way for the cousins to try and conquer Hollywood.

In the early 1980s, they founded The Canon Group, producing such films as The Delta Force, 1987&rsquos Over The Top starring Sylvester Stallone and Superman IV, all contributing to the cousins&rsquo infamous notoriety as kings of low-budget, high-action thrillers that were panned by critics and appealed to international audiences more than Americans.

The trials and tribulations of the cousins were recently the focus of an Israeli documentary The Go Go Boys by director Hila Medalia, which premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where Golan was in attendance.

In the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, which played this month at the Melbourne International Film Festival, THR critic David Rooney notes that music supervisor Richard Kraft likened the Cannon product pipeline to bowel movements dumped onto the international market with scant concern for quality or plot coherence: &ldquoYou flush it. You make another one.&rdquo