Wild Stories From Cannon Group, Hollywood's Most Insane Production Company  

Jacob Shelton
2.1k views 18 items

When you think of modern cult films, only one production company should come to mind: The Cannon Group, Inc. When Israeli schlockmeisters Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took over Cannon in 1979, they changed the company from a struggling softcore porn producer to a thriving operation churning out movies about bro-ass bros broing down in Broville, coke-fueled '80s insanity, and ninjas, ninjas, ninjas.

With a pedigree like that, you'd expect there be a wealth of crazy Cannon Group stories out there in the wide world of naughtiness. You'd be right. Seems like every one of the company’s productions was plagued with intense drama, caused by Sylvester Stallone or directors who were allowed to make insane decisions because they knew how to stretch a dollar. The Cannon Group history is full of infighting, real-ass explosions, and as many uses of the word “America” as you can think of.

While you’re reading these insane Cannon Group facts, don’t forget Golan and Globus turned their little purchase into one of the best independent movie production companies ever. Their output may mostly be movies in which Chuck Norris defeats communism, but they provided a blueprint picked up by independents like Blumhouse, The Asylum, and The Weinstein Company, who learned from the failures of late-era Cannon and doubled down on low budget features, rather than bankrupting themselves by attempting to compete with majors.

Even though Cannon imploded at the end of the '80s, don’t be sad. The company and it's enduring work lives on in every "USA! USA! USA!" chant shouted by bros high-fiving their muscles to a VHS copy of American Ninja.

'Invasion USA' Was Once MGM's Second Highest-Selling VHS After 'Gone With The Wind'
'Invasion USA' Was Once ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Wild Stories From Cannon Group, Hollywood's Most Insane Production Company
Photo: Cannon Films

As dubious as this sounds, it also makes way too much sense that a movie about Chuck Norris fighting Cuban drug cartel guerilla soldiers led by a Russian ex-pat with a mission of causing mass destruction in Miami in order to drive American society to chaos would sell a billion copies and remain popular in VHS format until 2007. Even after the peak of Norris-mania, it feels like you could walk into any pawn shop and pick up a copy of the movie with zero problems. 

Cannon Owned The Rights To Spider-Man, But Thought He Transformed From Man To Spider Like Wolfman
Cannon Owned The Rights ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Wild Stories From Cannon Group, Hollywood's Most Insane Production Company
Photo: Cannon Films

How did it take Marvel so long to get its sh*t together and stop selling its most profitable commodities? Selling off the rights to Spider-Man (and Captain America) to Cannon couldn't have seemed like a good idea at the time, but everyone has made a horrendous late night decision after too many drinks, so this sort of makes sense.

Since Cannon made so many films, why didn't the company ever get around to making its Spider-Man magnum opus? Because no one knew what to do with the character. In fact, according to many who worked with the company, Golum and Globus thought Spider-Man was a man who was also a spider.

According to Missing In Action director Joseph Zito, "Golan and Globus didn't really know what Spider-Man was. They thought it was like the Wolfman." How bad do you wish that movie had happened? 

'Missing In Action' Was Based On A Treatment For 'Rambo 2' Written By James Cameron
'Missing In Action' Was ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Wild Stories From Cannon Group, Hollywood's Most Insane Production Company
Photo: Cannon Films

As in, Cannon stole the idea and released its film, Missing in Action, before Rambo II made its way to theaters in 1985. BTW, you knew James Cameron wrote a treatment for Rambo II: First Blood Again, This Time It's The Second Time, right? And you know a treatment is basically like a short-story version of a script to give an idea of world, tone, character, and story without the burden of reading an entire script on someone, yeah?

Apparently, in the '80s, scripts and treatments were just floating around Los Angeles like snow in a Minnesota winter, and someone at Cannon Films (someone being either Golan, Globus or Missing in Action director Joseph Zito) found themselves in possession of a copy of Cameron's work when "inspiration" struck. That's how Cannon's story of a Vietnam vet commissioned to go into Vietnam to save soldiers who had gone MIA was released before the more successful film about a Vietnam vet commissioned to go into Vietnam to save soldiers who had gone MIA had a chance to hit theaters. 

Missing in Action made $22,812,411 from a budget of $1.5 million. If that weren't sexy enough, it made more than $10 million in VHS rentals, which probably arose from conversations like this:

SCENE: Two suburban American bros drink Miller High Life while leaning against a beat-up truck from which Metallica's Ride the Lightning plays a high volume. 

BRO 1: Dude, Saturday night. Any big plans?

BRO 2: Yeah, man, I heard about this super awesome movie called Missing in Action that's about, like, Chuck Norris going to Vietnam to rescue dudes and blow sh*t up. 

BRO 1: So, like, kind of like Rambo 2?

BRO 2: Yeah, but, like, it came out first, though.

BRO 1: Why are we standing around? Let's go watch it right now, man. 

They high five. 

Barbet Schroeder Threatened To Cut Off His Finger To Increase Funding For 'Barfly'
Barbet Schroeder Threate... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Wild Stories From Cannon Group, Hollywood's Most Insane Production Company
Photo: Cannon Films

This is insane for a lot of reasons, but mostly because, while Barfly is an alright movie, it's not worth injuring yourself over. Based on a script by Charles Bukowski, the film was obviously made for little-to-no money, but there's nothing in it that warrants a big budget. The characters spend most of the time in a bar or a flophouse apartment. Frank Stallone hangs out and fights Mickey Rourke. It's fine.

As with many Cannon films, Barfly ran into cash flow issues (#CANNONPROBLEMS). In an attempt to rectify this, the film's director, Barbet Schroeder, decided to get some extra cash the only way he knew how - by threatening to cut off one of his fingers. 

Schroeder told The Guardian:

"I didn't have time to find a lawyer because we were in a real hurry to save the movie. [Golan] was not respecting his word and I had to force him to respect his word and so I chose the law firm Black and Decker. I threatened to cut off my finger. Before doing that, I had injected myself with something very strong and powerful so that for 10 hours I couldn't feel anything." 

The plan was to chop off a finger, hold a press conference with Rourke and Bukowski, then head to the ER to have his finger sewn back on. It's probably for the best Schroeder didn't cut off his own finger, but how great would that press conference have been?