If you were a diehard action movie fan growing up in the 80s there's no doubt that you went to the theaters to see or rented a film from The Cannon Group! In the decade of excess Cannon cornered the market for B-movies featuring over the top violence, rapid drug use, uninhibited sex, and teens trying to stop the Demolition of the Community Recreation Center through Dance! Below are my top five favorite films released via Cannon Pictures durring the 80s . . .
005: Dangerously Close aka "Choice Kill" (1986)
Directed by famed cult director Albert Pyun (see "Cyborg", "Nemesis", and "Radioactive Dreams"), "Dangerously Close" is a great under-appreciated film that tells the tale of "The Sentinels" , an elite group of students that believe that their school needs an enema of sorts and rid it's self of any and all undesirables! The Sentinels lead by Randy McDevitt (John Stockwell of "Christine" & "Top Gun" ) makes it his mission to eliminate those that in his eyes that don't belong while also recruiting other students that he believes fits into his clique.
One such student that Randy wants to join his Sentinels is Danny (played by J. Eddie Peck) a writer for the School's Paper. After seeing some of the groups' games in action, Danny turns down the exclusive membership! This doesn't bode well for Danny's future and it's up to him to form a group of his own to take take down the Elites! I became aware of this movie after renting it from my local Mom & Pop's Video Store in the late 90s not knowing anything about it going in save for the all the awesome bands that the VHS box said were featured in the movie! After my first viewing of "Dangerously Close" I fell in love with this film; the idea of The Bad guys doing what in their mind was the right thing to do, the dark atmosphere that Pyun created to tell his story, and of course that amazing Soundtrack makes to this one worth hunting down a copy! DiabolikDVD has it for sale on their site (HERE)
004: Exterminator 2 (1984)
This sequel to 1980's "The Exterminator", a good movie in it's own right but it never reaches the epic cheese that is this sequel! We once again follow the the exploits of "John Eastland", a Veteran of the Vietnam War and now a One Man Army in a different kind of War . . . the one he wages every night in the mean streets of New York City! Armed with his trusty Flamethrower, John stops crimes all over the city as The Exterminator!
Things are going good for John until one of his night time kills sprees leads to the death of a notorious gang leader named X's brother! "X" played by Mario Van Peebles puts out a hit on the Exterminator and any known associates! John finds himself not only way over his head, but when his personal war ends up hurting the only two people he cares about he no longer has anything to lose and that makes him more Dangerous then Ever!
I ended up seeing this sequel years before see the first one, so that may be why I favor this one more out of the two, but I think the action and stunts are more grand the second time around and the violence in this rivals that of the Rambo or Death Wish Series! Check out both Exterminator 1 & 2 if you haven't yet, you won'y be disappointed!
003: 10 to Midnight (1983)
Some say that Charles Bronson tarnish what little acting credibility he had left once he started doing movie for Cannon Pictures! I heavily disagree cause the movies he did during this time of his career are some my absolute favorite films of not just his but of all time. One such film being "10 to Midnight"! In "Midnight" Bronson plays "Leo Kessle" a homicide detective in Los Angles who's trying to solve a rash of murders where he knows that the prime suspect is his man, but the killer some how alway has an airtight alibi!
Actor Gene Davis who plays "Warren Stacey" the main antagonist of the movie is one of the most underrated villains in film history! The charisma but also down right creepiness of Warren reminds me a lot of one Patrick Bateman, also the fact that he too likes to chase down his prey while naked also may have a thing to do with it! Bronson is at his best here once he starts playing mind games with Warren and cramping his style by following him everywhere he goes. In the last act when the unhinged Warren starts to target Det. Kessle's daughter and her sorority sister he learns the hard way that you don't make things personal with old man Bronson! Damn I love this movie, it works on so many levels, it plays out like both an 80s Slasher Flick, but also it's a Solid Cop Drama with laughs some intentional & some un-intetional mixed in for good measure!
002: The Last American Virgin (1982)
Cannon wasn't really known for their comedies, but Lost in the sea of countless "Porky's" clones they put out "The Last American Virgin" . . . one of the best "Teen Sex Comedies" ever made! Although "Virgin" is a remake of a popular Israeli film "Eskimo Limon" that came out in the late 70s but is set in the 50s. Cannon was wise to set their movie in 80s to avoid any more comparisons "Porkys" and to also fill the soundtrack with some awesome 80s New Wave tunes!
Virgin tell the tale of 3 friends (Gary the Nice Guy, Rick the Stud, and David the Comic Relief) and their never ending quests in trying to score! Gary falls for a new girl to their school named Karen (Diane Franklin of "Better Off Dead" and "TerrorVision"), but before he can make his movie his best friend Rick beats him to the punch! These chain of events puts a strain on their relationship and everyone around them! Virgin isn't all drama though, there are some insanely funny moments all throughout the movie . . . like the time they get crabs from hooking up with a Hooker or destroying their friend Victor's car by driving it into the Ocean! But be warned the ending is a real Punch to the Face, but it's a better movie because of it!
001: Death Wish 3 (1985)
When I think of Cannon Pictures "Death Wish 3" is the first movie that pops into my head, it is the quintessential Cannon Picture for many reasons . . .
For starters it stars Charles Bronson, it super low budget, and it's one of the most Violent movies ever made. There is so much violence is Death Wish 3 that it becomes comical watching Bronson as his famous vigilante character "Paul Kersey" take on a large street gang that's been terrorizing the poor & the elderly and making their neighborhood a war zone! It's well known that Bronson hated this movie cause the drama takes a back seat to the extreme violence, but for fans of Trashy Action Films it's one of the Best you will ever see!
The gang does a lot of terrible things (including rape, murder, and stealing everything that isn't bolted down), but once Kersey makes himself at home in his dead war buddy's apartment, he becomes Public Enemy #1 on the gang leader Fraker's list! A Police Chief named Richard Shriker recruits Kersey to cleanup the Hood by any means necessary! The battle starts small with Kersey taking out gang members when they are alone or in small groups, but things soon escalate to a full on war! Kersey, the remaining people of the neighborhood, and Shriker use everything and the kitchen sink to reclaim their neighborhood! It's a Heart Warming Story, especially the part when Fraker takes a rocket launcher to the chest!
So those are just my five favorite films that Cannon has to offer, but take a look at this (LIST) you'll see they also did a lot of films staring Action Heavyweights such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, and Chuck Norris! Horror Movies like "Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2" and "New Years Evil"! And a lot of breakdancing films including the infamous "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo"!
Speaking of "Electric Boogaloo" be on the look out for the upcoming documentary "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films."! It's being put together by Mark Hartley who did an amazing job with the docs "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!" and "Machete Maidens Unleashed"!
- Tom Bryce
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