Menahem Golan, producer and director of action films, dies at 85

Swiss movie director Jean-Luc Godard, left, and Israeli producer Menahem Golan, right, in Cannes, France, in 1987. Mr. Golan’s company produced Godard’s “King Lear.” (Pierre Gleizes/AP)

Menahem Golan, an Israeli filmmaker who built an empire on the backs of brawny men beating others senseless in a host of 1980s action films, died Aug. 8 in Israel. He was 85.

Citing Israeli news accounts, the Hollywood Reporter said Mr. Golan collapsed while strolling outside his house in the city of Jaffa. Attempts by paramedics to revive him were unsuccessful.

Throughout his long career, Mr. Golan produced more than 200 movies, directing about 50 of them himself. Ignoring the critics and the film-festival set, Mr. Golan proudly hawked a populist style of movie fare that he knew would win few awards but would sell truckloads of tickets.

In his 1987 film “Bloodsport,” he introduced American audiences to the then-unknown Jean-Claude Van Damme. He produced “Cobra,” a 1986 film starring Sylvester Stallone as a stone-faced cop, and a year later directed Stallone as a truck-driving arm-wrestler in “Over The Top.”

Mr. Golan also produced four sequels (Nos. 2-5) of Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” franchise.

“Schlock is entertainment for the masses,” Mr. Golan told the Associated Press in 1985. “It’s fantasy. Storytelling without challenging the mind too much.”

Menahem Globus was born May 31, 1929, in what was then the British mandate of Palestine and later took Golan as his last name.

He was a pilot and bombardier in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and got an Oscar nomination for his film “Entebbe: Operation Thunderbolt,” about the daring 1976 Israeli commando raid to rescue hostages held at an airport in Uganda.

(The only Israeli soldier killed in the operation was Yonatan Netanyahu, the older brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.)

Along with his cousin and partner Yoram Globus, Mr. Golan established the Cannon Group, which became a major force in international film production and distribution. The Golan-Globus productions earned a reputation as low-budget, high-violence movies in which tough guys blast away terrorists.

“The Delta Force” (1986), perhaps the most famous film directed and produced by Mr. Golan, was inspired by the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet to Beirut. In his final film role, Lee Marvin starred as Col. Nick Alexander, who leads a daring rescue mission against Arab terrorists to free a commandeered plane.

In Israel, Mr. Golan was considered a trailblazer who brought major films to the country and put it on the Hollywood map.

Survivors include his wife and three children.


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