Filmmaker Menahem Golan dies in Israel at the age of 85

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 August, 2014, 6:44am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 August, 2014, 6:44am


Menahem Golan

Menahem Golan, a veteran Israeli filmmaker who built an empire on the back of brawny men beating others senseless in a host of 1980s films, has died in Tel Aviv. He was 85.

Golan produced more than 200 films and directed a quarter of them. But while others attended the Cannes film festival in tuxedoes, Golan wore rainbow-coloured braces over his T-shirts and proudly hawked a different type of fare.

It was the 1987 film Bloodsport that he produced that introduced American audiences to the face - and kicks - of a then-unknown Jean-Claude Van Damme. He produced Sylvester Stallone's take as a stone-faced cop in Cobra and later directed him as a truck-driving arm-wrestler in Over The Top. And he produced Charles Bronson's Death Wish - sequels two to five.

"Schlock is entertainment for the masses," he said in 1985. "It's fantasy. Storytelling without challenging the mind too much."

Golan, who died on Friday, is survived by his wife and three children.

Born in pre-state Israel as Menahem Globus, Golan 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 the commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, Yonatan Netanyahu, the older brother of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Along with his cousin and partner Yoram Globus, he established The Cannon Group production company, running it for a decade and turning it into a major force in international film production and distribution. The Golan-Globus films earned a reputation for being low-budget, high-violence movies in which tough guys blast away terrorists.

The Delta Force, perhaps the most famous film Golan directed and produced, was also inspired by real-life events, based on the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet to Beirut. Lee Marvin, in his last film, starred as Colonel Nick Alexander, who leads a daring rescue mission against Arab terrorists to free a commandeered plane.