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Menahem Golan

Film producer

Film producer

Born: May 31, 1929; Died: August 8, 2014.

Menahem Golan, who has died aged 85, wrote and directed dozens of movies and produced hundreds more, including cult action hits with Chuck Norris and Belgian kickboxer Jean-Claude Van Damme, who impressed Golan when they first met by executing a high kick over his head.

Golan began by making low-budget films in his native Israel, then built an international movie empire with his cousin Yoram Globus. Their company Cannon made dozens of films each year in its heyday and they were compared to the old-style movie moguls.

Michael Winner described them in his autobiography as two of the most amazing characters he had ever met and recalled how Golan spent a fortune on marketing at Cannes, but insisted his chauffeur save money by avoiding the toll road after collecting Winner from the airport.

Most Cannon films might be dismissed as schlock, but its output ranged from Masters of the Universe (1987), a sci-fi action movie inspired by a range of toys, to a version of King Lear (1987), directed by Jean-Luc Godard, and the Meryl Streep film A Cry in the Dark (1988), the true story of a woman whose baby was supposedly taken by a dingo.

But there were always question marks over their finances - Winner claimed Golan and Globus sent cars round the ABC cinemas to collect takings, which were then used to pay crew working on his film The Wicked Lady (1983).

"How much money was spent at the ice-cream and sweet kiosks dictated how many people we could pay," he wrote.

And there was controversy over the scale of their UK interests, which included ABC cinemas and Elstree studios. Ultimately Cannon did overstretch itself and was taken over by Pathe in the late 1980s.

Golan was born Menachem Globus in 1929 in Tiberias in Palestine, when it was a British mandate. He reputedly served as a bombardier and pilot in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, though he would only have been in his late teens.

He studied at the Bristol Old Vic school and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and worked as a theatre producer in Israel, before concluding the big money was in films, as long as costs were kept low. He apprenticed himself to the master, heading to California and serving as production assistant to Roger Corman.

Back in Israel, he and Globus set up a company called Noah Films and it had an international hit with Lemon Popsicle (1978), whose story about boys growing up in the 1950s borrowed heavily from American Graffiti.

There were eight sequels and an American remake, entitled The Last American Virgin (1982). By this time, Golan and Globus had acquired Cannon as a way into the American and international scene.

Golan had a particular passion for comic-book superheroes, though the indifferent box-office performance of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) contributed to Cannon's difficulties.

When Golan left Cannon he retained the film rights for Captain America and Spider-Man. He made a version of Captain America in 1990, as an American-Yugoslavian co-production, but it went straight to video.

Latterly Golan lived in Jaffa and is survived by his wife and three children.

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