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Cannon Fodder: NEW YEAR’S EVIL and STREET SMART Revisited

Published at: Aug. 25, 2012, 9:05 a.m. CST

 

 

 

What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.

 

Cannon Fodder is an ongoing column that will re/visit the entire canon (ahem) of feature films produced by Cannon Films. Launching some of the biggest action careers in film history, such as Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Cannon Films were the ultimate purveyors of mid-budget cheese throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s. Cannon Fodder will explore the entire filmography of this storied production company (in no particular order) and will do its best to prepare AICN readers for the upcoming release of Mark Hartley’s definitive Cannon Films Documentary; Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

 

Although Cannon Films was not run for the entirety of its existence by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus, they are the power players that gambled big and eventually lost big with this prolific production house. Each edition of Cannon Fodder will briefly explore what level of involvement the loveable cousins had in each film. Because there are several dozen titles in the Cannon Canon, each installment of this column will cover multiple titles. 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

 

NEW YEAR’S EVIL is an early entry in the holiday-themed slasher film sub-genre. But that doesn’t mean it has really anything to offer. If anything, NEW YEAR’S EVIL might be one of the most misogynistic slashers I’ve seen in a long time. 

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good slasher film. It’s just that this isn’t one of those. BLACK CHRISTMAS is kind of amazing, and although I prefer the MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake, I’d say the original VALENTINE offers more fun in just one or two kills than NEW YEAR’S EVIL offers in its entire running time. To my shame, I’ve not seen some of the other famous holiday-themed slashers such as MOTHER’S DAY or APRIL FOOLS DAY. It’s only a matter of time, though! Any recommendations there?

 

But back to the film at hand. NEW YEAR’S EVIL is a bit of a pre-MTV smorgasbord, marketed to teenagers by using hip punk rock and an angsty soundtrack. The whole thing is set at a televised teenybopper punk rock telethon party. Our heroine Diane Sullivan (Rox Kelly) is a bit of a punk rock Elvira, hosting the music show and vamping it up big time. The only problem with that is that she has an eager teenaged son who feels ignored by his mother. And to make matters worse, a crazed killer calling himself “Evil” calls in to the show and promises to kill a woman at every strike of midnight across the time zones. His last victim will be Diane, at 12AM PST. 

 

NEW YEAR’S EVIL is the kind of slasher movie that offers a regular dude as the killer as opposed to a masked superhuman killer. We meet him early on and see his face and hear his voice. But who is this dude, really? And what does he want with Diane? And why is her son dropping E and acting so weird? Will the cops stop “Evil” before the clock strikes midnight?

 

 

The best parts of NEW YEAR’S EVIL involve the pretty crazy performance of Kip Niven as “Evil”. (Yes, he actually calls himself “Evil”. ‘Cause, you know, the title.) I won’t spoil who the guy is or why he wants to kill. But I will say the reasons ARE unveiled and they are bizarre and misogynist at worst, completely lame at best. But Niven seems to be having fun with the whole thing. Posing as a doctor, a priest, and a mustachioed lothario, he slashes his way through L.A. with gusto. While none of the kills are particularly awesome or memorable, his ridiculous costumes and paper-thin “plan” are the driving force of this film. Niven is more convincing as a track-suited, crustache-sporting sleaze bag than he is a serial killer, but that at least adds some flavor to this otherwise bland outing. 

 

I could see NEW YEAR’S EVIL being a fun watch with a bunch of friends, maybe during a Holiday-themed slasher film marathon. But on its own, and as a Cannon Film entry, this is pretty bland and derivative stuff. 

 

 

Things You Will Only Ever See In THIS Movie

 

  • Um, not much, being that this is a totally derivative film with nothing original anywhere to be seen. 
  • But I’ll try: A giggling, fake-crustachioed killer pulling a girl into a dumpster?

 

 

How Many Tablespoons of Golan/Globus Are Added?

 

In this very early Cannon Films entry, the cousins kept a hands-off approach if you believe the credits. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus are credited as Producers only. 

 

 

How Can You See NEW YEAR’S EVIL?

 

I intended to cover THE APPLE for this installment of Cannon Fodder, but the disc I rented simply wouldn’t play on any of my players. So I did a quick search and found Cannon’s NEW YEAR’S EVIL available on Netflix Watch Instant as of this writing. 

 

If you are interested in picking up the film yourself, you can support this column and buy it here on DVD at Amazon. It does not appear to be available on Blu-ray yet.

 

 

 

 

STREET SMART (1987)

 

Now, this, on the other hand, is a real movie! No matter how much I love films like MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE or OVER THE TOP, I still would say those are a particular type of film that have a niche appeal. Cannon was a master of this type of cinema. But I can’t say most people think of Cannon as purveyors of consistent, edgy, or smart cinema. STREET SMART stands in defiance of your pre-formed Cannon Films opinions and kills it as a legitimate piece of filmmaking!

 

 

 

Several talkbackers in my first Cannon Fodder column suggested this film and the prospect of seeing a young Morgan Freeman playing a hard-ass street pimp just won me over. Oddly, it turns out that I HAD actually seen this film at some point in my life and somehow completely forgotten. Which is odd, because this is a pretty spectacularly entertaining piece of filmmaking here. IMDB tells me that Director Jerry Schatzberg began his career as a professional photographer and has directed some 13 feature films. (I haven’t heard of any of them, but that doesn’t really mean anything.) Maybe it is his media background, but STREET SMART feels like it came from a very intelligent storyteller. 

 

 

 

Christopher Reeve plays embattled journalist Jonathan Fisher. In a desperate plea to keep his job, he swears to his editor that he can get an exclusive scoop about the daily life of a street pimp. When he can’t get any street workers to talk with him, the gifted writer falsifies a story and finds incredible success. The article gains him fame and even a steady gig on television doing hard-hitting street stories. The problem? (And it is a great plot element…) Jonathan’s story so closely echos the life of real world pimp and murder suspect Fast Black (Morgan Freeman) that prosecutors want to subpoena his notes in order to convict Fast of murder. 

 

Jonathan finds a new vitality in becoming a big shot street reporter and starts spending more and more time on the streets with a hooker named Punchy (the excellent Kathy Baker.) Eventually he gets wrapped up with Fast Black himself and a tentative relationship starts to build. The entitled and naïve reporter is drawn to Fast Black and his world. But Fast Black holds all the cards out on the streets. Freeman inhabits this role with ferocious villainy and was even nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts! It feels odd in light of the many lovable and noble characters in Freeman’s later career. But Freeman grabs this film with both hands and creates a complex and frightening character in Fast Black. His nomination was well deserved.

 

 

When the dust all settles, Jonathan has become a compromised and fairly despicable lead character. STREET SMART seems to know that it is dealing with complex racial and societal issues and gives us very grey main characters. I found myself sympathetic towards Fast Black even though he is clearly a killer. And as the film progresses I liked Jonathan less and less. But all of that feels intentional, which is smart filmmaking. 

 

The filmmakers and talent involved elevated this film into something powerful (but still seedy, which isn’t a knock.) STREET SMART comes highly recommended. You could check it out just for the curiosity of a young and healthy Christopher Reeve squaring off against a furious and fascinating Morgan Freeman. Or you can dig into this and pull some meaningful ideas about white entitlement, or the complex morality of life on the streets. I can’t imagine watching STREET SMART and not finding yourself entertained on any number of levels. 

 

 

Things You Will Only Ever See In THIS Movie

 

  • A manicured Morgan Freeman drinking Yoo Hoo in a Caddy.
  • A manicured Morgan Freeman breaking said Yoo Hoo bottle and using it as a weapon to threaten a thieving ho. 
  • A manicured Morgan Freeman.

 

 

How Many Tablespoons of Golan/Globus Are Added?

 

Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus are only credited as Producers. But the internet offers some juicy details on the background behind STREET SMART being produced under the Cannon label. Internet rumor has it that STREET SMART was a passion project of Christopher Reeve’s and he came to an agreement with Cannon that he would do SUPERMAN IV under their banner if they would produce this film. I find this kind of fascinating because STREET SMART unquestionably became the better and more critically recognized film. But as was Cannon’s typical M.O., they didn’t properly market the film and it ended up being a commercial failure. 

 

 

How Can You See STREET SMART?

 

The DVD is rentable over at Netflix if you want to queue it up! You can also pick up the DVD over at Amazon! Any purchases will help support Cannon Fodder. 

 

I’m not going in any particular order here, so let me know what titles you most want to see and discuss, Talkbackers! I’m most excited about a bunch of the action titles from the ‘80s and ‘90s, but I plan to mix it up quite a bit as well, since Cannon did us the honor of releasing several dozen films!

 

 

 

And I’m Out.

 

 

 

Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis

 

 

 

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Readers Talkback

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  • Aug. 25, 2012, 9:46 a.m. CST

    Golum. Yes what I've always called it.

    by UltraTron

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 9:48 a.m. CST

    The golum/globus inns

    by UltraTron

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 9:48 a.m. CST

    The golum/globus inns

    by UltraTron

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 9:48 a.m. CST

    The golum/globus inns

    by UltraTron

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 9:49 a.m. CST

    The iPad did that instantly

    by UltraTron

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 10:01 a.m. CST

    I bet Samsung wouldn't have done that

    by UltraTron

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST

    I'd rather revisit "STREET TRASH" than "STREET SMART"

    by beefywhore

    just sayin'

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 12:05 p.m. CST

    terry malloy. You should watch April Fool's Day.

    by adeceasedfan

    It always felt like a lost chapter of Friday the 13th somewhere around parts 2 or 3. Minus Jason of course.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 12:09 p.m. CST

    I vote Revenge of the Ninja.

    by adeceasedfan

    It is one of my favorite Cannon films. I cherish my old big box VHS with which I found at a going out of business video store.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 12:18 p.m. CST

    How about 'Tough Guys Don't Dance' and/or 'The Naked Face'?

    by Bill C.

    Just to mix things up a bit. Or, if you're feeling masochistic, you could do both lambada-based films that Cannon (and its bastard brother, 21st Century Film Corporation, under Menahem Golan) did.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 1:32 p.m. CST

    What's black and sits at the top of the stairs?

    by Loosejerk

    Christopher Reeve in a house fire. Sorry, but that joke back in the day brought me to tears. I find the "young and healthy" comment pretty funny. Like he got really sick directly following this movie. I think I'll watch "Top Gun" so I can see a movie by a "younger and still breathing" Tony Scott.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 3:21 p.m. CST

    RIP NEIL ARMSTRONG

    by Rakesh Patel

    A True Legend.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST

    Hellooooooooooo all good buddies

    by ajit maholtra

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 3:30 p.m. CST

    The story of Street Smart is not internet rumor

    by TheNotoriousDRB

    Reeve himself describes the story of how he used Street Smart as the bait to allow Cannon to do Superman IV in his second memoir, Still Me. It is a great movie, and it is a shame that Cannon released it, as it was absolutely buried, but did find a nice second life on video store shelves. Remember those? Video stores?

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 3:53 p.m. CST

    The Apple is also streaming on Netflix, Terry.

    by A_Banned_Apart

    As fate would have it, I just revisited it last weekend. Looking forward to your discussion of that little gem.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 4:54 p.m. CST

    The Apple

    by SonnyBonoWigDo

    is my religion.

  • just cut that thing off! you know, floss & brush teeth, use deodorant...& cut those raptor fingernails... just sayin... what up ultra, keep keepin it ULTRA!

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 5:12 p.m. CST

    Street Smart = Lucius Fox Begins

    by CARTMANEZ

    Fisher was actually Clark Kent (having changed his name and retired superman after realising the world was a safer place without superman creating nuclear man villains and interferring in the nuclear arms race) and Freemans pimp was actually Lucius Fox who faked his own death at the end as he was tired of all the pimp shit and went off to work for Wayne Enterprises (and tells Bruce the benefits of faking ones death)

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 6:03 p.m. CST

    Street Smart

    by schlockthemonkey

    It being Reeves' Passion project was no internet rumor. The man himself said it several times in his Bio and even in Starlog back in the Superman IV Days.

  • Aug. 25, 2012, 8:48 p.m. CST

    You have never seen Scarecrow with Pacino and Hackmen?

    by theheavy

    And a couple of other good flicks

  • ...seemed to obscure to even cross my mind.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 12:32 a.m. CST

    my pleasure, terry_malloy

    by A_Banned_Apart

    I hear you on the obscurity. Oddly enough, it's also popped up on Comcast's free movies on demand quite frequently of late, at least in my area. Bring on the Apple Reappraisal Era, I guess?

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 8:43 a.m. CST

    The Best Cannon Films

    by Bill Howard

    The entire Sho Kosugi Ninja series (Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III and Pray for Death (which might not have been them actually, but fits)), 52 Pick up is amazing, all the American Ninja films, Barfly, Cobra, Lifeforce, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 9:13 a.m. CST

    You don't wanna give spoilers? Then why am I reading this?

    by gridlockd

    I suspect anyone who wanted to see 1980's New Years' Evil has seen it by now. Could you at least explain what was so misogynistic about it?

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 11:13 a.m. CST

    "Runaway Train"....

    by Big Dan

    was also a decent Cannon film if memory serves.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 1:44 p.m. CST

    @ gridlockd You make a good point! But...

    by Ed Travis

    ... I guess my reason for not wanting to "spoil" anything is that the ONLY thing that made the movie watchable for me was wondering who the guy was and how it all tied together. And even that wasn't ALL that interesting. So if anyone reads this and decides to watch it, I didn't want to take the only mystery out of it. That said, you are totally right that this is a 30 year old movie. Hah! SPOILERS: Basically, "Evil" turns out to be the main characters husband, who we just conveniently didn't know was married for the run time of the movie. Bro spends the whole movie killing women and then has a big long speech at the end telling his wife that he was getting revenge on her for being too busy all the time and working too much, etc. Makes the entire movie feel like some kind of bizarre screed against women in the workplace. They also reinforce this message with a little twist at the end with the chick's son... who also hates his mom for working too much. Troubling conclusions if you think about it a little bit. I know lots of movie killers spend time killing "loose" women and such, but they are generally equal opportunity killers. "Evil" only kills women. And on and on... Anyway, there it is!

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 2:55 p.m. CST

    @adeceasedfan- Good call on Revenge of the Ninja...

    by ThulsaBoom

    ...as a child, going to the video store was the thing to do. Each kid got to pick one movie a day. My best friend and I would take turns between who picked Revenge of the Ninja, and who picked Commando. Those two went home with us every time though. Revenge of the Ninja is the very best Ninja movie.

  • There is no wrong choice.

  • Aug. 26, 2012, 9:04 p.m. CST

    LOVE this column...

    by JackBauer@CTU

    And it needs to appear more frequently. Man, do I love me some Cannon. And, while it might be obvious, DEATH WISH 3 & 4 MUST be covered. That's Cannon firing on all cylinders.

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 12:11 a.m. CST

    Thanks Terry

    by gridlockd

    See, that's interesting. The fact he's killing professional working women exclusively. And you're right. That's hella misogynistic. I think that's the most interesting aspect. If you wanna post spoiler, just warn the few lunatics who are actually still wondering who the killer is in 1980's "New Years Evil" by saying Spoilers as you did in that reply. It's not like the review was a ringing endorsement to watch it anyway. Spoilers are fun. It's been 3 decades. Let's live a little and ruin the ends of some movies.

  • It's pathetic I have enough interest in New Years Evil to even read this article, let alone go track down the movie.

  • ... 'cause getting good discussion going is really the main value to be found in something like Cannon Fodder. That and celebrating Cannon in all its bizarre glory.

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 9:06 a.m. CST

    NEW YEAR'S EVIL t&a

    by Bill George

    C'mon, NEW YEAR'S EVIL is memorable only for Teri Copley's bared boobs (she was cast as "Teenage Girl"). She was subsequently cast in a forgotten sitcom (WE'VE GOT IT MADE) and subsequently featured in the likes of DOWN THE DRAIN (appropriate title). The supporting cast of NEW YEAR'S EVIL included Taaffe O'Connell, the bosomy blonde who was raped by a 30-foot maggot in GALAXY OF TERROR; she was almost as memorable in Taaffe O'Connell

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 9:11 a.m. CST

    NEWS YEAR'S EVIL t&a, Part II

    by Bill George

    CAGED FURY; interrogated by Vietnamese mercenaries, she prompts a sadistic tormentor to throw in the towel ("You've got no brains to wash!").

  • A very underatted Film but it's Morgan at his menacing best. Before Denzel's potrayal of the notorious Alonzo Harris, there was Fast Black who not only threaten a thieving Hoe with a Yoo Hoo bottle killed a Big John with one swift Kick. Oh, and let's not forget how he dealt with Punchy for turning on him.. "Doing a little Side business"? Truly one of cannons best of the bunch a it made Freeman a household name post Electric Company's Easy Reader.

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 12:23 p.m. CST

    Next: 10 to Midnight (Bronson's best Cannon Film IMO.)

    by Stalkeye

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Then there's Last American Virgin and Delta Force.

    by Stalkeye

    LAV was one of the better raunchy comedies of it's era and with a fucked up ending that so unbelievable, that's it's truly believible. (It's doesn't pay to play "Captain Save-A-Ho".) Delta Force was the closest option of seeing GIJoe ARAH on the Silver Screen (sans Ninjas and Supervillian Terrorists e.g. Cobra) and no doubt it's a superior film when compared to Rise of Cobra and the rediculous Megaforce. Chuck was at his highest Badassery back then, but now he's turned into another Wingnut Job. Expendables 2? PG 13?!? What the Fuck, Chuck?

  • Still hands down the best scene in which Reeve interacts with a Pimp goes to Superman the Movie. Superman as he begins to take off: "Scuse me" Pimp: "Say, Jim that is one Bad outfit"! Pimp: "Whooo"!!

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 3:46 p.m. CST

    They've been mentioned already, but my picks...

    by captaincosmos

    ... if you're covering the vast and varied Golan/Globus oeuvre: Runaway Train (defies all expectations and is arguably the very best thing Eric Roberts ever did, and right up there with Voight's best performances ever. Total fucking thrill-ride) Barfly (again -- one of the best performances of Rourke's career and in my humble opinion, the best Bukowski on film [although I know he had his gripes with it]) 52 Pick-up (is just a great, pulpy thriller and one of the best things Scheider did post-Jaws. Plus, they used real porn stars as extras during a sleazy party scene!) I also love Tough Guys Don't Dance, just because it's bug-nuts crazy and Mailer actually directed the damn thing, but as a film it's not at the same level as the three above. Anyway, thanks for the column , Terry, looking forward to the rest!

  • Aug. 27, 2012, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Yay! I've been agreed with!

    by gridlockd

    So this is what it feels like.