Tag Archives: Charles Band

“Have you ever heard of Ninjutsu, sir?”: An Interview with Sam Firstenberg by Kent Hill

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This book is a great achievement for the action film genre!
Isaac Florentine (Director, Undisputed 2)

The heart of the die-hard, ninja movie addict in me skipped a beat when I received word that I would be sitting down for a chat with the Godfather of the genre, Sam Firstenberg.

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THE MAKING OF CYBORG COP IN AFRICA

Marco Siedelmann & Sam have compiled what I feel is a kind of splendid maelstrom of biography meets chronological history meets retrospective documentary the size of the phone books from the days of yore. To read it is to be immersed in warm, gooey, Cannon goodness. The question put simply…how can you resist?

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MAKING OF NINJA III

Indeed any resistance is futile when it comes to this true completest’s tome of not merely Firstenberg’s exciting, excessively driven, and beautifully enigmatic cinematic career, but it also runs side by side with accounts from the stars, the stunt men as well as many of his peers and collaborators.

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BEHIND THE SCENES ON SPIDERS II: BREEDING GROUND

Sam Firstenberg is mostly recognized as one Cannon’s most important in-house directors during their outrageously successful heyday of the 1980’s. The journey of this interview collection starts even before he made his way to direct box office hits just like REVENGE OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, BREAKIN’ II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, and AMERICAN NINJA, amongst others.

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The conversations in the book shed light on his origins and influences, including childhood memories, private biographical chapters, his years as a film student in Los Angeles, and his early work as an assistant director and technician for people like Menahem Golan, Charles Band, Ephraim Kishon, Boaz Davidson, and many more. The interviews are not chronological, but focus on every career-step, just as well as on every single movie Firstenberg ever directed until his retirement in 2002.

Frank Zagarino in Operation Delta Force
FRANK ZAGARINO IN OPERATION DELTA FORCE

His memories about all the projects he was involved in are packed with adventurous stories about ninjas and breakdancers, about directing action entertainment in exotic countries, and about working with numerous movie stars, among them Michael Dudikoff, Eric Roberts, John-Rhys Davies, Hulk Hogan, Grace Jones, Nick Cassavetes, Zachi Noy, Richard Roundtree, Steve James, Sho Kosugi, and many more.

Making of Revenge of the Ninja 2
MAKING REVENGE OF THE NINJA

STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES is also a book about the early film industry in Israel, the Hollywood star system and the no longer existing mid-budget movies. It’s about the home video boom, about the ascension and the decline of Cannon, but it also discusses the rules and traditions of the industry. Other topics are the practical way a film was put together in that era, the technical changes through the years, the different film market situation compared to nowadays – and last, but not least, it’s an inside story about the early years of Nu Image and how Avi Lerner’s companies Nu Image and Millennium continued the spirit of Cannon, but under different circumstances and times.

Making of Revenge of the Ninja
MAKING REVENGE OF THE NINJA

In the Trenches: Adventures in making high octane Hollywood movies with Cannon veteran Sam Firstenberg, is about the war all filmmakers fight, trying to bring about the seemingly impossible and mysterious aligning of the planets of both art and commerce that have created one of mankind’s contributions to the universe…the movies. Or in Sam’s case…ninja movies.

GET IT NOW!!!

Not your average Poe: An Audience with Jeffrey Combs by Kent Hill

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over Men at Work and why can’t they make a sequel. While I feasted on potato chips nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping, turns out it was Herbert West a-rapping, at my chamber door.

I just want to go on the record and say there are a handful acting dynamos out there that have enjoyed long and industrious careers. But then, there’s Jeffrey Combs. If you’ll forgive the crassness of a STEP BROTHERS fan (and Jeff, I mean this as a compliment mate), Mr Combs is the f#@king Catalina Wine Mixer of genre/character/genius actors.  You need only to watch Sir Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners – nothing further your Honor.

Now I love RE-ANIMATOR, I love the RE-ANIMATOR fans, heck I have card-carrying diehards as friends, but I must confess I’m more of a fan of Jeff’s Cellar Dwelling, Fortressy, Robot Joxy, Doctor Mordridy type offerings – and don’t get me started on Honky Tonk Freeway – whole other show.

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But for right now let’s focus on NEVERMORE. The creators of the eleventh episode in the second season of Masters of Horror have brought their act to a literal theatre near you – but if you’re reading this outside of the US – sorry. Directing legend, Stuart Gordon (Space Truckers) and his (frequent) co-writer from “The Black Cat” Dennis Paoli (From Beyond) have created a vehicle which has brought to the stage a critically heralded experience that has delighted audiences for over a decade.

Hailed as “a landmark performance” by the L.A. Times, Combs has thrilled crowds across the country with his dynamic and revelatory portrayal of the legendary Poe.

This marks NEVERMORE’s Westchester County, NY, premiere, an event made extra special by the area’s bicentennial celebration of Washington Irving—a contemporary of Poe who was, from Poe’s perspective, also a rival. As Combs recalled in a recent River Journal article, “I don’t think they ever met. I take dark delight in pointing out that Poe doesn’t have very nice things to say about Irving. Specifically, about Irving’s penchant for always having a moral to his stories while Poe was often criticized for being without morals.”

SHIFF (The Sleepy Hollow Film Festival) celebrates the Hudson Valley’s wellspring of American history, of classic literature, and the continuing legacy of supernatural writings and cinematic works that it has inspired,” says festival co-founder Taylor White. “We’re excited to have NEVERMORE as part of the festival because it encapsulates so many of these ideas—not to mention it’s a fantastic show, at the perfect time of year, in the perfect venue. We can’t wait for the crowd to experience it!”

As Combs added in the River Journal, “Poe was truly one of America’s great writers. I’m honoured every time I step on stage and recite his beautiful words.”

SHIFF, a celebration of outstanding genre cinema in the cradle of the American supernatural, takes place in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY, October 10-13, 2019.

Finally, Jeff Combs was an absolute pleasure to chat with, his personality is as vivacious and extraordinary as the multitude of characters he has brought to our screens. If we had more time I would have really delved a great deal deeper – but, never being one to turn down opportunity when he comes a-rapping at my chamber door, I could not in good conscience turn down the chance to talk with one of the world’s most original performers. He’s still batting a thousand, I hope you’ll enjoy…

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JACK DETH IS BACK . . . AND HE’S NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE: An Interview with Tim Thomerson by Kent Hill

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I was mid-way through my interview with C. Courtney Joyner when Tim Thomerson’s name came up. Joyner of course, had directed Tim in Trancers 3, and cooler still, he had just had him round for breakfast earlier that day. You might call it an imposition, but I mentioned that if there was even a remote possibility that he could put me in touch with Tim, I would be forever grateful. Courtney told me he was seeing Tim again on the weekend and would put forward my proposition. Soon after, I received a message with a phone number.

Now, I’m usually in the habit of arranging an appropriate time and day to call, but Courtney had left it open. I remember for the first time, in a long time, being nervous to make the call. After all this was Tim Thomerson who was going to be picking up the phone; a guy, a legend that I had watched for years. So I summoned my moxy and dialled the number. The familiar international ring-cycle began and then . . . “Thomerson,” the voice on the other end of the line said.

I’m going to come off as an idiot here, but I.D.G.A.R.A. “Damn,” I remember thinking. “He sounds exactly like he does in the movies.” Stupid, I’m well aware. But the moment was profound, and I was instantly transported to that time when I sat in the theatre watching Metalstorm, and that glorious afternoon I first sat down to watch Future Cop (aka Trancers). Here was Jack Deth now, on the end of the line and talking to me like we had been buddies since forever.

I did kinda wish we could have jumped into our chat right there. Tim was at once disarming, candid and as cool as i had expected him to be. He was off to his retreat in the desert to do “old man shit” as he put it, and, while I realize he is an aged gentleman now, that voice, the larger than life character that he is still packed all of the vitality, swagger and youthful exuberance that very much belies his years.

I didn’t have to wait long before we would talk again, and when we did, the conversation picked up right where it left off. I would take a significant amount of time to go through the length and breadth of his career, so I restricted myself to personal favourites among his credits. We talked about his beginnings, his great friendships, his bumping into Mel Gibson at the doctor’s office, him working with his idols, Australian Cinema and his meeting with the legend that was Sam Peckinpah.

For those of you who regularly check out my stuff here on the site (God bless you), I fear I might be starting to sound like a cracked record. A number of times in the past I have found myself gushing about the opportunities I have enjoyed whilst writing for PTS, and how humbled and indeed awe-struck I have been as a result of these encounters with the folks who make the movies. Sadly I’m now going to do it again. Tim Thomerson is a hero of mine and it was at once spellbinding and an indescribable treasure to have had the chance to shoot the breeze with an actor I have long held in high regard . . .

. . . and an equal pleasure it is, to now share it with you.

Enjoy.

Hey . . . you wrote The Rocketeer: An Interview with Danny Bilson by Kent Hill

I remember a rainy evening long ago when I went with some friends to see The Rocketeer. This was a time when superhero movies were touch and go. We had Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher and Alec Baldwin’s Shadow, Billy Zane’s Phantom and Pamela Anderson’s Barbed Wire. The movie gods had spoiled us with Donner’s Superman and Burton’s Batman – but The Rocketeer, for my money, was a return to form.

Featuring solid direction from Joe Johnston (Alive, Congo, Captain America), a great cast featuring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connolly, Alan Arkin and the delightfully villainous Timothy Dalton, combined with a beautiful and heroically-sumptuous score from the late/great James Horner – The Rocketeer stayed with me after that rainy night back in the early 90’s, and it’s an experience I find myself going back to again and again.

The film though, was not an easy gig for it’s writers. They began their comic book adaptation of The Rocketeer in 1985. Writing for Disney, the partners were hired and fired several times during the five years of the movie’s development. The two had a rough executive experience, in which scenes were deleted only to be restored years later. The film finally made it to theaters in 1991.

But The Rocketeer isn’t the only picture co-penned by Danny Bilson that I love. There is Eliminators, which he wrote with his career-long collaborator Paul DeMeo (They he met and graduated from California State University, San Bernardino and together formed Pet Fly Productions.) One great tale Danny offered is that Eliminators was a poster before it was a movie. I would kill to have worked like that for the Charles Band stable back in the day. Being handed a title or a poster and being told, “Now go write the movie.”

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Eliminators, Zone Troopers, Arena and Trancers would be written by DeMeo and Bilson, who aside from being a writer, is also a director and producer of movies, television, video games, and comic books. They worked on the video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (2003), the television series The Sentinel (1996), Viper (1994, 1996) and The Flash (1990), and issues of the comic book The Flash. Bilson also directed and produced The Sentinel and The Flash.

Danny Bilson was born into the industry, the son of Mona (Weichman) and the director Bruce Bilson (Bewitched, Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes). But, after college, Danny struggled to break into the movie business, working as an extra while writing screenplays. Bilson and DeMeo produced their first script, Trancers (1985), a noir tale about a time-travelling detective from the future. Five sequels would follow. Bilson debuted as a director for Zone Troopers (1985), co-written by DeMeo, a tale of American World War II soldiers who find an alien spacecraft. Following this, the duo performed the same roles in The Wrong Guys (1988) a comedic spoof of boy scouting.

Danny and Paul, though the screen has seen their writing credit absent for some time, continue to work. I long for the hour when I see their names up there again, as their collaborative efforts will and always stand, for this cinephile anyway, as an invitation for adventure and excitement. While a Jedi is not meant to crave such things – of my cinema-going prerequisites they are high the list – bordering on essential.

Here he is folks . . . Danny Bilson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi0Et31E7s4

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