Tag Archives: Richard Roundtree

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

American Ninja - Directing Action

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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!!!

Corky Romano

Call me crazy but after finally daring to watch it, I can’t say I’m one of the many people who think that Corky Romano is one of the worst films ever made. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid fucking toilet destroying turd of a film, thoroughly shitty no doubt, and yet… I laughed. A lot. I’m still trying to figure out if the laughs were ironic, genuine or spurred on by the eight plus beers in my system, but irregardless, I can’t say it wasn’t a good time. Chris Kattan is one of those actors like Rob Schneider, Seth Green or David Spade who are in what I call the ‘mosquito category.’ They can’t act, they’re not really that funny and they seem to exist for no reason other than to buzz around like vermin. As twitchy, dysfunctional mafia brat Corky Romano, Kattan is admittedly his annoying self but he nails a few laughs nicely, and lands one big one spectacularly involving cocaine and schoolchildren. His mobster dad (Peter Falk and his loopy eyes) is about to be testified against by a mysterious informant, so his two volatile brothers (Chris Penn and Peter Berg) and uncle (Fred Ward, slumming it and loving it) hatch a cockamamie plan to send him in to the Bureau as a fake Fed and destroy evidence. If you’re wondering why, or how this is a good plan, don’t bother. The film’s haphazard script is like several post-it notes drunkenly stuck on a fridge, and instead of coherency in plot we get an insane parade of slapstick shenanigans and situational comedy masquerading as a story. Saddled with a stern FBI boss (Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree), a foxy partner (Vinessa Shaw) and jealous bureau cohorts, it’s a laundry list of fuckups, arbitrary car chases, third grade level humour and unapologetic what-have-ya. This came out in 2001 and it’s funny to see how much times have changed and people’s tolerance for certain types of humour have dried up, they use words and scenarios here that would have the film swiftly boycotted these days, but it’s refreshing to watch older films where they didn’t have to tiptoe on eggshells quite as much. What else is there to say, really? This is a wantonly childish display of bottom feeding comedy, and the immature man-child in me found it to be a fucking laugh riot. Uneven, sure. All over the place, definitely. But funny as all hell in fits and starts.

-Nate Hill