If they had taken advantage of all the opportunities afforded creatively, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus would be up there with the Weinstein’s in terms of output covering art-house, commercial and indie.
The visions are both similar, but that is where the comparison ends, which is how it did unfortunately for the Cannon Group as the 1980s ended.
Arrow Video continue to spread the Cannon gospel in good faith with the latest in their Blu-Ray special releases, John Frankenheimer's 1986 noir thriller 52 Pick-Up, which belongs to the exclusive club of decent Cannon movies, alongside Runaway Train and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. One hopes that Arrow may even consider the little-seen, underrated Christopher Reeve journalism drama, Street Smart, made and released in 1987, that secured Morgan Freeman his first Academy Award nomination as a ruthless pimp, who takes exception to a fabricated story by Reeve's ambitious journalist.
Made a decade before the likes of Get Shorty and Jackie Brown (adapted from Leonard's novel ‘Rum Punch’), 52 pick-up was released on the back end of Burt Reynolds' ill-fated 1985 adaptation of the Leonard novel ‘Stick’ and co-scripted from his own novel by Leonard with John Steppling.
With the interim release of the above examples, it is a fine opportunity to assess this version of a Leonard novel and given the passage of time, the film does emerge with some credibility and some of the overall tone and atmosphere intact. This is partly thanks to the solid performance of Roy Scheider as Harry Mitchell, a steelyard businessman who has an affair behind the back of his wife Barbara (Ann-Margret) with a model-come-dancer called Cini (Kelly Preston), Barbara is supervising the political campaign of Mark Arveson (Doug McClure in an interesting city suit role - a far cry from his late ‘70s British fantasies Warlords Of Atlantis and At The Earth’s Core), who is aiming to become LA's latest District Attorney.
However, things go south when a trio of blackmailers, led by sleazy video maker Alan Raimy (Jon Glover, at his scornful best!) corner Mitchell and show him a tape of him with Cini, demanding $105,000. After refusing to pay on the advice of his lawyer, the stakes are raised when they kill the mistress, framing Mitchell, then demanding $105,000 per year from Mitchell for the remainder of his life….
John Frankenheimer was at his strongest utilising material like this for the big-screen with previous works like The Manchurian Candidate and Black Sunday amongst the notable examples and this Blu-Ray edition heightens the dark and sleazy world, which was photographed by Paul Verhoeven's cinematographer Jost Vacano (Robocop, Total Recall and Showgirls amongst them - another reason to check this film out).
Again, it is another sad example of the Cannon Group back in the day not understanding the potential at the time of the material they had in their midst. In one of the more famous examples of premature optimism from Golan and Globus, Dustin Hoffman was down as a lead in an adaptation of another Leonard novel, La Brava, but pulled out when he had been announced in the press as starring, when no contract or deal had been made.
Cannon clearly, in the grand scheme of things, were hoping that the success of their umpteen Bronson, Norris or Lemon Popsicle movies would help float the financial boat and lead them to critical and box-office acclaim.
It's a shame also that 52 Pick-Up didn't get the wider release and at the time, a lot of Cannon films were often relegated to a week (certainly in the UK) in a Cannon Cinema, which is where a generation of cinema-goers who saw these on their initial release in the late 1980s would go (Runaway Train was one such example that would only get screened in a smaller screen in a four-screen venue). It is another harsh reality of a cinema empire that didn't utilize the very facilities to enable the product to be seen at it's best.
So, pray thanks to Arrow Video for giving this little-seen gem the gold-dust treatment on Blu-Ray. It captures the style and essence of a proper noir.
52 PICK-UP (1986) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN FRANKENHEIMER / SCREENPLAY: JOHN STEPPLING, ELMORE LEONARD / STARRING: ROY SCHNEIDER, ANN-MARGRET, VANITY, JOHN GLOVER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW