I only meant to skim Austin Trunick’s THE CANNON FILM GUIDE VOL 1 1980-1984 to the chapters on the films I’ve seen or am curious about. But the book is so much fun, so compulsively readable, so full of great anecdotes and insider-details, that I ended up reading the entire 530 page book… and I don’t even like 99% of the crap the studio released. But it was impossible for me to put it down.
The book, the first of three volumes, devotes a chapter to each Cannon title released during the first four years of the schlock-studio’s short life, though Trunick will leap forward in time to include all of a movie’s sequels in the chapter that discuses the first film (for example, all the Missing in Action and Death Wish movies are covered in this volume, even though they spanned the studio’s run). Movies covered in this volume include The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood, Bolero!, Hercules, Enter the Ninja, The Last American Virgin, Breakin’, Sahara, and Exterminator 2 among many others. In addition to the author’s extensive reporting and lively commentary, most chapters also include a Q&A interview or two with key cast members or production personnel. Trunick has done an enormous amount of research which, combined with his easy-going narrative style, boyish enthusiasm, and sense of humor, make the book a pleasure to read… though it gets frustrating watching studio heads Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus, men with terrible instincts and even worse taste, keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
On the movie The Secret of Yolanda Trunick says:
A nomad cowboy wanders onto a ranch, bangs every breathing woman within a 40-mile radius, and then is run out of town for taking advantage of a handicapped stable girl. That’s “The Secret of Yolanda” in a nutshell. And that guy is supposed to be the hero of the movie!
On Seed of Innocence aka Teen Mothers, Trunick has this observation:
The script was co-written by Stu Krieger, who’d become better known for writing the screenplay for the classic Don Bluth animated filmed “The Land Before Time,” a movie with significantly fewer prostitutes and unplanned pregnancies.
Trunick discusses the ending of Nana: The True Key to Pleasure, which inexplicably concludes with the heroine flying away in a hot air balloon.
“As the balloon floats away, a man is revealed to be hiding in the bottom of the basket. He ducks under her dress and a sly smile forms on Nana’s lips as we have to assume the stowaway gentleman performs cunnilingus on her. Meanwhile, Emile Zola’s original novel ended with [Nana] dying horribly of smallpox, describing her as, I quote, ‘a heap of pus and blood, a shovelful of putrid flesh.’ Talk about a softening ending for movie audiences…
It’s a terrific book, but not without some flaws. There are numerous proofreading mistakes (mostly missing words) and some formatting errors, and a few factual errors (for example, he refers to Chuck Norris’ Walker Texas Ranger as a “long-running syndicated series,” apparently unaware that the show ran for eight straight seasons & 200 episodes on CBS before going into reruns), but those are very minor quibbles. I can’t wait for the next two volumes!
I fell in love with this bookthe instant I read the title. It was as if this book was written specifically for me…a guy who once wrote a book on every TV series idea rejected by the networks since the dawn of the medium. I mean, who else would buy a book about 111 sitcom spin-off pilots that went nowhere? Well, you should, my friend. Because if you love television, and if you’re interested in how this crazy business works, this is a must-read. This is virtually a sequel to Irvin’s marvelous Forgotten Laughs, his book about extraordinarily short-lived sitcoms and written with the same breezy style and indepth research, which involves more than just sorting through old TV Guides (as so many writers of TV reference books do). Irvin has gone out and, in many cases, interviewed the key writers, producers and actors involved in the aborted spin-offs. Where else will you learn about the aborted spinoffs from such short-lived failures as It Had to Be You, That’s My Mama, and All American Girl? Or learn about the five, count’em FIVE, intended spin-offs from The Facts of Life (itself a spinoff from Diff’rent Strokes?) You gotta get this book. And, if you are a true student of television, also buy Forgotten Laughs and Irvin’s George Burns TV Productions.
This an informative and useful book… despite some clunky writing, poor editing, and puzzling omissions. The writers do a good job giving detailed information on the creative arc of each series leading up to their finales, which are explored in-depth. The critical and “fan” response to the finales is also explored in detail. Series finales aren’t limited to dramas or sitcoms. They cover many genres, including talk shows and soaps. Most of the content appears to be based on personal viewing and quotes lifted from previously published material…other reference books are frequently quoted and cited. Few interviews appears to have been done specifically for this book, which is a weakness and gives the book a “reheated leftovers” feel, as if its simply an accumulation of data already covered by others.. Most of the finales you expect to be discussed in a book about TV finales are discussed (Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, St. Elsewhere, Sopranos, The Fugitive, etc. etc)… but, strangely, they also include final episodes that were never intended by the producers as finales (like “The Sharecroppers” episode of Gunsmoke) and finales for shortlived shows like I Married Dora and Ugly Betty, and yet totally omit the blockbuster final episodes of popular shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Law & Order, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jag, Who’s the Boss and Star Trek Voyager. It’s not clear what the authors’ criteria for inclusion or exclusion was in their book.
The biggest problem with the book, however, is the clunky writing and terrible editing. The listing for Magnum PI is a perfect example of the editorial problems that plague the book. On page 59, they mention that the original pilot featured a hero who had gadgets, “including a hand glider that doubles as a machine gun.” Hand glider?? That’s a typo, and could be forgiven, if there weren’t so many other editorial problems with the book.
On the same page as that typo, there’s this inane sentence: “Selleck liked Bellisario’s writing as he had read his script for a proposed series entitled Gypsy Warriors (1978) in which Selleck and James Whitmore Jr. played a pair of World War II espionage agents posing as gypsies in France and Germany.” Well duh, OF COURSE Selleck read the script. It would be difficult to star in the pilot film WITHOUT reading the script, wouldn’t it? Lame sentence. An editor would have caught that…assuming the book was edited.
There’s more. On the same page, the authors write about how Bellisario purportedly rewrote Glen A. Larson’s Magnum pilot by using a busted pilot of his own as a starting point: “A few years back, Bellisario had written a script entitled H.H. Flynn about three Vietnam vets: Rick, a club owner who idolizes Humphrey Bogart; TC, a helicopter pilot; and Magnum, a private investigator who lives in a guest house on a Bel Air estate owned by the ‘florist to the stars.'” Really? The hero’s name was Magnum in a pilot called H.H Flynn? C’mon, guys.
The book is rife with bizarre sentences like those and its a shame. Even so, I would still recommend this book for your TV reference library.
I didn’t think Paul Talbot could top Bronson’s Loose … but he’s managed to do it in Bronson’s Loose Again, his terrific over view of Charles Bronson’s films outside of the Death Wish franchise. It’s full of great interviews and insights into the development, production, and ultimate success (or failure) of his films and TV movies. You don’t have to be a Bronson fan to enjoy this book…it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the business behind how movies get made…and why they don’t. For instance, there’s a fascinating anecdote in the chapter on Love & Bullets about the unfilmed Bronson project Power…based on a rejected script in the Dirty Harry franchise. The movie was later made as Firepower starring James Coburn. And here lies the seed of what could be Paul’s next great book…the inside story on all the films made from rejected Dirty Harry scripts (like Chuck Norris’ Code of Silence and Fred Williamson’s The Big Score).
A wonderful, fascinating, well-researched, and extremely detailed look into every permutation of Shaft… from the books, to the feature films, and on through the TV movies. It’s everything a Shaft fan could want, filled with terrific details on the writing and development of the books and films. An excellent resource for anyone interested in Shaft or simply how a franchise is handled — or, perhaps, mishandled — across various mediums. Strongly recommended!!
I so, so, so wanted to love this book. I have been a big fan of Persky’s work for decades. I was hoping for a memoir that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the writing and production of his shows. There’s some of that in this book… but for the most part it’s a meandering, rambling, unfocused, and ultimately deeply disappointing, mess. There’s a lot of stuff about Persky’s personal life and not nearly enough about his professional life. That said, even as a personal memoir, it’s a meandering, rambling, unfocused mess. So it doesn’t really work on any level. A real missed opportunuty.