The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment
The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment
Author: Marco Siedelmann, Nadia Bruce-Rawlings, Stephen A. Roberts
Released by: Editions Moustache
Released on: May 12th, 2016.
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While fans of eighties action and horror films have long sung the praises of Cannon Films and their amazing output, it’s still important to recognize that Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment was constantly nipping at their heels. Formed in 1984 by Leonard Shapiro and director James Glickenhaus with the intention of producing and distributing low budget genre fare, the company managed to release over a hundred films before shuttering ten years later. The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment, a fairly massive tome written by Marco Siedelmann, Nadia Bruce-Rawlings and Stephen A. Roberts, takes on the admirable task of documenting the company’s history, evaluating its output and interviewing many of the men and woman that were involved with the company over the years.
We start off with an editor’s preface penned by Siedelmann that offers up a very quick overview of what SGE was all about and that sets the stage for the book proper to come, noting that this isn’t a history book per se, but more “an intentionally messy mixture of different points of view and personal memories from the financial, creative, marketing and distribution components of filmmaking at one iconic company.” He also notes that SGE’s silent partner, Alan M. Solomon, passed away in 2004 and therefore obviously could not be interviewed. This segues into an introduction written by none other than Charles Band, who talks the ‘Go-Go days’ of the eighties film boom.
The book is divided into sections, the first of which is “Let’s get this Party started: SEC becomes SGE” which starts off with a selection of pictures of the company’s early years before giving us the first part of an interview with Leonard Shapiro. Conducted by Stephen A. Roberts in 2015 over drinks, Shapiro talks about how he got into the movie business, working at AVCO Embassy where he met James Glickenhaus. The rest is history, and Shapiro is keen to talk about that history in this piece. The first section also includes an interview with Stephen A. Roberts himself. He started with SGE in 1985 and worked there for eight years, eventually making it to VP of Marketing Services and serving as associate producer on Moon Trap. He’s got some great stories about working with Bruce Campbell on that film. Sonoko Sakai is up next, talking about working with SGE in the early days, how she hooked up with these guys and some of the projects she had a hand in. Ted Rosenblatt is up next, which makes sense as he worked alongside Sonoki Sakai at Shapiro Entertainment, SGE’s predecessor. Lewis Horwitz is then interviewed about his work with The Lewis Horwitz Organization and how he had a big hand in helping to finance a lot of films that have gone on to become cult classics, not just through SGE but through a few other companies and production houses as well. You wouldn’t think that stories about the banking business side of filmmaking would be all that interesting but Horwitz has been involved in a lot of movies and he’s got some great stories. Last up in the first section is John Alexander, who talks about being born in Argentina and growing up in different countries all over the world before settling in the United States. If was there that he wound up working with SGE. It’s here that he talks up getting investors onboard for pictures like Red Scorpion and C.H.U.D..
The second section is entitled “SGE as a Production Company: Hiring Creatives was cheap then” and as you’d probably guess, it is made up of a serious of interviews with the various filmmakers that worked for SGE over the years. William Lustig is up first, and while the only movie he made for SGE was Maniac Cop, it was a big hit for them. He talks about working with the company on this project as well as other films that he was involved in. Lustig is an excellent storyteller and his interviews are always interesting. Frank K. Isaac is up next, as he discusses co-producing The Beastmaster and working with AVCO before becoming supervising the production of Blue Jean Cop, Shakedown, Maniac Cop, Lethal Pursuit and Black Roses for SGE. Frank Henenlotter, who should need no introduction to regular readers of this site, has an absolutely great interview here where he talks not just about making the two Basket Case sequels for SGE, but also about his work on Frankenhooker and all the trouble that this particular film involved while dealing with the MPAA. He also talks about the later part of his career working with Something Weird Video, how Basket Case 3 was supposed to go out unrated initially and quite a bit more. Nadia Bruce-Rawlings conducts this interview and as she too worked for SGE, there’s some fun back and forth between the two here. Kevin Tent is up next, and he talks about editing Moon Trap, some of Henenlotter’s films, a screening of Emmanuelle 5 and then offers up yet more info on what it was like working on Frankenhooker. This is followed by a piece with Jefferson Richard in which he talks about working with Scott Glenn on Slaughter Of The Innocents, his work on One Man Force, Maniac Cop, Ring Of Steel and the last SGE picture, Time Master. This section ends with an interview with Cynthia Cirile that will be of special interest to some of us as she talks at length about her working relationship with the late, great John Fasano on both Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare and Black Roses, what it was like working with Jon Mikl Thor and how SGE factored in to bringing Black Roses out to a wider audience. For me, this was a highlight of the book, but maybe my personal bias is showing there.
The third part of the book is “The VHS Explosion: SGE Goes Nuclear in Home Video” and the title more or less says it all. It starts off with the first part of an interview with James Glickenhaus where he talks about meeting Leonard Shapiro, their work together on various pickups and imports, working with Peter Weller and Sam Elliott on The Shakedown and later projects like Slaughter Of The Innocents and McBain. This extensive and important piece, conducted by Nadia Bruce-Rawlings, is a fascinating read as it really gives you a lot of background information on what these guys were up to and why. Andi Elliott is next, and he’s interviewed about his work on the SGE Home Video division. Obviously these guys were poised to take huge advantage of the VHS rental boom that was going on at the time, and yeah, of course he speals about that talking Frankenhooker VHS tape that anyone who was in a video store ‘back in the day’ came into contact with. J. Christian Ingvordsen follows suit, discussing with Nadia how he had almost ten titles that he directed distributed by SGE, such as Mob War and The Outfit. Low budget action movie producer Jalal Merhi offers up his two cents on what it was like dealing with SGE and working with the likes of Billy Blanks, Bolo Yeung and Cynthia Rothroc, which is followed by an interview with Jacqueline Palmiere that covers how she started with SGE as a receptionist only to work her way up and eventually work in the home video division of the SGE empire after working under Shapiro and Glickenhaus themselves. The highlight of this section, however, is a lengthy interview with Cynthia Rothrock herself. One of the few female martial arts film stars to make a name for herself in the male dominated eighties, here she talks extensively about her work on the two Rage Of Honor films, pictures like Sworn To Justice, Martial Law, Tiger Claws and a bunch more. Along the way she talks of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Corye Yuen, working for Golden Harvest, her experiences with Jackie Chan and lots, lots more.
The next section is “Expansion and The Red Scorpion Experiment” which starts off by interviewing Red Scorpion director Joseph Zito who talks about his early years on movies like The Prowler, his time at Cannon Films on pictures like Invasion U.S.A. and Missing In Action, and then, shockingly, all of the trials and tribulations involved in getting Red Scorpion made (it was SGE’s biggest theatrical release). The story behind this particular film is fascinating, not only for cashing in on Dolph Lundgren’s star power but because of the politics that were surrounding it at the time – don’t miss this, it’s a great read. Stephanie Denton worked with Alan Solomon and handled a lot of SGE’s sales. She’s interview next about her work with the company that would later lead to collaborating with companies like Lionsgate on the popular Saw films. Bob Berney handled SGE’s theatrical distribution arm at the time and was the man behind Red Scorpion’s domestic theatrical release. He covered a few other SGE release like Moon Trap and then went on to work on blockbusters like The Passion Of The Christ and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to name only a few. His story is also quite interesting, and hey, he even talks about working with Metallica! Marilyn Moore worked as Acquisitions Director at SGE and wound, after doing time there, working on shows like The X-Files and, oddly enough, America’s Next Top Model. Here she talks about the early part of her career working with SGE, how she went from working on Red Scorpion to America’s Next Top Model and quite a bit more. Finalizing this chapter is a section wherein Robert Chapin discusses handling VFX and stunts on pictures as varied as Robocop 3, Army Of Darkness and more, but also directing for SGE Ring Of Steel, his only contribution to their output. However, it was a stunt/action heavy film that required quite a bit of effort on his part – as such, his talk with Marco Siedelmann is quite illuminating as he talks about making ‘Bloodfist with swords.’
The last of the main chunks of the book is “The Remains of the Day: Life after SGE” and it starts off with co-author Nadia Bruce-Rawlings being interviewed by Siedelmann. Bruce-Rawlings might have worked on this book, but so too did she do time at SGE from 1987 through 1994 alongside Alan Solomon. In 2008 she started NBR Media which now handles the SGE library of titles, so she’s been around the block a few times and was clearly very much on ‘the inside’ as far as the company’s day to day operations were concerned. From there? The second part of the James Glickenhaus interview that kicked off the book. Here he talks about the end of the company and what he’s been up to since then, working on various oddball car projects. The main core of the book finishes up with the second part of the Leonard Shapiro that also began early in this nearly five hundred page tome. Shapiro closes things out by discussing working with Glickenhaus, the importance of 42nd Street theaters and the home video boom, big hits like the Exterminator, The Protector, Maniac Cop and The Soldier and his thoughts on this part of his career as a whole.
The book finishes up with an afterword entitled A Song of Solomon by Siedelmann who notes that his co-authors both worked with the man before his passing. He then offers up a concise but interesting biography for the man and touches on some of his career highlights, particularly as they pertain to the SGE legacy.
Along the way we get tons of great photos and illustrations showing off everything from Shapiro playing basketball in high school to concept art for Moon Trap, AFM laminates, poster art for classics like Frankenhooker, Piranha II, C.H.U.D., Point Break, Maniac, Red Scorpion, Firehouse, Basket Case 2 and 3, Maniac Cop, Emmanuelle 5, Comrades In Arms, Search And Destroy, Lethal Pursuit, TC 2000, The Lost Idol, Covert Action, Shock Troop, The Exterminator and YES, Rinse Dream’s Dr. Caligari. There are also behind the scenes photos from various SGE movies and office gatherings, script pages, contract pages, copyright registrations, trade magazine ads for old VHS releases (nostalgia blast!!!!). There’s also an index section that notes where all of the pictures and images used throughout the book originated from.
All in all, this is just what the title promises – a very detailed, in-depth look at what SGE did, how they did it and just as importantly why they did it. There are a lot of different people interviewed here and as such, a lot of different points of view but if nothing else, this always feels honest, warts and all. SGE may not get the credit that other, bigger 80s production and distribution houses did, but their story is just as, if not more, interesting than anyone that they were competing with at the time. Highly recommended.
shapiro glickenhaus entertainment,
stephen a. roberts