• Stories From The Trenches: Adventures In making High Octane Hollywood Movies With Cannon Veteran Sam Firstenberg (Editions Moustache) Book Review



    Stories From The Trenches: Adventures In making High Octane Hollywood Movies With Cannon Veteran Sam Firstenberg (Editions Moustache) Book Review
    Released by: Editions Moustache
    Released on: January 29th, 2020.
    Author: Marco Siedelmann
    Year: 2020
    Purchase From Amazon

    Sam Firstenberg is a hallowed name amongst fans of action films, particularly those who hold a special place in their hearts for Cannon Films’ eighties output. With Stories From The Trenches: Adventures In making High Octane Hollywood Movies With Cannon Veteran Sam Firstenberg, a massive seven-hundred-and-fifty-page tome, author Marco Siedelmann (the man who wrote The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment) explores the life and cinematic legacy of the storied director. And as it turns out, that storied director has a lot of… stories. From the trenches, even.

    And really, a director like Firstenberg should need absolutely no introduction to regular readers of this website of fans of cult action films in general. The man has been responsible for legitimate classics of the genre like Revenge Of The Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Avenging Force and, of course, the mighty American Ninja (and it's first sequel, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation). And while his skill set leans heavily towards action filmmaking, he was also responsible for giving to the world the gift that is Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and for that we owe the man a debt.

    Siedelmann’s book, which feels more like a Bible (you could kills somebody with this book, it’s so big), covers all of it. Literally ALL OF IT. It’s hard, once you get through this massive tome, to come up with an angle that didn’t get the coverage that it deserved. This is a book that is as thorough as it is insightful. And to kick things off we get a great forward from Oliver Noding and an introduction from the man himself, Sam Firstenberg, who clearly offered his full cooperation with the multi-year project that resulted in this massive tome.

    It is also a book laid out in such a way as to make sense – it’s a chronological approach to Firstenberg’s career, starting with a hundred pages or so covering his early years. We learn how he got his start working in Israel, and how and why he made the move from ‘Jerusalem to Hollywood,’ the early projects that he got involved with and then, of course, how he connected with Golan and Globus. There’s an amazing selection of stories here and in a lot of ways this is the most interesting part of the book, because it isn’t quite as well-known as the period that most would call his prime.

    From there, we learn how Sam came to be ‘The King Of The Sequels’, landing gigs directing the two ninja movie sequels (sans Franco Nero, of course) and the second, but best, of the Breakin’ movies. This was clearly where Firstenberg started to gain some traction as a box office name, which logically leads into section three… The Golden Age Of Cannon. This is the section that gets into the nitty gritty of the making of American Ninja and its sequel, as well as the making of Avenging Force and lesser known, but still enjoyable, titles like Riverbend (where the mighty Steve James headlines, sans Mr. Dudikoff). A lot of books would be content to leave off there, ending at the peak of the man’s career, but no, Siedelmann rightly keeps going and then goes on to cover Firstenberg’s return to the Israeli film scene covering, in no small amount of detail, the making of B-pictures like The Day We Met (a comedy he directed using his real name, Shmulik Firstenberg), Delta Force 3: The Killing Game (a movie made using relatives of famous actors like Nick Cassavetes, Eric Douglas, Mike Norris, Matthey Penn!), the underrated American Samurai (where Mark Dacascos and David Bradley kick no small amount of ass) and the TV series Heat (aka Sweating Bullets).

    From here, Firstenberg’s talents are appreciated by the one studio that can rightfully claim to have taken the mantel from Cannon once they folded, and that would be Nu Image. Yeah, fine, the budgets were lower than what Cannon would typically provide, but they, were no one else really would, were able to rekindle the spirit of the classic Golan-Globus productions and successfully market them to a DTV audience hungry for hungry for violent nonsense. Unappreciated cinematic classics like Cyborg Cop (again with Bradley, who seems to have replaced Dudikoff), Blood Warriors (Bradley again), and Cyborg Cop II (Bradley, yep!), are covered in detail and rightly appreciated for the fun low budget action flicks that they are.

    But of course, good things can’t last forever, and as the book comes to a close we cover Firstenberg’s later career with entries like McCinsey’s Island (starring Hulk Hogan!!!), Motel Blue (with Sean Young), The Alternate, Spiders II: Breeding Ground and Quicksand.

    It all comes to a close with an ‘Epilogue’ section where we get some very amusing notes on ‘lost footage from Ed Wood,’ an interview with Sam himself (conducted by Erez Pery), a collection of ‘private pics’ and then, last but most certainly not least, a piece on ‘designing furnitures’ and then an afterward by Alan Newsom.

    Exhaustive, right? YES! And rewardingly so, as the book features loads of input not just from Sam himself (who has been interviewed extensively for this project) but from the likes of Leo Zisman, Omri Maron, , David Womak, Steve Lambert, Kenneth Bornstein, Keith vitali,Jordan Bennett, Alan Amiel, Hanania Baer, the lovely and talened Lucinda Dickey, Michael Chambers, Adolfo Quinones, Gideon Amir, Paul De Mielche, Judie Aronson, Michael 'Blond Steel' Dudikoff (you're damn right he's in here!), Tadashi Yamashita, Larry Poindexter, Gideon Porath, B.J. Davis, Michael J. Duthie, Marcus Manton Shlomo Hazan, Jon Stevens Alon, Frank De Martini, Bryan Genesse, Steven David Brooks and Brooke Theiss. On top of that we get a retrospective interview with Steve James too!

    If that’s not enough, the book also contains hundreds of behind the scenes photos, promo photos, storyboard, script pages, production design art, poster art, home video art and other awesome pictures documenting Sam’s work and career.

    It’s an amazing book that accurately reflects the ridiculous amount of time and effort that went into creating it. Highly recommended!