Horror History: Charles Bronson vs. The Golem – The Greatest Cannon Films Production Never Produced
The history of cinema is littered with potentially astounding motion pictures that didn’t get made for one reason or another. One such project that never came about would have pit perennial movie tough guy Charles Bronson against a monster Golem brought to life to dispense the very sort of vigilante justice Bronson’s name had become synonymous with.
For those unfamiliar with the Golem, Jewish legends tell of being able to bring to life an anthromorphic being, typically made of stone or clay, to do the bidding of its animator. The Golem has been the subject of countless stories and motion pictures, but none before had featured a pistol-packing Charles Bronson as an anti-vigilante monster hunter.
According to the book Bronson’s Loose: The Making of the Death Wish Films, Cannon Films – the company that 1980’s action fans recognize as the purveyors of all things Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, and most movies of that era with the word “ninja” in the title – paid a hefty price for an action-horror screenplay by Michael Alan Canter entitled The Golem that would have put a (then) modern spin on that monster of classic Jewish folklore.
Cannon got Bronson to agree to star, announced the film with a big ad in Variety, and hired veteran special effects artist Jim Danforth, whose work can be seen in 1962’s Jack the Giant Killer and 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, to bring the titular mud monster to life.
The film’s plot would have centered on a rabbi from the old country now living in New York City who brought with him a Golem he’s kept stored away in his attic for years. The once nice neighborhood has since turned into a high crime area, leading to his wife being brutally attacked and murdered by street hoodlums. The rabbi then unleashes a monstrous “death wish” upon the criminal element in the form of his Golem: an unstoppable sludgernaught capable of melting itself down to ooze through pipes, drainage, bathroom plumbing, and whatever else necessary to kill those responsible.
Charles Bronson would have played a street-wise cop who grew up in this neighborhood sent to investigate the mysterious murders of these petty criminals, leading to an inevitable clash with the Golem and its elderly master.
Alas, this Golem would never come to life, and the movie world is lesser for it.
Today’s computer effects would make bringing the clay creature to life rather easy; not so back in the day when practical effects were still king. Cannon kept balking at the budget, which wasn’t exactly huge but definitely above the cost of the company’s typical low-rent production. A project like this couldn’t have come at a worse time since Cannon’s financial situation was turning dire. Haggling over the effects budget prevented the film from ever getting off the ground, and within a few short years Cannon’s money woes would put the company out of business.
Producer Menahem Golan supposedly maintained ownership of the screenplay until the day he died. So, somewhere out there, that script is just sitting around gathering dust waiting for some enterprising producer to get his hands on it and cast Jason Statham in Bronson’s role.
As tragic as Cannon’s demise was and along with it any chances of ever seeing a Charles Bronson monster movie, had the company not undergone a monetary meltdown, around the same time we also would have also been sullied by a Dolph Lundgren-less sequel to Masters of the Universe that would have cast a professional surfer as He-Man, now living on Earth undercover as a professional football player, forced into battle once more against Skeletor, also in our world plotting evil in the guise of a flesh-faced corporate executive named Aaron Dark. I’m not sure if we should be thankful or disappointed that guaranteed slice of cinematic crapola never came into existence.
Still, the world was denied a Charles Bronson vs. a Golem movie. My sadness over it never getting to see the light of day ranks right up there with knowing we never got that Jean-Claude Van Damme as a park ranger battling Bigfoot flick from a decade ago either. But that’s another story for another day.