Shaprio Glickenhaus Book Review + Sam Firstenberg Cannon Book Kickstarter (Book Review)

Nothing is more fascinating to a true movie geek than the history of films told by the folks who lived it.  German film critic and author Marco Siedelmann fully understands such a cinematic need and for fans of all things B-movie he’s got you covered.  The founder of the online Magazine Hard Sensations and Publishing House Editions Moustache has already created an extensive examination of the Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment (SGE) era with his book The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment which houses everything from candid interviews to archival photographs.  But the movie savvy Siedelmann didn’t stop there as his love of all things 80’s has led him to a new novel subject – that of former Cannon Films in-house Director Sam Firstenberg.  The filmmaker behind such classic outings as Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination (go Lucinda Dickey!), Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo and American Ninja has many stories to tell and Siedelmann is putting together a must-read book titled Stories From The Trenches: The Official Sam Firstenberg Book guaranteed to knock some socks off.  So to bring some attention to the Kickstarter campaign (only 7 more days to go people!) for the new novel we both giving the details below plus giving a review of his first book on SGE for those looking for a little more critical insight before purchasing.  So grab your nunchucks and colorful headbands – the 80’s cinema scene via some good reading is back in full swing!

600 pages (estimated)
b/w – Paperback
Pricing: 29,99 Euro (estimated)
Trim Size: 8.5″ x 11″ (21.59 x 27.94 cm)

Click to the Kickstarter Page!


About the proposed book:

Filmmaker Sam Firstenberg is mostly recognized as one of the important in-house directors during the outrageously successful heyday of the legendary Cannon Group.  The journey of this interview collection starts even before he made his way to direct box office hits just like Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo and American Ninja, and several others. The conversations Siedelmann recorded with Sam are very thorough, and they shed light on his origins and influences, including childhood memories, private biographical chapters, his years as a film student in Los Angeles, the atmosphere he grew up in Israel, and his early work as an assistant director and technician for people like Menahem Golan, Charles Band, Ephraim Kishon, Boaz Davidson, and many more.  The interviews are not totally chronological, but focus on every career-step, just as well as on every single movie Sam ever directed until his retirement in 2002.  Sam’s memories about all the projects he was involved in are packed with adventurous stories about ninjas and breakdancers, about directing action entertainment in exotic countries, and about working with numerous stars, among them Michael Dudikoff, Eric Roberts, Jon-Rhys Davies, Hulk Hogan, Grace Jones, Nick Cassavetes, Zachi Noy, Richard Roundtree, Sean Young, Steve James, Sho Kosugi, Shabba-Doo, and so many more.

Thirty years of filmmaking: This means that Stories From The Trenches isn’t about Firstenberg only, but it’s also a book about the early film industry in Israel, the Hollywood star system and the no longer existing mid-budget movies.  It’s about the home video boom, about the uprising and the decline of Cannon, but it also discusses the rules and traditions of the industry.  Other topics are the practical way a film was put together in that era, the technical changes through the years, the different market situation compared to nowadays – and last but not least it’s a inside story about the early years of Nu Image (The Expendables, Conan, the Undisputed Franchise) and how Avi Lerner’s company continued the spirit of Cannon, but under different circumstances and times.

Next to the very detailed picture you’ll get about Sam as a film director and also as a person, Stories From The Trenches incorporates the voices of more than 30 additional interviewees who tell their stories from a different point of view.  Amongst them producers and scriptwriters, cinematographers, editors, marketing experts, stunt guys, actors – simply all kinds of cast and crew people, as well as personal friends to Sam.  In many ways, Stories From The Trenches is going to be the ultimate trip down memory lane, opening up tons of never heard anecdotes that illustrate the philosophy of a director who never wanted to be an auteur filmmaker like Michelangelo Antonioni, but a very passionate film lover who went out to have a great time in shooting huge entertainment for audiences all over the world.

The light, funny and high-octaned style of Firstenberg’s work is captured beautifully in the Cover Artwork by German poster designer Ralf Krause, who – like so many of us – grew up watching the Cannon theatrically.  And even if you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in this case you really get an idea about the explosive content.  All interviews used in the book were done by myself with as many key people I was able to track down, so there isn’t any re-released old stuff included.  Everything is fresh, in-depth and put together carefully, always driven by the respect for all the people that took the time to make this book as colorful as it already is.  Because of this diversity, Stories From The Trenches enlightens the completely different characters that were involved in the making of the films.  Besides many successful career-stories I didn’t spare the sad parts, the unfulfilled dreams, and the projects that were not meant to be.

On top the book will feature a personal introduction by Sam Firstenberg, plus a foreword by Alon Newman, who is not only a life-long friend of Sam, but also belongs to a younger generation of Israeli filmmakers that’s influenced by the achievements Firstenberg reached in Hollywood.  No matter if you are looking for the gossip or the practical side of filmmaking, if you are interested in the way low budget producers operated in Hollywood at the time, or if you simply have a nostalgic love for the 80s, ninjas, martial arts, or breakdance – this book delivers.  It’s for all the passionate movie fans out there.

And now a review of Marco Siedelmann’s previous book…

The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment.

The Look

Like all great collectable movie books this ode to all things SGE is in a large paperback format and stands out just in size alone.  The cool cover art makes a strikingly lush statement and compliments an already massive sized novel.  All print inside is super easy to read plus the collection of both archival photos, marketing materials and even some contracts (that’s candid!) makes any fan of B-flicks a happy camper.

The Content

The style of Siedelmann’s book (alongside other credited authors Nadia Bruce Rawlings and Stephen A. Roberts) is such that it doesn’t take a typical editorial dissection of it’s subject.  Instead it sheds light on its beloved subject through a collection of comprehensive interviews with the key players involved.  Through a gaggle of dozens of chats with everyone from marketing people to the founders themselves much light is shed on the years of SGE – right from the horses mouth.

The Good

While some may feel the need for a more standard editorial style, there’s much candid gold to be found in the books barrage of interviews.  Excellent conversation with notable tidbits include both Leonard Shapiro and James Glickenhaus, plus William Lustig of Maniac Cop fame, my hero Frank Henenlotter with the underrated Frankenhooker and Basket Case sequels, dangerous dame Cynthia Rothrock and Joseph Zito helmer of SGE hit Red Scorpion.  Plus for the ultimate film fanatic there’s even more insight via the behind the scenes players like editor Kevin Tent and producer Frank K. Isaac.  Also the pics and archival eye candy will definitely make any SGE fan giddy.

The Bad

Again the interview only style of this one, which also doesn’t have any sort of chronological order, may prove challenging for some.  I wished some of the pictures had been in color (Frankenhooker demands it!) and had been either labeled or had written reference to the person they introduced.  Also the interviewers here, some of which were directly involved in the company, to tend to talk about their own time at the company – a tactic that at times proves to be unwelcome at times.  (Fans want to hear the history recollections of the subjects!)

Worth The Moola?

For any SGE fan this big book is a serious must buy.  Siedelmann and company have put together an impressive interview companion piece to all things SGE and just as a visual collectable will enhance any movie geeks shelf. Amidst a few small imperfections, The Untold, In-Depth, Outrageously True Story of Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment delivers handsomely.



I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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