Gymkata


1h 30m 1985
Gymkata

Brief Synopsis

A champion gymnast competes to win the U.S. a strategic missile site.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Adventure
Martial Arts
Release Date
1985
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Distribution Company
MGM Distribution Company; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m

Synopsis

Jonathan Cabot, the son of a Special Intelligence Agency operative, is approached by the agency about going to the Middle Eastern country of Parmistan where all foreigners are forced to compete in a high-stakes contest known as "the Game." The Game consists of an endurance race in which foreigners are chased by local warriors. Cabot's father participated in the Game and never returned. The winner is granted one wish, and Cabot agrees to help the agency and use his wish to install a United States early warning device to prevent nuclear attacks.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Adventure
Martial Arts
Release Date
1985
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Distribution Company
MGM Distribution Company; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m

Articles

Gymkata -


The history of Hollywood is filled with athletes turned actors. Bruce Jenner, Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Jim Brown, Alex Karras, Carl Weathers, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, John Cena... the list goes on and on. In 1985, moviegoers were treated (if that's the correct word) to an athlete movie vehicle of a very different kind with Gymkata (1985), an MGM release tailored around Florida-born gymnast Kurt Thomas.

A winner of multiple gold medals at the World Gymnastics Championships, Thomas became an NCAA superstar at Indiana State University and joined the United States Olympic teams at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. However, by the time his status as America's preeminent gymnast was established (including two moves named after him, the Thomas Flair and the Thomas Salto), he was denied what many considered his surefire gold medal in 1980 when the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow (as a protest to the country's invasion of Afghanistan).

This setback had a profound effect on Thomas, who funneled the energy of this lost dream into other endeavors including the traveling Kurt Thomas Gymnastics America show, a gymnastics school (which still exists in Texas), a contract with Sea World, and an on-and-off gig as an ABC commentator. At this point the time seemed ripe for Thomas to take a shot at movies in what would be his one and only star role as - what else? - a champion gymnast.

Very loosely based on a 1958 espionage/action novel by Dan Tyler Moore called The Terrible Game (the subject of several failed previous adaptation attempts including one starring Rock Hudson), Gymkata follows the action-packed exploits of Jonathan Cabot, who is approached by a shadowy government agency to take part in the Game, a deadly competition in the country of Parmistan. A kidnapped princess and the mystery of Jonathan's missing father figure in the competition, which Cabot hopes to win so America can install a nuclear-deterring satellite monitoring system in the country.

In case you didn't surmise it already, the trailers for the film accentuated that the film would present a new kind of action entertainment in the form of "gymkata," a combination of gymnastics and karate (with convenient gymnast-friendly equipment and powder turning up in several major confrontations). The film was directed by Robert Clouse, most famous for helming Enter the Dragon (1973) and salvaging a releasable product out of the remnants of Bruce Lee's final film, Game of Death (1978). His proficiency with the demands of intricate action sequences (usually involving martial arts) and international casts kept Clouse busy for years after his impressive debut feature, Darker Than Amber (1970), with other highlights including Black Belt Jones (1974), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), The Amsterdam Kill (1977), the killer dog favorite The Pack (1977), the early Jackie Chan American production Battle Creek Brawl (1980), and the Golden Harvest rat attack horror film, Deadly Eyes (1982). Gymkata actually received quite a bit of Japanese financing, so martial arts regular Tadashi Yamashita, star of Bronson Lee, Champion (1975) and The Octagon (1980), gets a juicy supporting role as an all-knowing trainer. This being a Clouse film, you can also spot a few of his regulars in the cast including Sonny (aka Clarence) Barnes in the last of his five collaborations with the director, also including Force: Five (1981), and actor Richard Norton, who appeared in that film as well. Perhaps the most surprising face in the cast is scene-stealing character actor Buck Kartalian, who's best known as Julius in Planet of the Apes (1968) but enjoys a mind-boggling filmography ranging from Michael Bay's The Rock (1996) to softcore Harry Novak fare like Please Don't Eat My Mother! (1973).

Unfortunately movie stardom would prove to be elusive for Thomas, who suffered a number of personal setbacks after the film's release including a scorched-earth divorce from his second wife, a bankruptcy, and a protracted legal battle over battery charges he filed after a bloody altercation in a nightclub bathroom involving a college linebacker. By the time this film came out, another Olympics had passed in 1984 with the U.S. gymnastics team taking home the gold medal; another star was born with multiple medal winner Mitch Gaylord, who made his own bid for movie stardom with American Anthem in 1986. However, that film neglected to feature any impalements, horseback chases, or fights to the death, which could account for why it doesn't enjoy the giddy cult following that Gymkata still maintains to this day.

By Nathaniel Thompson
Gymkata -

Gymkata -

The history of Hollywood is filled with athletes turned actors. Bruce Jenner, Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Jim Brown, Alex Karras, Carl Weathers, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, John Cena... the list goes on and on. In 1985, moviegoers were treated (if that's the correct word) to an athlete movie vehicle of a very different kind with Gymkata (1985), an MGM release tailored around Florida-born gymnast Kurt Thomas. A winner of multiple gold medals at the World Gymnastics Championships, Thomas became an NCAA superstar at Indiana State University and joined the United States Olympic teams at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. However, by the time his status as America's preeminent gymnast was established (including two moves named after him, the Thomas Flair and the Thomas Salto), he was denied what many considered his surefire gold medal in 1980 when the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow (as a protest to the country's invasion of Afghanistan). This setback had a profound effect on Thomas, who funneled the energy of this lost dream into other endeavors including the traveling Kurt Thomas Gymnastics America show, a gymnastics school (which still exists in Texas), a contract with Sea World, and an on-and-off gig as an ABC commentator. At this point the time seemed ripe for Thomas to take a shot at movies in what would be his one and only star role as - what else? - a champion gymnast. Very loosely based on a 1958 espionage/action novel by Dan Tyler Moore called The Terrible Game (the subject of several failed previous adaptation attempts including one starring Rock Hudson), Gymkata follows the action-packed exploits of Jonathan Cabot, who is approached by a shadowy government agency to take part in the Game, a deadly competition in the country of Parmistan. A kidnapped princess and the mystery of Jonathan's missing father figure in the competition, which Cabot hopes to win so America can install a nuclear-deterring satellite monitoring system in the country. In case you didn't surmise it already, the trailers for the film accentuated that the film would present a new kind of action entertainment in the form of "gymkata," a combination of gymnastics and karate (with convenient gymnast-friendly equipment and powder turning up in several major confrontations). The film was directed by Robert Clouse, most famous for helming Enter the Dragon (1973) and salvaging a releasable product out of the remnants of Bruce Lee's final film, Game of Death (1978). His proficiency with the demands of intricate action sequences (usually involving martial arts) and international casts kept Clouse busy for years after his impressive debut feature, Darker Than Amber (1970), with other highlights including Black Belt Jones (1974), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), The Amsterdam Kill (1977), the killer dog favorite The Pack (1977), the early Jackie Chan American production Battle Creek Brawl (1980), and the Golden Harvest rat attack horror film, Deadly Eyes (1982). Gymkata actually received quite a bit of Japanese financing, so martial arts regular Tadashi Yamashita, star of Bronson Lee, Champion (1975) and The Octagon (1980), gets a juicy supporting role as an all-knowing trainer. This being a Clouse film, you can also spot a few of his regulars in the cast including Sonny (aka Clarence) Barnes in the last of his five collaborations with the director, also including Force: Five (1981), and actor Richard Norton, who appeared in that film as well. Perhaps the most surprising face in the cast is scene-stealing character actor Buck Kartalian, who's best known as Julius in Planet of the Apes (1968) but enjoys a mind-boggling filmography ranging from Michael Bay's The Rock (1996) to softcore Harry Novak fare like Please Don't Eat My Mother! (1973). Unfortunately movie stardom would prove to be elusive for Thomas, who suffered a number of personal setbacks after the film's release including a scorched-earth divorce from his second wife, a bankruptcy, and a protracted legal battle over battery charges he filed after a bloody altercation in a nightclub bathroom involving a college linebacker. By the time this film came out, another Olympics had passed in 1984 with the U.S. gymnastics team taking home the gold medal; another star was born with multiple medal winner Mitch Gaylord, who made his own bid for movie stardom with American Anthem in 1986. However, that film neglected to feature any impalements, horseback chases, or fights to the death, which could account for why it doesn't enjoy the giddy cult following that Gymkata still maintains to this day. By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring May 3, 1985

Began shooting November 15, l984.

Released in United States Spring May 3, 1985