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GYMKATA (director: Robert Clouse; screenwriters: Charles Robert Carner/from the novel “The Terrible Game” by Dan Tyler Moore; cinematographer: Godfrey A. Godar; editor: Robert A. Ferretti; music: Alfi Kabiljo; cast: Kurt Thomas (Jonathan Cabot), Edward Bell (Paley), Richard Norton (Zamir), Tetchie Agbayani (Princess Rubali), Conan Lee (Hao), John Barrett (Gomez), Buck Kartalian (The Khan), Eric Lawson (Colonel Cabot), Bob Schott (Thorg), Z. Pokupec (Mackle); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Fred Weintraub; Warner Home Video; 1985)

Must be seen to be believed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Former US Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas stars in this ridiculous and lamely acted patriotic escapist martial arts adventure Z-film, one that Ed Wood Jr. would probably applaud. Director Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon”/”Golden Needles”/”Darker Than Amber“) journeys to Yugoslavia (Why not!) to shoot this low-budget amateurish epic that’s based onthe novel “The Terrible Game” by Dan Tyler Moore. It’s written without drama, with trite dialogue by Charles Robert Carner, and a script that manages to stay out of the way of all the ninja battle scenes. The fight scenes combine martial arts with Kurt’s talents as a gymnast–this new fighting skill is called Gymkata. In one highlight Gymkata fight scene, Kurt takes on a remote walled-off town of crazies attacking him with pitchforks and other farm tools while he is using to his best advantage a pommel-horse. If that scene doesn’t grab your attention, this bad movie is probably not going to get a laugh out of you it certainly deserves.

The goofy plot centers around the athletic American special agent Jonathan Cabot (Kurt Thomas), the son of a former MIA agent sent previously on the same mission, being sent by his government to the fictional Eastern European monarchy of Parmistan, near the Caspian sea, in order to secure for his country a first alert, in case of a nuclear attack, Star Wars spy satellite base. To do this Jonathan must be the first outsider in 900 hundred years to win the traditional endurance race Game (something like that old chestnut of The Most Dangerous Game), as the winner is granted his one request by the ruling Khan (Buck Kartalian).

Helping the American train is special agent Paley (Edward Bell) and Princess Rubali (Tetchie Agbayani, former Miss Philippines), the daughter of King Khan. The Princess warns the American not to trust anyone, and is eager to help because she wants to stop her father’s evil political adviser Zamir (Richard Norton) from overthrowing her dad in a coup and forcing her to marry him.

How Jonathan wins the endurance Game and the Princess, kills maybe a thousand or so ninja foes armed with bows and spears while under Zamir’s control, and accomplishes his government mission, is something that must be seen to be believed.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”