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"It's The Only Way To Survive"

                        Americana Review


Kurt Thomas, Tetchi Abayani ,Richard Norton, Conan Lee, John Barrett

Directed By: Robert Clouse  -1985


Surely one of the most bizarre premises for a film ever, Gymkata has become something of a cult oddity for its tale of an Olympic gymnast (played by real-life gymnast Kurt Thomas in his first, and last, starring role) who is enlisted by some shady government organization to infiltrate the fictitious Eastern European country of Parmistan and take part in 'The Game' and win. You see, the winner of 'The Game' gets one wish granted, and the organization want to set up a satellite station in Parmistan as part of the US 'Star Wars' project. The question of why they cant just send in the military is raised but never really answered... Also unanswered is the question of why the US would want to send a gymnast on such a dangerous mission rather than a fully-trained super-soldier..

Anyway, after being trained by Tadashi Yamashita of American Ninja fame (an Olympic gymnast being taught how to walk on his hands?) and witnessing his obligatory display of sickle-whirling skill, our hero meets his guide/love interest and sets off to take part in 'The Game'. A tradition going back 1000 years, The Game is a cross-country gauntlet, where competitors must cross ravines, climb sheer cliff walls and pass through a 'Village of Crazies', whilst all the time being under attack by the evil head of the military Zamir (played by Richard "burn, you bastard" Norton) and his army of ninja-like soldiers.

Also among the competitors are Hao, played by Conan Lee (completely wasted in his role here), Gomez, played by John Barret (one of my favorite martial arts actors and star of films such as American Kickboxer and To the Death), and Thorg, played by the guy who played the big, dumb blond bodyguard in Shootfighter - each attempting to win The Game for their own respective countries. Who wins? Who dies? Not hard to guess, but I'm not telling you!

Although this film is without a doubt completely nuts, it is also highly entertaining and never boring. The characters are all wafer-thin, with no back-story or motivation, yet that doesn't matter either - the good guys are clean-cut and likable and the bad guys are pure evil. What more do you want! The film made little sense in a lot of ways - the random needless gymnastics for the sake of it, the presence of randomly placed gymnastic equipment in the middle of nowhere, the entire storyline - but i was hooked throughout.

The actual 'game' itself is quite exciting and the director (Robert Clouse, who directed Enter the Dragon) does an excellent job of portraying the isolated feeling of a foreigner stranded in an uncultured backwater country. Also, the 'Village of the Crazies' part of the film is genuinely unnerving and creepy, and heart-pounding in its suspense, and shocking in its sudden, unexpected scenes of graphic violence.

Overall, a film admittedly with a daft storyline, but which at its heart is an exciting, tense, watchable action film that doesn't take itself too seriously. In my opinion, one of the best American martial arts films of the early '80s.

 Review Date : 16th June 2008 - IMDb

Reviewed By: theflyingninja

*theflyingninja is a avid martial arts film fan and has done many reviews over the last few years.All of which have appeared on the IMDb site.

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                                           Cast and Credits
  • Jonathan Cabot - Kurt Thomas
  • Princess Rubali - Tetchie Agbayani
  • Zamir - Richard Norton
  • Paley - Edward Bell
  • Gomez - John Barrett
  • Hao - Conan Lee
  • Thorg - Bob Schott
  • The Kahn - Buck Kartalian
  • Colonel Cabot - Eric Lawson



Directed by Robert Clouse
Produced by Rebecca Poole,
Fred Weintraub
Written by Charles Robert Carner,
Dan Tyler Moore (story)
Starring Kurt Thomas
Tetchie Agbayani

Richard Norton
Music by Alfi Kabiljo
Cinematography Godfrey A. Godar
Editing by Robert A. Ferretti
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer




Kurt Thomas a man versed in GYMKATA


Kurt Thoams and Richard Norton (above)

What other film has a med-evil town and Ninja's  ?

Trust them to have a Gym horse in the center of Town , Lucky Me!


Kurt Thoams as Jonathan Cabot confronts the Ninja's

Richard Norton as Zamir  and some Ninja's of Course



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