Watch With Mutter ... No. 1: Gymkata!

Everyone in the Glasgow of Curry brotherhood loves curry – that's a given. And we know everyone in the Glasgow of Curry brotherhood loves music, which is why The Tramp regularly posts about spicy music tracks that have tickled his radar in Jukebox Puri. But pretty much everyone in the Glasgow of Curry brotherhood loves movies too, so isn't it about time we had a regular posting slot dedicated to cinema?

Yes. Yes it is. But in true TATTGOC style, Watch With Mutter will not linger on the famous or popular. Nay, nay and thrice nay. It will burrow beneath the surface, to throw a spotlight on films that are clearly underappreciated and yet still somehow awesome. You may not have heard of them, but once you watch them you'll wonder how you ever did without. They won't all be action films but ... well, actually, who are we kidding? They're probably all going to be action films. But we guarantee that, in parts, they will be – as the French say – formidable. And if our intention is to set the bar high, then what better film to start off with than ...

Gymkata (1985)

Director: Robert Clouse

Starring: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Buck Kartalian, Richard Norton

Tagline: The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate!

Holy jamoley! Both of our paternal Tramps pride themselves on their knowledge of 1970s-90s action cinema ... and yet somehow, this gem passed them by. Gymkata is a film literally built around Kurt Thomas (left) a young, proudly mulleted, extremely talented American gymnast who was denied the chance to vie for a gold medal when the US boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games. Judging by his kinetic performance, Thomas clearly had gymnastic talent to burn. And he deserves some kind of medal for allying himself with this demented movie, where the main plotline thunders toward the proud country of Parmistan, which must be somewhere near Russia since the US government are desperate to establish a "satellite station" there to monitor what the hell is going on with nuclear shenanigans in that region. There is only one small problem. For 900 years, the ultimate ruler of Parmistan, the Khan, has insisted than any visitor to his country compete in the The Game – a deadly version of the assault course from the Krypton Factor, with solemn, flag-wielding ninjas for line judges, and a Chuck Norris-wannabe referee who seems happy to break the rules by embedding arrows in any contestants who seem particularly talented. Because anyone who finishes The Game is granted a "request", which could probably be boiled down to: "Back off ... I am your new king."

Ho boy. If that seems too much to take in, Gymkata wastes no time in setting up the plot. Within the first ten minutes, our hero Jonathan Cabot (Kurt Thomas) – whose dad died while competing in The Game – is recruited by the SIA (Special Intelligence Agency) to penetrate Parmistan. The film essentially kicks off with a full-on, Rocky-style training montage, where various stern-but-fair mentors – including an attractive Parmistan princess who has first-hand knowledge of the Total Wipeout-style gauntlet – gradually mould our lithe, spunky hero into a precision-engineered gymnastic machine who can, eventually, walk up a set of wooden stairs on his hands in such a way that the cinema audience have no choice but to focus on his package. (Gymkata plays annually in a double-feature with Top Gun at the Wish You Were Queer Film Festival in California, and it's easy to see why.)

After a prolonged stop-off in some unnamed country on the coast of the Caspian Sea, which sees Cabot – in a particularly impressive red jumper – fight off various machine-gun-wielding baddies in a scruffy city which features parallel bars as architectural features in shady alleys, we finally make it to Parmistan. Imagine a cross between The Running Man and A Knight's Tale and you'll have some idea of the feudal nature of this savage land, where the Kahn – a guy who looks suspiciously like Mel Brooks (above) – rules with an iron fist, even while the brooding Chuck Norrisalike guy plots to wrest control of the country by marrying the princess. It's testament to the weird power of this film that just the image of a (pre-chalked!) stone-carved pommel horse standing in the middle of a rustic town square can cause a cheer to erupt from the viewer's breast, since they know that some sweet gymnastical combat must only be mere seconds away.

Can our hero Cabot survive the deadly tournament? Will we eventually see the town populated entirely by mad people that all the characters discuss in hushed, fearful tones? Did Robert Clouse also direct Enter The Dragon, despite being deaf? Discover the answers to all these questions and more by experiencing Gymkata yourself. The whole movie has been chopped up and posted on YouTube, and you can begin your journey here. With the awesome training montage being at the start, it's worth sinking a little time into this one ...

What do you think of Gymkata? And what film should be featured in the next Watch With Mutter? Let us know in the comments below ... and don't suggest The Courier Of Death since we reckon that's a definite


hyperphelan said...

I remember watching Gymkata as a wee man and being horribly let down by the lack of ninjas, who were falsely advertised on the video box. I strongly feel that your next Watch With Mutter selection should be The Park Is Mine, starring a youngish Tommy Lee Jones. That is all.

Alison said...

Have you watched Nine and a Half Ninjas yet?

Will said...

I too watched this years ago, when late night ITV was awesome!! Was loved by my friend who was UK Karate champion back in the early 90's - so thats a recomendation. All I remember was lots of slo-mo and enjoying it a lot! Indeed I have been trying to find a copy on and off for years, but you have alerted me to the fact that I was spelling it wrong - thanks trampy!!