Friday, June 12, 2020

R.I.P. Kurt Thomas

R.I.P. Kurt Thomas, who died this week at the much-too-young age of 64. Thomas was a male gymnast extraordinaire, who set the record for most medals won (six) at a single event at the 1979 World Championship.

Thomas was all set to compete in the 1980 Olympics, but was robbed of the chance when President Ronald Reagan decided to boycott the Games that year. By the time 1984 rolled around, Thomas had become a professional and was barred from any further Olympics. Darn.

He invented two brand new moves— the Thomas Flair and the Thomas Salto— which quickly became a standard part of every gymnast's repertoire.

Thomas attended Indiana State University around the same time I did, and I remember he was a HUGE celebrity in my home town.

Of course Kurt Thomas' crowning achievement was his starring role in the 1985 action film Gymkata, his first— and only— foray into Hollywood.

If you've not seen the film, it's definitely worth a look. The US Government wants to build a missile launch site in the tiny country of Parmistan (try finding THAT on a map!). In order to do so, they need a champion who can win "The Game"— a brutal endurance contest in which losing means literal death. The winner of The Game is granted any wish.

Johnathan Cabot (played by Kurt Thomas) is a gymnast (natch!) who's recruited by the US to infiltrate Parmistan and enter The Game. If he wins, his wish will be to allow the US to build their missile base, and everyone will be happy.

If that synopsis seems nonsensical to you, know that it's far more coherent than the actual movie!

Gymkata was released by MGM, and was a blatant attempt to cash in on Thomas' fame. Apparently the producers thought it was a simple matter to take his gymnastic skills and parlay them into an action movie.

Thomas spends a good part of the film swinging from conveniently— and bafflingly— placed parallel bars around the city, which allow him to face-kick the armies of baddies chasing after him.

The highlight of the film is when Johnathan finds himself in Crazytown, surrounded by hundreds of insane, bloodthirsty citizens. Luckily for him he inexplicably finds a pommel horse in the middle of the town square, and twirls around on it and knocks out the inhabitants— who are all polite enough to wait their turn and attack him one at a time.

Naturally Johnathan manages to survive, wins The Game, finds the father he thought was dead, gets the girl, has his wish granted and the US gets their missile base. A happy ending all around!

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