10 Kick-Ass Facts About Bloodsport

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Kumite! Kumite! Kumite! Thirty years ago today, Jean-Claude Van Damme got his big break with the release of Bloodsport, the martial arts classic from Cannon Films, the fine purveyors of gloriously cheesy schlock. The company and the actor perhaps hit their collective peak with the movie, which introduced the world to the Muscles from Brussels. Read on to find out how well you know the stranger-than-fiction story behind Bloodsport.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY ... MAYBE.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Bloodsport is allegedly inspired by the real-life exploits of martial artist Frank Dux (pronounced “dukes”). His story was originally told in a Black Belt Magazine article, which chronicled claims that Dux—who also supposedly took part in covert missions in Southeast Asia for the CIA in the 1980s—infiltrated a secretive, no-holds-barred martial arts tournament known as the “Kumite” to take down the criminal organization that oversaw the fight.

Dux became the first American champion of the tournament, which took place in cities around the world every five years and gathered the world’s top fighters in a variety of styles to determine who reigned supreme. Or not.

While the real-life Dux claims the Kumite and his record are fact, some say his backstory about the Kumite and the CIA is completely fabricated. (Even the Black Belt piece came with a warning: “Although there is no convenient way to verify each and every detail connected with this story, the editors have verified enough of the basic facts to feel confident in publishing it. But since we are not at liberty to share the corroborating evidence with the public, we acknowledge that each reader may have a different idea of what the facts permit him to believe.”) On May 1, 1988, more than two months after Bloodsport hit theaters, the Los Angeles Times published an exposé calling into question the majority of Dux’s claims.

2. THE WRITER KNEW IT WAS BASED ON A LIE, BUT WANTED TO MAKE A MOVIE ANYWAY.

Screenwriter Sheldon Lettich first met the real-life Dux when his agent needed help cutting down Dux’s unpublished Vietnam War novel, The Last Rainbow. Lettich recalled in an interview with /Film that “...we just kind of hit it off.” He later told website AsianMoviePulse.com, “Frank told me a lot of tall tales, most of which turned out to be bullshit,” yet “his stories about participating in this so-called ‘Kumite’ event sounded like a great idea for a movie."

Eventually Lettich’s own screenwriting credits on the Sylvester Stallone threequel Rambo III got him a meeting with producer Mark DiSalle, who pitched Lettich the idea for a movie called Kickboxer (another martial arts movie that would eventually also star Jean-Claude Van Damme). Lettich countered with a movie pitching Dux’s supposed life story, causing DiSalle to move forward with that film first.

3. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF STORIES ABOUT HOW JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME LANDED THE LEAD.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Van Damme, who’s real name is Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg, moved to Los Angeles from his native Belgium in the early 1980s, only to hold a series of short-term, menial jobs—including driving a limo, delivering pizzas, and working in a carpet factory—with the hopes of using his martial arts talent to break into the movie business. The young Van Damme allegedly spotted Cannon Films head Menahem Golan outside a restaurant, and literally showed off his moves by doing his signature high kick in front of Golan’s face.

Golan reportedly hired Van Damme for Bloodsport on the spot for a $25,000 contract. Dux disputes the high-flying kick story, saying it was Lettich who first saw the potential of the Belgian’s high kicks in the 1986 low-budget karate film No Retreat, No Surrender. Van Damme was also an extra in previous Cannon films like Breakin’ and Missing in Action.

In a hilarious 1987 interview promoting Bloodsport, in which Van Damme insists the interviewer train with him while she conducts her questions, the Muscles from Brussels says he got the gig by calling Cannon Films and lying by saying he was a personal friend that had a meeting with Golan. The exec’s curiosity was piqued, and Van Damme said, “I did my split, I showed my muscles, I said ‘I’m the best, and I’m not too expensive right now,’” which got him the part.

Fun fact: Van Damme’s original big break was supposed to be as the title monster in the 1987 film Predator, but he ended up being fired from the movie because he complained about the original monster suit’s restrictive nature and the film’s lack of martial arts.

4. DUX CLAIMED HE WROTE THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

Dux said the idea for Bloodsport was taken from an original script he wrote called “Enter the Ninja” (not to be confused by the other Cannon Films, Menahem Golan-directed karate classic Enter the Ninja), written under the pseudonym “Benjamin Wolf.”

According to Dux, Lettich didn’t like the script—which also allegedly came with programs from the ‘real’ Kumite and actual fight footage provided by Dux—though Lettich claimed “there was no script prior to the Bloodsport script.”

5. THE STUDIO’S FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY FRANK DUX WAS TOO TALL.

The character of Frank Dux was originally supposed to be played by actor Michael Dudikoff, who previously appeared in Cannon schlock like American Ninja, Avenging Force, and Platoon Leader. The filmmakers behind Bloodsport apparently passed on Dudikoff because the 6’2” actor was too tall.

6. THE COSTUMES WERE ALL WRONG.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Van Damme’s character was originally outfitted for his fight scenes in silk pajamas the filmmakers bought locally in Hong Kong, where the movie was shot, but the real-life Dux found them to be unrealistic, based on his alleged experience in the Kumite. There was no extra money in the budget to revamp the uniforms, so Dux made himself the de-facto costume designer and paid out of pocket to have his wife buy uniforms in the United States to send to China for the fighters in the film.

“The costumes were all wrong at first,” Dux told BuzzFeed in 2013, recounting how he modified his onscreen persona’s look for his final fight. “So finally, I just decided to make my own damn uniform by essentially modifying bicycle shorts.”

7. THERE WERE NO STUNT PEOPLE.

While the movie is predominantly made up of actors like Van Damme and actress Leah Ayres, the production wanted the Kumite to be as authentic as possible. So they hired real-life martial artists to fight alongside Van Damme. For instance, Paulo Tocha, who plays the Muay Thai fighter Paco, is a real-life Muay Thai champion, and one of the first westerners to train in the martial art.

Michel Qissi, who played kickboxer Suan Paredes, was a fellow martial artist and friend of Van Damme’s who trained at the same Shotokan Karate dojo with him in Belgium. Qissi followed Van Damme to Los Angeles and found himself in a bit part in Bloodsport and eventually played the villain, Tong Po, in Kickboxer.

8. JCVD RE-EDITED THE MOVIE HIMSELF TO GET IT RELEASED.

The movie was shelved for two years after filming was completed because Golan didn’t like it. Lettich told /Film that the first cut of the film was “really bad,” and that Golan told him, “I’m not gonna release it in theaters. That movie’s terrible; I’m putting it straight to video.” But instead of letting it languish further, Golan let in-house editor Michael J. Duthie edit the movie around the fights, which were then edited by Van Damme himself.

9. THE MOVIE IS ALMOST SINGLE-HANDEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATION OF THE MORTAL KOMBAT VIDEO GAME.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

The bloody fighting game Mortal Kombat, first released in 1992, took more than a few cues from Bloodsport beyond the winner-take-all martial arts tournament conceit.

Developers were initially asked to create a game based on the Van Damme movie Universal Soldier, but the deal fell through, forcing the developers to scramble to not lose their work. Instead, they capitalized on the Van Damme persona by creating the character Johnny Cage (note the same initials), a conceited Hollywood actor-type whose signature move was a split and whose spandex and sash costume is exactly the same as Van Damme’s in Bloodsport.

Fun fact: The arcade game Frank and Ray Jackson (Donald GIbb) play in the lobby of the hotel is the 1984 pioneering fighting game “Karate Champ.” You can now download the game and play it on your iPhone.

10. VAN DAMME REPORTEDLY LIKED THE MUSIC MORE THAN HE LIKED THE MOVIE.

Musician Stan Bush—the guy behind memorably cheesy 1980s movie soundtrack tunes like “The Touch” from 1986’s Transformers: The Movie—created two songs for the Bloodsport soundtrack: “Fight to Survive” and “On My Own—Alone.” (He’d also go on to write three songs for Van Damme’s Kickboxer: "Never Surrender," "Streets of Siam," and "Fight for Love.")

Years after the movie was released, Bush convinced bouncers to let the then-super-famous Van Damme and his entourage into a packed venue where the musician was playing. When Van Damme recognized the musician from his work on Bloodsport, he allegedly said, “The music was better than the movie!"

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

FrontierBundles.com
FrontierBundles.com

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, FrontierBundles.com chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

FrontierBundles.com

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.