This is the first of a planned regular series of posts about obscure bits of pop culture from the 1980s. I came to adulthood just as the 80s began, so the movies, music, and television shows of that decade are near and dear to me in many ways.

For the first installment of the series, I present Gymkata. By all accounts, this was a horrid movie. Released in 1985, it stars former U.S. Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas as an Olympic gymnast who gets recruited by a spy agency for a dangerous mission in fictional foreign nation. The title, Gymkata, is supposed to be a fighting style combining elements of gymnastics and karate.

I saw this movie when it came to HBO in 1986. I suppose that’s how most people saw it, because it only grossed between five and six million dollars during its theatrical release.

Like many terrible movies, Gymkata also had some redeeming qualities. For me, the scene that I will always remember is where Thomas’ character has to pass through a village inhabited by insane, cannibalistic killers. Inexplicably (and fortunately for a gymnast like Thomas), the village has a pommel horse in the village square. While the scene’s premise is ridiculous, the fighting action is actually pretty cool – if I had skills on the pommel horse, what could be better than using those skills to fight off crazed killers?

The sound effects are obviously fake and the villagers idiots for not simply dogpiling Thomas, but the scene is well choreographed and the music is a plus as well.

Gymkata should be available on Netflix, but if not, I did see that the full version is available somewhere on YouTube as well.

Feel free to comment below about your impressions of this movie or other 1980s nostalgia.