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Cinematic Association: The Dolph Dilemma

While writing an article about Olympics-related movies, I recently discovered a gem. Did you know that Dolph Lundgren starred in a fantastically cheesy movie called ‘Pentathlon’? He plays a German Olympic athlete who defects to the United States and causes an international incident of epic B-movie proportions. After finding this, I had to spend the next 90 minutes watching ‘Pentathlon’ in ten terribly recorded segments on YouTube. This discovery gave me the idea for a blog topic I’ll call Cinematic Association, which will be a free-flowing stream of ideas, thoughts and general cinematic insanity.

Childhood Nightmares: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!

dolph 1 300x161 Cinematic Association: The Dolph DilemmaI was just a kid when I saw the towering Lundgren for the first time. I had no idea that people could have so many muscles bulging beneath their skin. When he stood next to Rocky Balboa and uttered the words, “I will break you,” I genuinely felt terrified for my beloved fictional boxing hero. As adults, we’re used to the “Everything turns out great in the end” formula, but as children, it’s easy to forget that most movies have happy endings. When Rocky stepped into the ring with Ivan Drago, I trembled. Drago had just killed Apollo Creed. I remember this as the single most affecting movie plot twist of my young movie-watching life. Apollo Creed was dead. How could that be? Good guys didn’t die like that! Drago wasn’t a normal bad guy; he was a monster!

Naturally, I thought the shorter, outmatched-in-every-way Rocky was doomed. I had no idea how he’d even hit Drago in the face. I kept picturing a comical fight in which Rocky had to jump up like Little Mac just to hit Drago’s head – a thought that always ended in tragedy. Drago was an imposing figure. Lundgren’s murderous face haunted my dreams.

‘Rocky IV’ was Lundgren’s second movie. After that, he went on to star in one awesomely terrible action flick after another. His filmography reads like a list of the world’s greatest direct-to-video hits. Still, there’s something about Dolph. Whenever he’s in a movie, it inspires equal parts terror and “Aww, isn’t it cute to see him in something again?” thoughts. Dolph is a cinematic enigma.

Real-Life Super Villain?

Fun Dolph Fact: Did you know that Lundgren is not only built like a steroid-pumped super villain, but he’s as smart as one too? He has a Master’s degree in chemistry and received a scholarship to MIT. It’s hard to imagine anyone as visibly imposing as Dolph Lundgren playing the part of a chemist, crushing beakers simply because they come into contact with his biceps. Not only is he terrifyingly smart, he’s also a world class karate competitor. There’s a reason why he always played the big, dumb, Apollo-Creed-killing oaf. If he ever tried to play a movie character that big, that deadly, and that smart, we’d simply laugh and say, “Yeah, that’s believable! Psssh!” He’s a real-life James Bond villain.

Dolph’s DTV Ditty: Filmography

As I got to thinking about Dolph Lundgren’s impact on my young life, I started to think about his film career too. According to IMDb, he’s been in 50 movies (five of those are listed in various states of production) and one television episode. Yet even with all of those films, he’s been in only a handful of recognizable titles, such as ‘In the Name of the King’, ‘The Expendables’ or ‘Universal Soldier’. The rest of his movies have great direct-to-video names like ‘Silent Trigger’, ‘Jill the Ripper’ or ‘Fat Slags’ (a movie that I’m determined to see; the title is too great to turn down, and I’m dying to see what a movie like this does with a relative genius).

I haven’t seen a third of the Dolph Lundgren movies listed on IMDb, and I plan to rectify that, but I’m a little apprehensive. Hold that thought.

In order, these are top five Dolph Lundgren movies that I simply must see, along with their plot synopses (none of which I made up, but I wish I had):

5. ‘Fat Slags’

dolph 21 300x173 Cinematic Association: The Dolph DilemmaSynopsis: ‘Fat Slags’ charts the rise and fall of our eponymous heroines, who are unrepentantly vulgar and crass. Leaving their hometown of Fulchester in the North of England, Sandra and Tracey head for the bright lights of London, shagging and boozing their way to fame and fortune. Sean Cooley, an internationally renowned billionaire, suffers a blow to the head, rendering him temporarily insane on the day. The Fat Slags arrive in London. Spotting them on a popular daytime TV chat show, he falls in love with their larger than life look and approach.

Why I Need to See It: Did I mention the part of billionaire Sean Cooley is played by Jerry O’Connell? Good golly, this movie is far too good to pass up. I’ve always wondered if actors keep home video copies of all the movies they’ve been in. Where do you think Jerry O’Connell keeps his copy of ‘Fat Slags’? If a man that starred in ‘Fat Slags’ can be married to Rebecca Romijn, I guess there’s hope for us all.

4. ‘Agent Red’

Synopsis: Captain Matt Hendricks (there aren’t many movies where you’ll see Lundgren have such a plain, American character name) and Dr. Linda Christian are locked in a submarine with Russian terrorists that threaten to launch a chemical virus on U.S. territory.

Why I Need to See It: A chemical virus is about to be launched at the U.S., and Dolph is the only one who can stop it. What are the odds that he defeats the entire terrorist plot with his brawn, while the film fails to take advantage of his real-life chemistry expertise?

3. ‘Bridge of Dragons’

Synopsis: The tough and cold mercenary Warchild…

Why I Need to See It: I stopped at “Warchild” because that’s all I need to know. Dolph Lundgren plays a mercenary named Warchild. Was there ever more reason to see a movie than that?

2. ‘The Minion’

dolph 4 300x215 Cinematic Association: The Dolph DilemmaSynopsis: New York, Christmas Eve, 1999. At the dawn of the new millennium, a subway construction crew unearths an eight hundred year-old Celtic skeleton and a mysterious key. News of the discovery reaches a Middle East monastery where the warrior monks known as the Knights Templar – an ancient sect entrusted to protect holy relics – choose their best pupil, Lukas (Lundgren) to face the diabolical threat.

Why I Need to See It: Now he’s a member of the Knights Templar? It’s too good to be true. This brings up another thought: At what point will Dolph Lundgren beat the crap out of Robert Langdon and his mullet? Soon, I hope.

1. ‘Jill the Ripper’

Synopsis: A tough guy goes undercover on a personal mission of vengeance into the hardcore world of S&M, to find out who’s responsible for the death of his brother.

Why I Need to See It: I can’t decide whether to be tremendously creeped-out or laugh out loud at the trailer for this hokey erotic thriller focused on S&M and leather-clad serial killers? Dolph, are you telling me that this was better than, you know, going into chemistry full-time and becoming the world’s most ripped scientific genius? You could’ve changed the world one periodic element at a time. Instead, you’re chasing down S&M killers in a movie about a dozen people have seen. (Make that a baker’s dozen once I get my hands on a copy.)

The Dolph Dilemma

dolph 6 230x300 Cinematic Association: The Dolph DilemmaHaving written over a 1,000 words on Dolph Lundgren, I find myself back at the beginning, thinking back on his appearance in ‘Rocky IV’. His physical presence scared me more than any horror movie ever could. His career started out so promisingly, by playing one of cinema’s most memorable villains, and then came the B-movie roles. Dolph never looked back.

Dozens of movies later, and Dolph is still wallowing around in movie obscurity hell. The question is: Will a marathon viewing of some of what I assume are his cruddiest movie roles ruin the commanding presence that Dolph Lundrgren held over me as Ivan Drago? Will his other terrible movies kill the Drago mystique? Will they render that great role as dead as Apollo?

16 comments

  1. This is a brilliant article, Aaron!! Had me laughing all the way through!

    “If a man that starred in ‘Fat Slags’ can be married to Rebecca Romijn, I guess there’s hope for us all.”
    => this should be everyone’s Facebook status.

  2. Alex

    I actually saw Pentathlon, if you can believe it. I’m not sure if it’s still up there, but for a while it was on Netflix Instant Streaming, even if it’s not yet available on DVD. It’s fine…. but it’s no Silent Trigger. Just look at the size of the gun ‘ol Dolph is brandishing on the cover. Those giant bullets? Hollow tips filled with pure testosterone. Oh yeah.

  3. Alex

    I had no idea that Dolph Lundgren has a Master’s Degree in Chemistry… but The Big Bang Theory guest spot almost writes itself.

  4. I forgot all about the movie version of Viz’s Fat Slags. I wasn’t a big fan of the comic. I do agree that Dolph in the Big Bang Theory would be brilliant

  5. Dolph is cool. Always thought it was a shame he didn’t get more good movies. Though I suppose his acting isn’t exactly top-tier… but then again, I also think his acting is often fine, like Arnie and even JCVD, but because of their accents, a lot of people confuse them with bad acting when in fact they’re no better or worse than many other ‘good’ actors.

    • Dolph’s accent is actually pretty fine! Especially compared to JCVD or Arnie. ‘Swenglish’ (as the Swedes call it) may contain some strange pronunciation, but nothing major.

      Although, I once read that Arnold uses a dialect coach nowadays to KEEP his Austrian accent intact. He has refined his English over the years, but his fans want to hear ‘Keep dat coowkie dawn’ (etc). May be a wild rumour, but I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, who doesn’t forget his own accent after 30+ years abroad?

      • Couldn’t blame him. He’s probably had to go so far the other way, with the politics and what-not. ;-) And who would want “Get to the Helicopter” rather than “Ged to da choppa!”

        Always amuses me when you get non-action fans who love to make sarcastic comments about “They can’t act. They always play themselves.” and talk about actors like Kevin Spacey or Daniel Day Lewis. They tend to forget there are two types of actors. Those who change for roles, and those who get roles because of who they are. Such as other barely-known actors like Bogart, Chuck, Jimmy Stewart or Christopher Walken…

        They’re famous because of how THEY played a part. You hire them because they’re THEM. Not because they’re chameleons. ;-)

      • EM

        My mother is a foreign-born non-native English speaker who has lived in America longer than I’ve been alive (i.e., over four decades). I can attest that her foreign accent in English, while still present, is less thick than it was in the early days. On the other hand, she has definitely become rusty in her native tongue. About seven years ago we went together on a trip to her homeland, and it took her at least a couple of days to get back into the general rhythm of speaking her native language. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to judge whether her native accent in her native language has deteriorated, though I wouldn’t be surprised.

        It can be difficult to deliberately downgrade one’s accent in a second language in which one has achieved some mastery—indeed, been striving to master. Once, while I was in Germany, some old frau came ranting and raving at me about some minor breach I had committed (sounds stereotypical, I know…). While I did know some German, I judged there was no way I could linguistically keep up with this crazed crone, and I figured it was probably useless to even try. So, I did what I sometimes do in foreign lands to avoid speaking to unpleasant people: I pretended not to know the local language. So, I decided to say the phrasebook classic „ich spreche kein Deutsch“ (“I don’t speak German”) in a purposely crummy accent. However, while it wasn’t my best, it still came out sounding fairly good. Well, no matter—I was already walking away as she continued to screech and shout hysterically (to be fair: she may have been simply completing a very long noun she had already begun to utter).

          • EM

            Portugal—the Azore Islands, specifically. Last year she and my stepfather went on a tour of the mainland. Later, when she was telling me about the trip, she said, “Fortunately, everyone [i.e., hotel personnel, waiters, shopkeepers, etc.] spoke English!” And I had to wonder—“fortunately” for whom? For her?!?

            Of course, my point was that I find enough plausibility in the Schwarzenegger rumor that I can’t automatically discount it as false.

  6. Aaron Peck
    Author

    What do you know. I write a post about Dolph Lundgren’s awesomely terrible action movies and what shows up on my doorstep for review a few days later? A generic looking, terrible action movie starring Dolph Lundgren of course.

    Can’t wait to put ‘One in the Chamber’ in.

  7. Love your review and especially the thoughts on Bridge of Dragons! :-))) I have watched all his movies except for the last two or three. May I recommend Men of War, Showdown in Little Tokyo and Red Scorpion which has just been released on a very good Bluray edition. These are my favorite Dolph movies. And a guest appearance on BBT would be fantastic! Who do we have to contact to pitch the idea?