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Soundtrack review: Bloodsport (expanded release, Paul Hertzog, 1988, 2007)

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Soundtrack review: Bloodsport (expanded release, Paul Hertzog, 1988, 2007)


It’s the morning of Christmas Eve…It’s the beginning of a very special day, because at night comes the opening of the presents. You anticipate that moment and smile, remembering the many such evenings spent in the years before…you take the time to bask in reliving the joy of looking under the Christmas tree when you were a kid…and here you are again, not far from that sweet moment of the year. You are overcome with tingling anticipation and a wave of dear nostalgia for those days…for a simpler time, a more innocent time, and a time you will get to relieve a little later…
…this is the way I feel when I listen to the Bloodsport score. I am a big fan of the 80s. The movies and movie music of that decade are still my favorites. I love the flashiness, the simplicity, and the rough edges of the artistic endeavors of those times. Sure we get really complex, well rounded, well finished and better made offerings nowadays, and those are great as well. But every now and then, nothing beats a 80s buddy cop action movie or a magic synth or electronic score. Even the soundtrack songs were completely different back then, but equally awesome….I think everyone can name more movie soundtrack songs from that period than from the past 20 years.
Bloodsport has everything I just mentioned, and more. I won’t even get into what this movie means for my generation, or how much van Damme’s underdog heroics used to motivate many of us. Suffice to say he was my hero growing up. I saw this movie more times than I can remember and it still works. Bloodsport remains legendary to this day, artistic merits aside, and its music is a perfect match. Synth magic? Check ! Cheesy, brilliant 80s songs? Check, the two Stan Bush cues are powerful and marvelous…Quiet moments to allow us to cheer before our hero gets up and turns everything around? Check ! Bursts of notes that punctuate every punch or kick in the movie? Of course…Magnificent and sometimes chilling fighting cues? Check, just listen to “Second day” and “Paco vs Dux”! And all of these in a wonderful re-release by Perseverance Records that finally does justice to this score. I would take even more cues; I wish there were 90 minutes of score to be listened to. Like most of the things back then, the music is simple, but very effective.
My favorite cues from this magic score are the two long ones: the over 10 minutes long “Flashback/Martial science/Father and son/Training/Sword and tree” and the cue that accompanies the final fight “Finals/Powder/Triumph”. These two cues work so well in the movie that I only have to close my eyes to visualize the scenes and get into a certain mood. As a matter of fact, the latter cue is present in my marathon playlist, right at the time when I’m supposed to hit the proverbial wall that runners know so well. Hearing that cue does more than any energy bar, because I just hear the notes and feel those few seconds when van Damme’s character Frank Dux (temporarily blinded and on his way to being defeated by the vicious Chong Li), closes his eyes, concentrates, pulls himself together, gets over the pain, discomfort and desperation and realizes that he trained for this and he can do this, no matter what is thrown at him. The rest is history… I never hit the wall with this cue in my ears.
Paul Hertzog didn’t do a lot for film music; he only composed four film scores, and it’s been more than 20 years since his last one. But for me, the legacy of scores like Bloodsport and Kickboxer is more than enough. Bloodsport is one of my favorite score of the 80’s, and it’s right there in the chest of wonders I grew up with and would never want to let go….

My ratings:
Cue score: 91/100
Total minutes of excellence : 60 / 60
Score excellence: 100%
Replay value: 100%

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. John 27th May 2017

    HEAR HEAR!!!

    Couldn’t agree more with this review.
    Let’s be honest, Bloodsport is really a B-movie…acting-wise that is. The story, the fights, the (bordering on cheesy sometimes) music are totally ridiculously cool.
    I remember seeing the movie for the first time. I was 18 and hanging out at a friend’s/former classmate’s house…he lived there with his brother as their mom had emigrated back to the island of St. Martin, their birthplace. Two such young guys on their own in a big house….yup we had parties :D.
    Anyway….he said ‘Hey I got this really cool movie you have to see, all these big guys fighting like crazy’…..we sat down and watched Bloodsport. Damn cool.
    Later that year circumstance would have it I started living together with my girl, later wife, later still ex-wife. And somebody had made me a vhs copy of Bloodsport, so I watched the movie many times. And watching it alone, like most movies, makes you see things better. This is a classic movie, indeed the best van Damme has delivered. It’s B-movie perfection with elements most AAA movies don’t even come close to. Of course later I got it on dvd. With a few exceptions like Rocky, The Fountain and Once upon a time in the west, I’m not much into soundtracks on themselves….most of the time that music is so interwoven with the movie images I have to see and hear it whole to really appreciate it….like the endings of Gladiator and Braveheart for example, music and images working together perfectly to deliver a gutpunch. But Bloodsport’s music is one of those too. Finally a couple of months ago I came across the soundtrack on Discogs and ordered it…..it’s playing now….glorious!!!!
    By hearing the music I know exactly where we are in the movie….I see van Damme’s triple leg swing at Chung-Li through the music at the exact moment. How I love this movie and music. And to share it with my now 18 year son….having watched Bloodsport together. To him van Damme was kind of a joke, he sees him now, sometimes reads something about him, an older action star. He must have seen one of his lesser movies……ok son, just watch this, his breakthrough movie :). He loved it.
    Oh man, almost 30 years ago since I first watched it. Classic!

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 27th May 2017

      Oh wow. Thank you for this story! the movie means so much to me as well and this is it’s magic and appeal that still 30 years later it can bring joy and inspire even if it’s a B-movie. And the music fits perfectly. Thank you again for this story and sharing what Blood sport means to you!

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