Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jean-Claude Van Damme: Early and Uncredited Work (1984)

As is the case with most actors Jean-Claude spent the early years of his career in mostly uncredited bit parts, none of which I’ve seen in their entirety.  After watching some of his scenes on youtube I don’t really feel the need.

Barbarous Street (1984)

I found Waldo's stupid leaves tattoo!
Jean-Claude’s first feature film, in which he plays an extra in police arrival sequence.  I couldn’t even find a still image on google.  Although the entire film is available on youtube, it’s all in French with no subtitles.  I speak nary a word of French and the movie only has a 5.3 out of 10 on imdb.  Needless to say I didn’t feel the need to Where’s Waldo the crap out of this movie just to catch a glimpse of our hero.   Based on what I gleaned from the poster, the film takes place in an alleyway and it's about a guy in a dirty shirt with a shiny hand.  He seems to be standing in front of bed (with a sexy lady) that's glowing for some reason. Not featured on poster: Jean-Claude Van Damme; however Van-Damme did two more uncredited parts in 1984 before graduating to a credited speaking role, so I’m going to assume he did a bang up job and keep rolling.

Breakin’ (1984)
Contractions are rad

I’m kind of ashamed to admit I’ve never seen the penultimate break-dancin’ movie in its entirety.  Van-Damme is very easy to spot in his scene; right at the front of the background in a black tank top, slapping his hands very enthusiastically.  Some would say too enthusiastically, even distractingly.  Whatever. Haters.  I think it showed moxie, and a little flash of things to come.  Van Damme is not a background player content to kind of shuffle in time to the music.  He’s a star!  Also, I can sympathize: if you look very closely during the wake at the beginning of Road to Perdition you can see a high-school-aged Danny standing around in the background.  The only reason I say “barely see” and not “hamming it up, completely stealing the scene” is because I was asked very nicely not do so after ruining a take.   
The first but certainly not the last time we will see Jean-Claude Van Damme dancing

Missing in Action (1984)

The first and last time Van Damme and Chuck Norris would work together until The Expendables 2 nearly 20 years later.  In this film Van Damme plays “Car Driver (uncredited).”  It’s hard to say having not seen the film, but it hardly sounds like Van Damme’s martial skills were utilized to their fullest ability.  Talk about a missed opportunity.  I like The Expendables franchise as much as the next guy, probably more than the next guy, especially if that guy is Mahatma Gandhi (pacifist, also died before the films’ release); still I have to admit it would be better to see Chuck Norris and Van Damme squaring off in their prime than as middle aged, or in Chuck’s case, old aged men.

Monaco Forever (1984)

Wizard Hottie costume. Absolutely nothing to do with HarryPotter
 Van Damme’s first credited role (as Jean-Claude Vandam.)  Considering they didn’t spell his name right I’m not sure it really counts.  In Monaco Forever Jean-Claude plays “gay karate man,” which sounds more like an unlicensed Halloween costume than a role in a movie; however watching the scene on youtube it’s a pretty apt description.  Although I didn’t have the rest of the film to give the scene context it seemed pretty easy to figure out.  Jean-Claude picks up a well dressed hitchhiker (presumably the protagonist of the film) and proceeds to come onto him sexually.  Instead of explaining that he’s “not that kind of guy” the tuxedoed gentleman insists Van Damme pull over for a good ol’ fashioned gay bashing.  Van Damme apologizes and begs not to fight, but when pressed shows off some of his sick karate moves prompting the homophobe to run away fast-motion-Three-Stooges-style.  Presumably the protagonist continues his adventure slapping women around and oppressing minorities while “gay karate man” minces off into the sunset.  Hilarious right?  While that scene wasn’t exactly progressive, Van Damme’s outfit sure was: a karate gi, khaki pants, driving gloves, and no shoes.  It made Swayze’s getup in Roadhouse seem tasteful and understated.

Next time:  JCVD plays a Soviet fighter in No Retreat, No Surrender
Ooooo! Music by Frank Harris?  This just became a must see!


  1. Hi, Danny. JCVD plays a soldier, and his IMDb page was updated to reflect that. However, he's not visible in the movie. He probably shows up in the war flashback scenes. A video on YouTube has a still image of him in character.