The Blood of Heroes (1989) -- a film concerning a particularly vicious sport called “Jugger”-- is one of my favorite, under-recognized genre movies of the late eighties.
Ever since I first saw Rollerball (1975), I have been fascinated with the future of professional sports. We know that professional sports will likely remain extremely commercial and profitable going forward, but we also know today that some are becoming more brutal, and that concussions and brain damage are often the unfortunate result for some football players.
The Blood of Heroes is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which (most) folks no longer have the time or luxury to think about professional sports, at least as we understand them now. The world’s infrastructure has collapsed following a series of wars, and folks no longer remember the “Golden Age of the 20th century” or “the miraculous technology or cruel wars that followed.”
In the introduction to this review, I mentioned Rocky as a clear antecedent to The Blood of Heroes, but perhaps, in terms of sports movies, I also should have made notation of Bull Durham (1987) too. In that classic baseball movie – one of the best ever made -- a player named Crash (Kevin Costner) is cast out of the minor leagues and sent down to the Single A division to mentor a promising player, one who could make it all the way to the majors. As that player rises, Crash hopes to rise again too…
Uniquely, at its valedictory moment, The Blood of Heroes visually mirrors to its spiritual cinematic antecedent, the aforementioned Rollerball. There, in the final battle, James Caan’s player Jonathan E, defeated the last enemy player right in front of his nemesis, an executive played by John Houseman. Specifically, he checked the opposing player into the glass barrier separating him from Houseman.