All Eyes On: Michael Dudikoff

So, you know, Dolph Lundgren isn’t the only actor that has faded into obscurity after leaving an enduring mark on cinema history. Our knowledge and appreciation of ninjas wouldn’t be what it is today without Michael Dudikoff.

Michael DudikoffGetting his start in modeling, Dudikoff was soon able to parlay that into movie roles. Initially getting his start on TV shows like Dallas and Happy Days, he quickly moved on to the big screen. Starting off small, Mike got roles such as Millie’s houseboy in The Black Marble and Boy on bus in I Ought to Be in Pictures. He wasn’t setting the world on fire, yet, but he was getting solid work, three or four roles a year. Eventually the breaks started coming, with roles in big name movies such as TRON, Uncommon Valor, and Bachelor Party.

Then the calendar turned to 1985- Dudikoff’s career, and heck, all of human history, would never be the same. He was cast to play Joe Armstrong in American Ninja. Dudikoff’s affected orphan-cum-martial arts expert finds himself in the Army, stationed in the Philippines. Despite saving the Colonel’s daughter from kidnappers and ninjas, no one seems particularly impressed with the heroics, or maybe they’re alienated by Joe’s detached, loner attitude. [imdb American Ninja]In true 80′s action movie style, Joe is able to finally breakthrough to his fellow soldiers by getting into a big scenery-destroying fight with another fellow soldier (played by Steve James, who we lost too soon and, as usual, out-acts the star). Then things shift into body count mode as the arms dealer and his ninja army get their comeuppance. And the day is saved by the most unlikely of heroes- the American ninja.

That would unfortunately be the high point of Dudikoff’s career. Despite appearing in another 32 movies and three TV shows, he wold never be able to escape the shadow of Joe Armstrong, the American ninja. It’s now been six years since Dudikoff has made a movie. But don’t feel too bad, it looks like he’s doing alright, and he’s still making public appearances. Michael Dudikoff’s legacy will go on, even though his film career looks dead and buried.

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