[box cover]

First Blood: Special Edition

The Rambo Trilogy

  • First Blood: Special Edition
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II: Special Edition
  • Rambo III: Special Edition
  • Rambo Trilogy Special Edition DVD Collection
  • Before John J. Rambo became an inescapable cultural icon in the blockbuster sequel bearing his surname, he started off in this small sleeper of an action movie based on the pulpy novel by David Morell. The last of an elite Green Beret unit in Vietnam, Sylvester Stallone's Rambo has become a hapless, dislocated drifter since returning stateside. He hikes into a quiet Northwestern town, scruffy and disheveled from his aimless travels, and immediately catches the attention of Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), a small-town sheriff and grade-A dick. After a juvenile demonstration of power and resistance, Teasle books Rambo and throws him in jail, where beatings and degradation at the hands of redneck cops trigger some cheesily edited flashbacks of Rambo's days as a P.O.W. He stages a swift and violent escape and takes to the nearby hills, where follows a tense stand-off during which Rambo, calling on his expertise in the field, single-handedly holds off a local manhunt and the National Guard. First Blood is, by turns, incredibly silly and remarkably tense, creating a solid cartoon-action template for the two sequels to follow. Terrific action sequences are sandwiched by ludicrous dialogue and gratuitous melodrama, and it all works. The social context does a little to mitigate the cheese: Rambo, although a vet, is more a counterculture hero than a war hero, and his struggle is defiantly anti-establishment. In a very severe irony, his mental instability is fueled by his isolation from both sides of domestic conflict over the Vietnam War: The antiwar radicals spit on him, while the redneck patriots want nothing to do with the losers who failed overseas. In the forest, Rambo acts on instinct, lurking and pouncing in stealth, like an animal — however, in society he is lost and hopeless, and the confusion of his dislocation tears him apart. While Richard Crenna seems to have taken acting lessons from William Shatner for his role as Rambo's military mentor, the other key performances are excellent. Dennehy and Stallone are perfect adversaries. Dennehy smothers his needy ego in stubborn authority, barking out ignorant orders with weary uncertainty. Stallone on the other hand, is purely physical, and his external manifestation of his internal explosiveness is spot-on. The scene in which Rambo finally lets loose and torturedly tries to explain his confusion and pain might elicit laughter for its over-the-top display of Stallone's most parodied characteristics, but it's also a raw and brutally honest moment and one of the maligned actor's best pieces of work. Includes a truly terrible end-credits song, "It's a Long Road," incongruously sung by '70s balladeer Dan "Sometimes When We Touch" Hill. Artisan's First Blood: Special Edition offers a pretty good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) on one side of the disc and a pan-and-scan version (1.33:1) on the other. Some of the darker scenes show some degradation, but overall this grainy-by-nature film looks as good as it ever has. Audio is in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Includes a commentary by author Morrell, plus the new documentary Drawing First Blood, which focuses on the story's transition from novel to film to franchise, and a trailer.
    —Gregory P. Dorr

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