Rambo Trilogy Special Edition DVD Collection
In 1985 newscasters began reporting stories about Americans naming their precious dogs and children after Sylvester Stallone's big-haired, ass-kicking hero, such was the stunning popularity of the second film in this cartoony action series. Today, the First Blood Rambo trilogy is typically dismissed as bone-headed Reagan-era gung-hoism run amok. But a closer examination of the the first two films reveals a surprising anti-establishment streak running through the often silly but excellently staged action set-pieces as disgruntled Vietnam vet John J. Rambo vents his frustration with exacting force. It's also worth noting that while First Blood barely registered upon its release in 1982, interest in 1988's Rambo III faded almost as quickly as Rambo: First Blood Part II skyrocketed to blockbuster status. In this age of pathological sequel-milking, few series have peaked as late or wilted as early as this one. Artisan does a terrific job wrapping up the canon with a topnotch four-disc DVD collection packaging the three films in excellent 2.35:1 anamorphic transfers (with optional pan-and-scan versions), plenty of audio options, and some medal-worthy extras. Each film comes with a full-length audio commentary (none of which, surprisingly, feature Stallone, who co-wrote all three screenplays) and new documentaries focusing on that particular film's place in the series and the cultural consciousness. The fourth disc in the set contains nine featurettes:
- The Real Nam: Voices From Within (26:53) Interviews with a wide variety of Vietnam veterans, covering a wide range of viewpoints on America's involvement in the Southeast Asian country, from the typical antiwar sentiments to some seldom-heard support of the action. Includes interviews with leftist author Howard Zinn, former U.S. Congressman Bob Dornan (R-CA), and South Vietnamese Col. Le Khac Ly, amongst others.
- Guts and Glory (27:10) Looks at Rambo's enormous popularity within the political context of Reagan-era America and the deceptively complex political philosophies expressed within the films.
- The Forging of Heroes: America's Green Berets (9:54) Quick look at the history of America's Special Forces units and their place in today's military actions.
- Rambo-Nomics (3:16) Zippy discussion of the disparate financial fortunes of the three films.
- Suiting Up: Rambo's Survival Hardware (8:41) Pure porn for gearheads with detailed data on all of Rambo's lethal weaponry.
- Selling a Hero (4:33) Best of the bunch: an animated action sequence featuring many of the Rambo franchise's action-figure toys locked in mortal combat. Credit to director Jennifer Nix for a clever concept well-executed.
- First Blood: A Look Back (3:58) Montage of scenes from the film.
- Rambo III: Full Circle (5:57) Montage of scenes from the film.
- An American Hero's Journey (25:25) Included on Artisan's original Rambo: First Blood Part II disc, this featurette provides a general overview of the series, including interviews with First Blood novelist David Morrell (during which he discloses that Rambo was named after a tasty apple).
Also included is a Troma-like Rambo Trivia Game (with text difficult to read on a 32-inch screen), which greets correct answers with clips of Rambo wreaking heroic havoc and incorrect answers with scenes of the title character in various states of pain. The set is packaged in an attractive four-disc digipak inside a sturdy tin sleeve, while the three features films are available individually.
Gregory P. Dorr
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