|File:First blood poster.jpg |
Theatrical poster for First Blood
|Directed by||Ted Kotcheff|
|Produced by||Buzz Feitshans|
Michael Kozoll & William Sackheim
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||Joan E. Chapman|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures Corporation|
|Release date(s)||October 22, 1982|
|Running time||97 min.|
|Followed by||Rambo II|
First Blood (a.k.a. Rambo: First Blood) is an action/adventure film that was released in 1982. It was the first film to feature the character of troubled Vietnam War veteran John Rambo. The film starred Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, with Brian Dennehy as his nemesis, Sheriff Will Teasle, and Richard Crenna as Rambo's ally Col. Samuel Trautman.
It was based on David Morrell's 1972 novel First Blood, although it differed from the book in many key areas. The film was directed by Ted Kotcheff, produced by Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna, and released on Friday, October 22, 1982.
Plot[edit | edit source]
The film centers on John Rambo, a former member of the United States Army Special Forces (an elite Special Operations unit) who fought in Vietnam and was a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions there. Rambo has difficulty adjusting to civilian life and wanders the country as a drifter. The film begins as he is seeking out his friend Delmore Barry, apparently the only other Special Forces member from his unit, Baker Company, to make it out of Vietnam alive.
Rambo finds out from Barry's widow that he died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure, and she is clearly very upset that she lost the man she loved and is also left to eke out a meagre existence on her own. Rambo, in an attempt to offer some cold comfort to her, gives her the photograph of her husband's unit. This also hurts Rambo deeply as now he realizes that he is the last of his unit.
Left to continue drifting, Rambo runs afoul of Will Teasle, the sheriff of a small Washington State mountain resort town called Hope (set in Hope, WA. - filmed in Hope, British Columbia). Teasle drives Rambo out of town while telling him the people of Hope don't appreciate people of his kind: drifters. Rambo asks for a place to eat, but Teasle refuses him courtesy in the town. Rambo is dropped outside of town but heads back, refusing to be pushed out. Teasle forcefully stops and arrests Rambo for vagrancy, resisting arrest, and carrying a concealed weapon (a large survival knife which he claims is for hunting).
Teasle brings Rambo back to the station, where he is beaten by Art Galt (Jack Starrett), the sheriff's sadistic head deputy. Some of the officers are sympathetic to Rambo, but are either ignorant or meek. During the beatings, Rambo has flashbacks to his time as a prisoner of war. The sight of a straight razor, as the deputies attempt to shave him, brings to Rambo's mind horrible torture when he was a POW and causes Rambo to panic violently. He disables the officers with nothing but his hands, escapes the police station with his knife, and heads into the mountains on a stolen motorcycle. Teasle gives pursuit in his police car, which is overturned after an extended chase. Rambo flees into the hills, wearing only his jeans, boots and a vest, useless in fending off the cold weather. Rambo quickly improvises cold weather gear with items he finds at the remains of a construction site.
The deputies go after Rambo on foot, aided by a pack of Dobermans, forcing him to climb down a steep cliff overlooking a river gorge to elude capture. Deputy Galt, ignoring Teasle's orders to capture Rambo alive, attempts to shoot him from a helicopter while he is trapped on a ledge, unseen by the other deputies. Rambo drops into a mass of trees, badly cutting himself, and is cornered by the helicopter again. He throws a rock at it, causing it to pitch heavily and drop Galt into the gorge, killing him. After sewing the wound, Rambo tries to surrender peacefully saying "I don't want anymore hurt.", but Teasle ignores this and opens fire on him, vowing to avenge his life-long friend's death.
Rambo's status as a former Green Beret is revealed at this point, prompting Mitch (David Caruso) to suggest that Teasle back down and let the State Police handle it. Teasle grabs Mitch and reminds him that he and Galt were friends while Mitch was still getting his nose wiped and vows to "pin the Congressional Medal of Honor to his (Rambo's) liver".
Teasle leads his deputies into the woods in an attempt to capture Rambo. The deputies are inexperienced and fight amongst themselves, making them easy targets. Rambo kills the Dobermans and disables the deputies using guerrilla war tactics, severely wounding but not killing them. Rambo then confronts Teasle, knife to his throat. He threatens chaos should he be pursued again: "I could have killed them all. I could have killed you. In town you're the law: out here it's me. Don't push it. Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go. Let it go."
Rambo then leaves suddenly. Teasle is clearly shaken, but refuses to give in. He calls in the National Guard and the State Police. A TV broadcast of the incident gets the attention of Rambo's former commanding officer, Colonel Samuel Trautman, who warns the searchers that trying to capture Rambo is suicidal; his combat training and experience make him far better than anyone they have. Trautman suggests letting Rambo go; they can probably pick him up working at a car wash and nobody else will get hurt. Teasle dismisses that advice, claiming that Trautman was only sent by the Pentagon to save face. Trautman advises that if Teasle is sending that many men in after Rambo, he'd better have 'A good supply of body bags.'.
When the National Guard unit finds Rambo holed up in a mine entrance, they are afraid to go after him and take the easy way out- firing a M72 LAW (shoulder-fired rocket launcher) and collapsing the mine. Teasle is furious, as he wanted Rambo alive, but eventually accepts that his nemesis is dead. Unbeknownst to his pursuers, Rambo survives the explosion and cave-in. He crawls through tunnels in the mine, struggling to keep his torch burning and fighting off rats. Eventually he finds an exit near a main road. Rambo then steals an Army truck with an M60 Machine gun from the National Guardsmen and returns to Hope. Rambo then takes out his frustration on Teasle's "quiet little town" by destroying a gas station, a local surplus store, and a sporting goods shop.
Trautman talks to Teasle for the final time, advising him to give up his mania of stopping Rambo. Teasle staunchly refuses, saying he's not afraid of his inevitable death. Trautman candidly tells him that it's clear which of them has any chance at survival, but not because Trautman is better than Rambo; the simple fact that Rambo trusts him is the only advantage he needs. Teasle is stunned at this callousness, but says that nothing will take "his town" away from him. He himself hides on the roof, hoping to catch Rambo running around. Rambo thwarts this by destroying power lines and cutting all the lights in the town, making it impossible for Teasle to catch Rambo.
Rambo spots Teasle on the roof. After destroying the station, he manages to badly wound the sheriff and bring him down through a skylight. Teasle curses Rambo with what he thinks will be his final words. Meanwhile, the state police have surrounded the building, cutting off every way out.
Rambo is about to finish what he's started when Colonel Trautman appears and tells him that his mini-war is over; there's no hope of escaping alive, saying "It's over Johnny. It's over." Rambo responds with, "Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! It wasn't my war. You asked me, I didn't ask you!" He goes on to talk of the people protesting him at the airport. He then rages about how what meant something in the war - honor and loyalty - means nothing in the real world. He breaks down sobbing and tells a story about his friend Joey who was blown to pieces in a Saigon bar by a shoe shining boy. He exclaims, "I can't get it out of my head. Seven years. Every day I have this. Sometimes I wake up and don't know where I am. I don't talk to anybody. Sometimes a day. Sometimes a week. I can't put it out of my mind." With no purpose left, Rambo decides to turn himself in to the authorities.
Adaptation issues[edit | edit source]
Various screenplays adapted from Morrel's book had been pitched to studios in the years since its publication, but it was only when Stallone, who at the time had limited success outside of the Rocky franchise (most of his non-Rocky films either barely broke even or were flops altogether), decided to become involved with the project that it was finally brought into production.
Stallone’s star power after the success of the Rocky films enabled him to suggest changes to the script, to make the character of John Rambo more sympathetic. While Morrell's book has the Rambo character kill many of his pursuers, in the movie version Rambo does not directly cause the death of any police or national guardsmen.
Just before shooting began, Kirk Douglas quit the role of Col. Trautman over a script dispute; Douglas wanted the film to end as the book did, with the death of the Rambo character. Richard Crenna was quickly hired as a replacement; the role of Trautman became the veteran character actor's most famous role, his performance of which received much critical praise and talk of an Academy Award nomination. A suicide scene was filmed, but ultimately, Kotcheff and Stallone opted to have Rambo turn himself in at Trautman's urging.
Critical reception[edit | edit source]
The film received mostly positive reviews. Popular critic Roger Ebert described the film as "a very good movie, well-paced, and well-acted not only by Stallone (who invests an unlikely character with great authority) but also by Crenna and Brian Dennehy", although he compared the film's portrayal of a Vietnam veteran unfavourably to that of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Writing in 2000, BBC film critic Almar Haflidason noted that Stallone’s training in survival skills and hand-to-hand combat "...helped give the film such a raw and authentic edge that excited the audiences of the time."
Contrasting these reviews, Brian Webster of the Apollo film site called First Blood “...an embarrassingly sloppy production” with a weak script. Jeremiah Kipp had a more positive view of the film, which he gave two stars out of four. While Kipp criticized some of the “comic book” dialogue and “macho...mindless escapism” of the film, he acknowledges that it also “...reflect[ed] a new compassion towards traumatized veterans of the Vietnam conflict". Kipp also praised Stallone’s acting in the finale, stating that the actor ”...hits his climactic breakdown monologue out of the park” with a performance that was “sweet and moving and mildly incomprehensible.”
The writer and journalist Gustav Hasford, author of the novel The Short-Timers and a Vietnam War vet, accused the film of being a dishonest portrait of the war and its veterans, calling the movie the “Triumph of the Will for American Nazis.”
In general, the film was criticized by many at the time for its violent scenes and for its seeming glorification of weapons (such as the M60, which featured prominently in advertising).
Production[edit | edit source]
First Blood, which had a modest shooting budget of $14 million, became a major hit, going on to earn an estimated $47 million in North America and $78 million overseas. This success helped to solidify Stallone's career. First Blood also spawned three sequels, with the most recent being released in 2008.
The town scenes in the movie were shot in Hope, British Columbia, Canada. The rest of the movie was shot in Golden Ears Provincial Park.
DVD and Blu-ray[edit | edit source]
Author David Morrell recorded an audio commentary track for the First Blood Special Edition DVD released in 2002.
Actor Sylvester Stallone recorded an audio commentary track for the First Blood Ultimate Edition DVD released in 2004. This edition also includes a "never-before-seen" alternate ending in which Rambo commits suicide (a brief snippet of which appears in a flashback in the fourth film) and a "humorous" ending tacked on afterwards. Lionsgate also released this version on Blu-ray,
Momentum Pictures released an HD DVD version of First Blood in the United Kingdom in April 2007. Lions Gate Entertainment also released First Blood as a double feature on February 13, 2007, along with the The Punisher (2004).
The film was re-released as part of a 6-disc box set, which contains all 4 films in the series, on May 27th, 2008.  In anticipation of the release, the film was shown back in theaters for one night, May 15th, 2008, through Fathom Events. 
References[edit | edit source]
- Steve McQueen Wikipedia entry
- [http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19820101/REVIEWS/201010324/1023 Roger Ebert's 1982 review of the film
- BBC - Films - review - First Blood
- Apollo Movie Guide's Review of First Blood
- First Blood Movie Review, DVD Release - Filmcritic.com
- Interview: St. Petersburg Times
- Rambo (2008) DVD and BluRay Details
- Fathom Events
[edit | edit source]
- Rambotown.net - Pictures and Information about First Blood and Hope, BC
- Sylvester Stallone Official Website
- First Blood at the Internet Movie Database
- Rambo: The First Blood Forum
- DVD Comparison
- Detailed synopsis of First Blood at moviecheat.com
|V • D • E|
|Films:||Rambo First Blood • Rambo II • Rambo III • Rambo • Rambo V • Rambo VI|
|Cast:||Sylvester Stallone • Richard Crenna|
|Video games:||Rambo • Rambo III • Rambo on Fire|