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First Blood (also known as Rambo or Rambo: First Blood outside the US), is a 1982 action/adventure film directed by Ted Kotcheff. The film stars Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam War veteran, with Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) as his nemesis, Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) as his former commander and only ally, and a young David Caruso as Deputy Mitch. It was released on October 22, 1982. Based loosely on David Morrell's 1972 novel of the same name, it was the first of the four-film and ongoing Rambo series.

Since its release, First Blood has been a critical and commercial success, and has had a lasting influence on the genre. It has also spurred countless parodies. The film is also notable for its psychological portrayal of the after effects of the Vietnam War, particularly the challenges faced by American veterans attempting to re-integrate into society.

Plot

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a former member of an elite United States Army Special Forces unit, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Vietnam War. The film begins after the war, in America. Rambo is searching for one of his friends from his unit, Delmore Berry, and soon learns that he has died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure. Although not yet revealed to the audience, Rambo knows he is now the last surviving member of his unit. The scene cuts to Rambo entering the small town of Hope on foot. With his long hair and military-style coat, he is quickly spotted by the town's overzealous and paranoid sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), who quickly drives Rambo out of town, noting his strong distaste for "drifters." Rambo heads back toward town immediately, to the dismay of Teasle, who arrests him.

Rambo is generally non-compliant with the officers at the station, and is beaten and harassed by Art Galt (Jack Starrett), the sheriff's cruel head deputy and closest friend. Rambo has flashbacks to his time as a prisoner of war, and is also the subject of police brutality. Rambo finally snaps when Galt and two other officers (Chris Mulkey and David Caruso) attempt to dry-shave him with a straight razor. Rambo fights his way out of the station, steals a motorcycle, and is pursued off-road into the nearby mountains. The deputies are eventually forced to search for Rambo on foot, and he climbs down onto a steep cliff to elude capture. After spotting Rambo from a helicopter, Galt blatantly disregards protocol and attempts to shoot him in cold blood. Rambo drops into a mass of trees, and cornered, throws a rock at the helicopter in self-defense. The helicopter pitches and Galt, the passenger, falls to his death. Teasle, who did not see Galt's attempt to kill Rambo, vows to avenge his friend's death.

Teasle leads his deputies into the woods in an attempt to capture Rambo. The deputies are inexperienced and bicker, particularly after learning over the radio about Rambo's combat experience and status as a war hero. Rambo quickly disables the small, disorganized team using guerrilla tactics and booby traps, severely wounding — but not killing — the deputies. In the chaos, Rambo isolates and confronts Teasle with a knife to the throat. "Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go", he warns, before disappearing into the woods. A base camp is assembled near the site and the National Guard is called in. United States Special Forces Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) soon arrives, taking credit for training Rambo. He is surprised to find any of the deputies still alive, and warns that it would be safer to let Rambo go and find him after the situation has calmed down. Teasle refuses to give in.

Rambo is eventually cornered by the National Guard in a mine entrance. The inexperienced guardsmen fire a disposable M72 LAW rocket launcher at him, collapsing the mine and trapping him inside. They assume Rambo is dead. However, unbeknownst to his pursuers, Rambo has escaped into the tunnels of the mine. Rambo finds some old fuel and makes an improvised torch. After wading through waist‑deep water and fighting off rats, he finds an exit, near a main road. Rambo hijacks a passing Army truck and returns to town, crashing it into a gas station. He blocks the highway to anyone in pursuit by igniting the spilled fuel with a Zippo lighter. Now armed with an M60 machine gun, Rambo destroys a sporting goods shop and a few other businesses (all of which is done to keep Teasle off balance) before making his way to the police station, where Teasle awaits on the roof.

Eventually Rambo enters the police station. Teasle spots Rambo and fires at him, but misses. Rambo shoots back at Teasle, injuring him. Teasle falls through the roof onto the floor. Rambo steps over him, prepared to kill him. Before Rambo can shoot Teasle, Colonel Trautman appears and tells him that there is no hope of escaping alive. Rambo, now surrounded by the police, rages about the horrors of war, and the difficulties he has faced adapting to civilian life. He weeps as he recounts a particularly gruesome story about witnessing his friend's death. Rambo then turns himself in to Trautman, and is arrested. The credits roll as he and Trautman exit the police station.

Cast



Production

Long before Stallone was hired to play Rambo, other actors were being considered for the role such as Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Nick Nolte, John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, James Garner, Kris Kristofferson, and Michael Douglas. Terence Hill, as recently confirmed during an interview to an Italianmarker TV talk-show, was offered the role but rejected it because he considered it "too violent", and Dustin Hoffman denied the role for the same reason.When Al Pacino was considered for the role of John Rambo, he turned it down when his request that Rambo be more of a madman was rejected.

Kirk Douglas was originally cast to play Col. Sam Trautman, but walked out on the project. Douglas wanted substantial changes made to the script, specifically that John Rambo die at the hands of Trautman, like the character did in the novel. The writers held their ground and refused. Richard Crenna was eventually cast in the role.

Various screenplays adapted from Morrell'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. At least one First Blood poster references his Rocky success: "Stallone. This time he's fighting for his life."

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 violently kill many of his pursuers, in the movie version Rambo does not directly cause the death of any police or national guardsmen.

Prior to Stallone taking the lead role, Steve McQueen expressed interest in it. When David Morrell wrote the novel in 1972 the producers first considered McQueen, but then rejected him because they considered him too old to play a Vietnam veteran from 1975.

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. Rock Hudson was approached but was soon to undergo heart surgery and had to pass up the chance to work with Stallone. 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. The town scenes in the movie were shot in Hopemarker, British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker. The rest of the movie was shot in Golden Ears Provincial Parkmarker and Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows, also in British Columbia, Canada.

Alternate Titles

In the United States, the film was released as First Blood. In International markets, the film was re-titled Rambo: First Blood.In some other countries, the film was titled Rambo.In Spain, the film was titled Surrounded. Before the fourth Rambo film was released, most people in the U.S. referred to this film as Rambo 1 or sometimes First Blood. A few years after the film's release, the film was broadcast on television as Rambo in the United States.

Reception

First Blood, with a shooting budget of $15 million and a total domestic gross of $47 million, was a moderate financial success, compared to other films released that year. For example, E.T., with a budget of just $10.5 million, brought in nearly $12 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross over $350 million. Similarly, both Tootsie and Porky's grossed over $100 million each. Stallone's other 1982 film, Rocky III, also beat First Blood at the box office, pulling in over $12 million on its opening weekend with a total gross over $125 million domestically. However, First Blood was not a commercial failure, either. Blade Runner performed comparatively at the box office, and grossed only $32 million. Poltergeist, although more successful in total sales, brought in similar numbers at the box office.

First Blood received generally favorable reviews, and is considered by many to be one of the best films of 1982. Stallone, in particular, received much praise for his performance. In his 1982 review, Roger Ebert wrote that he did not like the film's ending, but that it was "a very good movie, well-paced, and well-acted not only by Stallone...but also by Crenna and Brian Dennehy." He even went as far as to say, "although almost all of First Blood is implausible, because it's Stallone on the screen, we'll buy it." In 2000, BBC film critic Almar Haflidason noted that Stallone’s training in survival skills and hand-to-hand combat gave the film, "a raw and authentic edge that excited the audiences of the time." First Blood's release on DVD sparked a series of contemporary reviews, earning it an 85% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 62 ("generally positive") from Metacritic.

However, the film has not escaped criticism. Although Jeremiah Kipp praised Stallone's performance, stating that he "hits his climactic breakdown monologue out of the park” with a performance that was “sweet and moving,” he gave the film two stars out of four, and criticized its “comic book” dialogue and “macho, mindless escapism.” Brian Webster of the Apollo film site called First Blood, "an embarrassingly sloppy production,” with a weak script. In general, the film was criticized for its violent scenes and for its supposed glorification of weapons (such as the GPMG M60, which featured prominently in advertising).

First Blood's portrayal of a Vietnam veteran also sparked some controversy. Jeremiah Kipp argued the film "reflect[ed] a new compassion towards traumatized veterans of the Vietnam conflict," while others view the film as insulting and stereotypical.

Distribution

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. Both commentary tracks are on the Blu-ray release.

Momentum Pictures released an HD DVD version of First Blood in the United Kingdommarker in April 2007. Lionsgate also released First Blood as a double feature on February 13, 2007, along with the 2004's The Punisher.

The film was re-released as part of a 6-disc box set, which contains all 4 films in the series, on May 27, 2008. However the box set is missing the David Morrell Commentary, even though the packaging clearly states it is included. In anticipation of the release, the film was shown back in theaters for one night, May 15, 2008, through Fathom Events.

References

  1. Toppman, Lawrence. - "Will He of Won't He?". - The Charlotte Observer. - May 22, 1988.
  2. Morrell, David, Jay MacDonald. - "Writers find fame with franchises". The News-Press. - March 2, 2003.
  3. Filming locations of First Blood in Hope, BC, Canada
  4. First Blood (1982)
  5. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  6. Top grossing movies for 1982 in the USA
  7. Rocky III (1982)
  8. Blade Runner (1982)
  9. First Blood (1982): Reviews
  10. The 10 Best Movies of 1982 - Film.com
  11. Most popular 1982 titles by total votes
  12. Roger Ebert's 1982 review of the film
  13. BBC - Films - review - First Blood
  14. First Blood Movie Review, DVD Release - Filmcritic.com
  15. Apollo Movie Guide's Review of First Blood
  16. Rambo (2008) DVD and BluRay Details
  17. Fathom Events


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