First Blood
Dir: Ted Kotcheff
Star: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, David Caruso
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1982
Format: DVD R2

First Blood is the story of former US Special Forces soldier and Vietnam war veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) and his difficult battle to re-adjust to civilian life after leaving the army in addition to being haunted by his memories of the war. A battle that is made worse by the treatment that returning soldiers endured at the hands of their countrymen, because they didn't win and because of the war time propaganda which highlighted certain nefarious crimes, which led to all of the armed forces being tarred by the same brush.

After leaving the army Rambo is forced to move around and becomes a drifter, unable to settle anywhere because of his military past he hitches his way around the country and on his travels he looks up an old friend from his unit in Vietnam. Unfortunately he discovers that his friend is dead and had died some time before of Cancer that he had unwittingly contracted in "Nam" from all of the various and colourful weapons that were used. Stunned by the loss of his friend Rambo resumes his journey and stumbles upon a sleepy little town set in the mountains. Requiring some sustainance and rest from his travels Rambo enters the town and is immediately stopped by local Sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) who due to Rambo wearing a US military jacket feels that he will be trouble and insists upon driving him to the city limits on the other side of town.

Upon reaching the town limits Rambo is informed that there is a diner 30 miles down the road and is left by the Sheriff who heads back towards town, Rambo however notices that a storm is brewing and being reluctant to get stuck out on an open road in the middle of it he turns around and heads back towards town. Seeing Rambo headed back towards his little domain, the Sheriff arrests him for "vagrancy" and takes him back to the local sheriff station. At the station Rambo is confronted by the Sheriff's men some of whom are real "rednecks" the worst of which being Deputy Art Gault (Jack Starrett) a close friend of Sheriff Teasle and a general thug. Gault taking an obvious dislike to Rambo right from the start, gives him a hard time and when Rambo refuses to divulge any of his personal details that makes matters worse.

Teasle orders the deputy's to clean Rambo up for his court appearance the following day and as Rambo is made to strip some of them are shocked to see his body covered in horrific and tortuous scars from his last spell in a jail, a Viet Cong jail during the war. Matters just go from bad to worse when after he is subjected to some physical abuse Rambo is restrained in order for the Deputy to shave him but when he sees the old cutthroat razor which they intend to use he loses control imagining that he is still in his Vietnamese prison being tortured. Rambo escapes and makes it to the street where he steals a motorcycle on which he can make good his escape by heading towards the forest covered mountains putting as much distance as possible between him and his would be pursuers.

Furious at the "soldier boy" for getting the better of them and so as not to lose face, the "redneck cops" baying for Rambo's blood give chase. It soon becomes apparent that the local Sheriff and his like prejudiced officers had picked on the wrong man and gone way too far by pushing around a decorated and honoured hero of the elite Green Beret.

First Blood is taken from the novel of the same name by David Morrell, and although it has spawned several sequels this is the most poigniant of the trilogy which thankfully stays pretty close to the book.(apart from Rambo dying at the end of the book) The book was an international bestseller and highlighted Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among other things. David Morrell wrote a fantastic piece of literature with First Blood which some have stated was a little ahead of it's time really and somewhat unappreciated by some critics. The film is quite well directed by Ted Kotcheff (Weekend at Bernies), but I personally feel that there were more experienced directors at that time who could have done an even better job and added more atmosphere to the charged, and for many an emotional story. You can however understand what Rambo is going through and the flashbacks of his torture and incarcaration in a Vietnamese prison assist in this and help you almost empathize with him. The loss of all of his friends and his leperous treatment by the society for which he fought coupled with the terrifying fact that with the exception of his former commanding officer, Colonel Trautman he is the last surviving member of the fabled "Baker Company".

Sylvester Stallone does actually play the role of John Rambo superbly and although unrecognized for his acting talents he provides an emotional portrayal of Rambo leaving you feeling for the character at the way that he is treated, combined with a fantastic chemistry with the rest of cast, First Blood is a memorable film and compelling viewing. Colonel Trautman, Rambo's former commanding officer is viewed generally as a kind of surrogate father for him and the bond between them is better fleshed out in the later films, but Richard Crenna ( Leviathan) is a fine actor and in the role of Trautman he is excellent, illustrating a lot towards the unspoken bond between him and his protege. Brian Dennehy (FX-Murder by Illusion, Cocoon) also provides a strong performance as Sheriff Teasle, the redneck that bites off more than he can chew when he pushes Rambo a little bit too far. Good direction on the whole and the portion of the film set in the forest is quite well presented all things considered but loses some of the suspense and momentum which could have been emphasized more effectively.

Viewed primarily as a "Sylvester Stallone action film" First Blood is slightly misrepresented which is unfortunate because upon mature viewing First Blood is much more than the obligatory "blood & guts" 80's action flick and has more depth than has been previously given credit. Sylvester Stallone's other work should not be allowed to cloud your perspective and First Blood should not be viewed as an outright action film, as it contains a serious and well written underlying story which deserves proper attention.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 16:9 Anamorphic Decent crisp image
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital Pretty darned good
Features Animated menu
2 Theatrical trailer's
Verdict A good transfer but with only 2 trailers as an extra it is a disappointing release and a big let down. It could have been much better.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home