I came across First Blood when I was a kid, it showed up on my television screen on the now defunct but never forgotten First Choice or Super Channel. I was still a little squeamish at that age, and the film had already started, so the first thing I saw was a man (with a really bad moustache) screaming while tied to bamboo as someone sliced a knife across his chest, spilling blood.
I wasn’t quite ready for it. (edit: But I do love revisiting now, which I got to do with the 101 Action Movies list).
By the time 1985 rolled around, and the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II came along, I had read the original novel by David Morrell. The novel is a commentary on the treatment of Vietnam vets returning home, here was a man suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, who had returned to a country that abhorred him.
I’m always of the belief that I support the troops, I just may not support the goals and the actions of the governments directing them.
The film carries that theme with it, also paired with the concept of two vets from two different wars, and thus fighting styles, facing off against one another. Sylvester Stallone’s vet John J. Rambo, wanders into the town of Hope, Washington (actually British Columbia) and within moments, is picked up within moments of crossing the townline by Korean war vet Sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy).
Teasle doesn’t approve of Rambo’s look, or his attitude, and advises the hitchhiker to move on, telling him there’s nothing in the town for him. All John wants is a something to eat, still reeling from the discovery that a friend he’s come to visit has died of cancer.
“Why you pushing me?”
It’s a simple line, and John sounds confused and hurt as he says it, but Teasle sees it as antagonistic, and promptly drops him off outside of town.
John is furious at the treatment, and as Teasle turns back into town, he sees Rambo turn around and walk right back towards town.
Teasle has had enough, and arrests him for vagrancy, and takes him to be booked. Here’s where we’re introduced to some very familiar faces as deputies amongst the cast, David Caruso, Michael Talbott, Chris Mulkey and Jack Starrett. Caruso’s character is a little empathetic to Rambo, and tries to keep him calm, and stem the threat level that seems to be coming off his fellows.
Things go south, caused by the scene I had stumbled across as a child, and Rambo escapes the building, and into the mountainous region around the town, wanting to escape, but instead waging war on those who pursue him, because despite being warned off, Teasle wants him.
As the day progresses, and the violence, takedowns and traps continue, night falls on the freezing mountain top and Rambo’s former commander arrives to try and defuse the situation in the form of Richard Crenna as Colonel Trautman. The two of them, Rambo and Trautman, have some powerful exchanges, none more so than the climax of the film that sees Rambo break down, a broken man who doesn’t understand why the people he fought for, the country he served, treats him they way they do. A rather poignant and still important argument.
The film is still a lot of fun, compared to its sequels it seems smaller in size, and of course the body count is negligible. Seriously. Do you know the body count for this film? It’s one.
One person dies, and it’s arguably not even Rambo’s fault. He definitely puts his foes out of commission, wounding but never killing them, something that doesn’t happen so much in the rest of the series, what with its exploding arrowheads, and .50 cals. Admittedly, he does cause lots and lots of property damage.
I would be remiss in discussing this film if I didn’t mention the score. Jerry Goldsmith brings an emotional depth to the score, heightening the feeling behind the film, rather than just making it a standard action film.
This is still one of my favorite action movies, but then again, I’m guilty of being a child of the 80s and heavily influenced by them…
What’s your favorite Stallone action flick?