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RAMBO TRILOGY BOX SET: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
First Blood (1982): Ex-Green Beret and Vietnam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) arrives in a small mountain town only to be harassed by an unsympathetic Sheriff who wants him out. Unjustly imprisoned, Rambo escapes his captors and heads for the mountains where he is hunted by a group of the town's law enforcement officers as well as a posse of State Troopers and the National Guard.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985): With help from his one-time commanding officer Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), Rambo is released from his maximum security prison to take up a special ops mission to rescue American POWs in Vietnam.
Rambo III (1988): Now living in a secluded Buddhist Monastery in Thailand, Rambo is called upon to undertake one more Top Secret assignment, this time in Afghanistan. When he declines, Rambo's close personal friend Colonel Trautman (Crenna) goes in without him and is captured by ruthless Russian forces. Learning of his friend's fate, Rambo agrees to go in and rescue him.

Review by Craig Miller
Alongside his against-all-odds boxer persona, Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone's most identifiable character has been the psychologically scarred war hero and one-man killing machine, John Rambo. Introduced in 1982, this second successful film franchise for the Italian Stallion benefited greatly from its action-hungry audiences, and delivered perfect entertainment for those who enjoyed that "guns blazing" genre.

Like all but a select few franchises, the first installment in this action trilogy is without doubt the best, mainly due to the strength of the original source material, a novel by American author David Morrell. Morrell's Rambo character is well developed and realised on the page of his 1972 novel, and it's this life which Stallone and the rest of the creative team draw from that gives First Blood, the film, its depth.

Director Ted Kotcheff wastes little time setting up character back story and the personal issues of our gung-ho protagonist, before getting straight into the action and cat and mouse chase, yet all the while never forgetting the film's major themes.

Slightly more than just your garden variety action flick, First Blood speaks volumes about the damage inflicted upon soldiers during the Vietnam War and the difficulties, both personal and societal, that these soldiers where forced to endure on their arrival home. Rambo's personal dilemma - surviving one war only to return home and find himself smack bang in the middle of another - gives the film a real conflict to hold onto, outwardly realising Rambo's internal war. Hey, but that's reading into it.

On the surface, these films are action, action, action, with all the M-16 and helicopter gun battle trimmings. If it's action you desire, (and let's face it, you don't watch Rambo films for the strong political commentaries), then the second and third installments are a four-course feast!

These sequels take the body count amp and turn it all the way up to 11, as well as upping the destruction to levels that could rival any modern-day computer game and where the only thing bigger than the explosions and Stallone's muscles, is his hair.

There is still very much a focus on the important issues and war themes that were woven into the first offering, but these are dwarfed by the need to use explosive tip arrows and duke it out with bad communist enemies in helicopter gunships, and are relayed at film's end with such memorable lines like:

"I WANT WHAT THEY WANT AND EVERY OTHER GUY WHO WENT OVER THERE AND SPILLED HIS GUTS AND GAVE IT ALL HE HAD WANTS. FOR OUR COUNTRY TO LOVE US AS MUCH AS WE LOVE IT. THAT IS WHAT I WANT"

Also returning in the sequels is the uncredited super star of this franchise, Crappy Acting. Richard Crenna who plays Colonel Trautman, Rambo's friend and mentor, has by far the most unenviable role in the entire series, as he is continually asked to walk on, or face camera, look important, and spout the most ridiculous dialogue. Gems like: "When in doubt...Kill..." and "This mission's over Rambo". Real action 80s stuff.

Not to harp on these film's negative aspects,.....BUT, Rambo: First Blood Part II has probably some of the worst dialogue offenses ever! Number one, or number two after Crenna, is that of Julia Nickson who plays Rambo's Vietnamese contact and three-scene love interest Co Bao, a saucy little number who looks vaguely like someone from her gene pool could have been from somewhere near Vietnam, who speaks in a perfectly fluent English accent yet uses broken English. While the blame here should rest with the script writers (Stallone and Cameron teaming up, who would have thunk it!), her "What you like" and "You not expendable" lines are laughable.

Also, Rambo III has can claim the most appalling end battle scene in film history, with Stallone's Rambo and Crenna's Colonel Trautman, two lone men in the middle of the desert, facing off against an assortment of helicopter gunships (more bloody helicopters), armoured vehicles and a small army of Russian infantry, before they are rescued by a group of Afghan freedom fighters on horseback. Sounds hilarious, doesn't it. That's because it is!

Sorry, had to get that off my chest!

From reliving an 80s action dream, to reliving a nightmare, this three-disc set comes with absolutely nothing in the way of bonus material. Not a featurette, not a trailer, nothing. The only thing that puts it above many action flicks of its time released on DVD is the quality of the transfers.

All three look incredible, and the attention to detail is first class. The only problem is with the soundtracks. While the press release does state that the films are in fact 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, the reality is the sound is not all that crash hot. A lot of the explosions and gun battles are a little tinny and hollow, and although this is most likely the mix itself, it is not what you'd expect from 5.1.

Hailing from a time now synonymous with cheesy action films that were aimed at much younger audiences, this trilogy, as well as Stallone's Rambo persona, provided a great cinematic hero for viewers as well as wonderful entertainment for a wide audience. They have certainly dated over the past 20-odd years - crap does tend to rise to the surface - but for a visceral 80s action experience, you just can't beat them.

Published July 29, 2004

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RAMBO TRILOGY BOX SET: DVD (M)
(US, 1982, 85, 88)

CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Bill McKinney, Charles Napier, Julia Nickson-Soul, Marc de Jonge, Kurtwood Smith.

DIRECTOR: Ted Kotcheff[BREAK]George P. Cosmatos[BREAK]Peter MacDonald

SCRIPT: Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim & Sylvester Stallone[BREAK]Sylvester Stallone & James Cameron[BREAK]Sylvester Stallone & Sheldon Lettich

RUNNING TIME: 97, 94, 101 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: None

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

DVD RELEASE: July 28, 2004







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