FIRST BLOOD, 1982
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna, Jack Starrett, David Caruso
WATCH FIRST BLOOD FINAL SPEECH - Great movie scene from the film.
Former green beret, and Vietnam Vet, John Rambo, hitches his way north, in search of an old army buddy. Haunted by his time in battle, and ostracised from civilised society since returning from the war, Rambo finds himself at odds with small town Sheriff, Will Teasle. When detained by the Sheriff, Rambo clashes with Teasles deputies, and finds himself harassed by Sgt Galt. Rambo escapes and ends up on the run from the local law enforcement. But when he takes refuge in the wilderness, he uses his survival skills to evade capture and death from certain lawmen now baying for his blood. Rambo’s former colonel, Trautman is called in to assist in bringing the manhunt of Rambo, to a conclusion.
First Blood is not a great film, but it's definitely an underrated film. If this was a stand alone film and there wasn't three mediocre sequels it sits with, then it's treated differently. Like Stallone's other franchise, Rocky, it's almost impossible not thinking first about the terrible Rocky IV and V films while forgetting about the very good (if not great) original. It's unfortunate, but that's just they way it is. But First Blood is a heck of a film that really set the standard of future action films to come. The "I got screwed by the government and will take it out through force" films (think the 24 TV show, Bourne Identity franchise and most superhero films).
Never before was there a film about a man who fought against the establishment through his fists and his guns until First Blood hit the theaters in 1982. The 1970s were all about going against "the man" in light of the big 3 assassinations in the 60s and then Watergate. But that was either by intellectual angst and/or by emotions of rage where a character fought with themselves. But John Rambo was the first person on screen to ever not take anymore crap in a physical way. This is commonplace now, but at the time this was a very controversial thing.
Based on a best selling book, First Blood is essentially about John Rambo, former United States Special Forces soldier, trained to be a killing machine by the US government for the Vietnam war, coming back to his homeland after the lost war a person who can't function in this reality. He's fucked up because his government "mentors" turned him into a person who really only knows how to kill people and when there's not a war going on, he really doesn't have anything else to do. As he comes to Hope, Washington to visit a friend he finds out is dead (the last man he thought was alive in his unit), he is guided out of town by the Sheriff who insults Rambo and then arrests him for really nothing at all. Rambo then snaps in the jailhouse and sets out an all out war against the police in that town.
In the book, Rambo snaps in a psychotic way and kills every person he sees in front of him. In the movie (perhaps thinking a sequel), Stallone rewrote it (the last major change in the script) to make Rambo less crazy and more sympathetic, so he really doesn't kill anyone (identically) and instead basically blows up the entire town instead. In the book you really understand Rambo's killings, but seeing it on screen is a different matter. It's hard for an audience member to like a character after seeing him kill someone in cold blood no matter how tragic his past way.
For Stallone, taking on this role was a really big chance in his career. In 1982, he really wasn't the action star that many of us think of him today. In fact, he was attempting at being a dramatic actor, but with the exception of his Rocky franchise (already into his 3rd film), no one was seeing any of his films.
A must listen to is Stallone's DVD commentary of First Blood as he tells many great stories throughout and is highly entertaining. Stallone has always been a very engaging person off-screen, a shock to some because we are used to seeing him playing aloof and at times stupid characters on screen.
Highlights of his commentary:
1) Many actors passed on First Blood as the film had financing for a long time, but no one wanted to play the lead. Stallone admitted he only took it because they gave him so much money to do it. He says he didn't really know why he was there for the first month of filming and was having regrets throughout. After the film was shot, he thought that perhaps this was a career killer because of the subject matter and people weren't ready for this type of film.