Buzz Feitshans, Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna
October 22, 1982
First Blood (also known as Rambo or Rambo: First Blood outside the United States), is a 1982 action/thriller film directed by Ted Kotcheff. The film stars Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam War veteran, with Hope, Washington Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) as his nemesis, and Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) as his former commander and only ally. 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. Unlike the following sequels which were war adventure films set in foreign countries, First Blood was a post-Vietnam War psychological thriller set in the United States. First Blood particularly lacks the gore and violence that would later become a trademark of the 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 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, something not deeply examined in subsequent Rambo movies.
In 2008, the film was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a former member of a United States Army Special Forces Green Beret unit, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Vietnam War. The film begins after the war, in America in December of 1981. Rambo is searching for one of his friends from his unit, Delmar Barry, and soon learns that he has died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure back in Vietnam. Rambo knows he is now the last surviving member of his unit. Now distraught and left with no place to go, Rambo decides to hitchhike his way to Portland, Oregon. Rambo walks up to the small town of Hope, Washington 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 offers Rambo a ride. Rambo asks if there is a place to eat and Teasle tells him that he will have to walk 30 miles up the highway, because he doesn't want "drifters" eating in his town, because they might attract other drifters. Teasle also says that Rambo may not like it in Hope anyway. Teasle drives him to the city limits and advises him to get a haircut and a bath. Hungry, Rambo heads back toward town immediately, to the dismay of Teasle, who arrests him for vagrancy, resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon, a hunting knife.
After reaching the police station, Teasle tells Art Galt (Jack Starrett), his cruel head deputy and closest friend, to book Rambo. Galt uses Rambo's knife to slice through a sheet of paper with ease and escorts him to the cells, where he attempts to get Rambo's name. Rambo knows he is innocent, and refuses, so Mitch, one of Galt's deputies, sees Rambo's dog tags and tries to read them, but Rambo instinctively grabs Rusty's wrist. Galt pulls his nightstick and threatens to break Rambo's face. Rambo lets go and Galt notes that "Hairy" is a soldier, but this does not change his opinion of Rambo and he proceeds to brutalize and assault him, beating him repeatedly. Galt then has Rambo bathe for his court date by spraying him with a high-pressure fire hose. When Galt and two other reluctant officers, Ward and Mitch, attempt to dry-shave him with a straight razor, Rambo has a flashback to being tortured in a North Vietnamese P.O.W. Camp in 1965 and loses control, escaping on instinct using his military training. He fights his way out of the station beating up most of the officers, breaking one's nose and throwing another out of a window. Rambo retrieves his knife and runs into the streets, throwing a civilian off a motorcycle and stealing it, and is pursued by Teasle 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 dead in cold blood with a Winchester Model 88 lever action rifle. Rambo drops into a mass of trees, and cornered, throws a large rock at the helicopter's windshield in self-defense to buy him some time. However, the helicopter pitches and Galt, who had unbuckled his safety belt in order to get a better shot, falls out of the aircraft to his death at the bottom of the rocky gorge. 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 extensive combat and survival 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, Teasle is attacked by Rambo from behind, who holds his knife to the sheriff's throat. "I could've killed all of 'em. I could've killed you. In town you're the law, out here, it's me. 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. This seems to only fuel Teasle's anger and he assembles a base camp near the site and calls in the National Guard. U.S. 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, and Trautman warns that if he sends in the National Guard, to also bring a good supply of body bags.
Rambo is eventually cornered by the National Guard in an abandoned 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 from fabric. After wading through waist‑deep water and fighting off rats for several hours in the dark mine, he manages to find an exit near a highway road. Rambo spots a National Guard caravan and hijacks a passing truck. He holds his knife to the driver's throat and asks what is in the truck. The driver informs him that there is an M60 heavy machine gun in the back and Rambo pushes the driver out of the car, driving for hours and through a police roadblock until he returns to town at nightfall, crashing the truck into the pumps of a gas station. He blocks the highway to anyone in pursuit by igniting the spilled fuel with a Zippo lighter. Now heavily armed, Rambo destroys a sporting goods shop by igniting multiple cans of gunpowder and bullets, and begins shooting up the businesses on main street in an attempt to confuse and disorient Teasle before making his way to the police station, where Teasle awaits on the roof. Rambo also shoots the transformers on the town's power lines, knocking out the power to the main street.
Soon after, Rambo enters the police station. Teasle spots Rambo through a skylight and shoots at him, but misses. Rambo shoots through the roof with his machine gun at Teasle, severely injuring him. Teasle falls through a skylight onto the floor below. Rambo steps over him, prepared to kill him, and a furious and bitter Teasle eggs him on. But before he can shoot Teasle, Colonel Trautman appears and tells him that there is no hope of escaping
alive unless he surrenders. Rambo realizes that the police station is now surrounded by the police, and angrily talks about how difficult it is to adjust to civilian life when his country he would die to protect hates the returning soldiers, also about how he was an important man in the war, but can't hold down a simple job back in America. He then falls to the ground and his rage turns to sorrow and weeps as he recounts a particularly gruesome story about witnessing his friend dying by having his legs blown off by a booby-trapped shoeshine box. Trautman kneels down to Rambo, who sobs into Trautman's shoulder. After he is done, an emotionally exhausted Rambo turns himself in, and is arrested. The credits roll as he and Trautman exit the police station. While they go out, they look with scorn to Teasle, who is taken away in an ambulance. Next Morning 3 December John Rambo telling parent police Searching Special Forces Weapons
The TV version of First Blood premiered on NBC on Sunday night, May 12, 1985, as a tie-in to Rambo: First Blood Part II. 3 minutes were edited out, and any suggestive dialog was changed. However, the following scenes were added in order to make up for anything that was cut:
A scene in the beginning where Rambo tries to order takeout at a diner, but then gets hassled, making Rambo leave. A scene after the posse is injured. A scene showing the Paramedics putting the posse in ambulances, and Galt's body into a helicopter, just as Kern arrives. A longer version of the conversation between Trautman and Teasle about Rambo taking out his posse. A longer version of the conversation about the capture of Rambo. A scene where Teasle and Trautman land at the spot where Rambo is "killed". A scene where Teasle returns to his office and is congratulated by the townspeople for "killing" Rambo. None of these above scenes have ever appeared as extras on DVD or on Blu-Ray. Recent DVD/Blu-Ray versions include the following deleted scenes as bonus features: A scene where Rambo settles into a cave, and while taking a nap, begins to have a flashback that shows Rambo and his friends at a Vietnam night club. The original ending that shows Rambo killing himself with Tratuman's gun. Test-audiences found this ending to be "too depressing", so a new ending was shot, and became the one seen in all versions of the film since its original release.
- Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo
- Richard Crenna as Colonel Sam Trautman
- Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Will Teasle
- Bill McKinney as State Police Capt. Dave Kern
- Jack Starrett as Deputy Sgt. Arthur Galt
- Michael Talbott as Deputy Balford
- Chris Mulkey as Deputy Ward
- John McLiam as Orval the Dog Man
- Alf Humphreys as Deputy Lester
- David Caruso as Deputy Mitch
- David Crowley as Deputy Shingleton
- Don MacKay as Deputy Preston
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 Italian TV talk-show, was offered the role but rejected it because he considered it "too violent", and Dustin Hoffman declined 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.
For the role of Sheriff Teasle, the producers approached Academy Award-winners Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall, but both turned the part down. Lee Marvin, another Oscar winner, turned down the part of Col. Trautman.
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. In fact, he only wounds anybody who pursues him and the one person he did kill was in self defense and not his fault. He threw a rock at a helicopter and because Art Galt wasn't wearing his seatbelt, he fell out the window to his death.
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, allowing the character to live. This proved to be a fortunate decision, as it changed Rambo's history forever and allowed for a very lucrative and popular franchise.
The town scenes in the movie were shot in Hope, British Columbia, Canada. The rest of the movie was shot in Golden Ears Provincial Park and Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows, also in British Columbia, Canada. The rat cave in the film was actually a much more horrifying bat cave in the novel. In the movie, the rats that Rambo struggles with in the cave were actually white lab rats that were dyed brown.
In the United States, the film was released as First Blood. In International markets after the film became popular, the film was re-titled Rambo: First Blood. In some other countries, the film was titled simply Rambo. In Spain and Latin America the film was titled "Acorralado" (Surrounded). A few years after the film's release, the film was broadcast on television as Rambo in the United States.
First Blood, with a shooting budget of $15 million and a total domestic gross of $47 million and $125 million worldwide, 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, as he felt that it was cliched, but that overall the film 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." Sitting U.S. President Ronald Reagan was enthusiastic about the film's portrayal of Vietnam veterans and praised it, also claiming that Rambo was mostlikely a Republican. Although Stallone appreciated Reagan's comments, he insisted that Rambo doesn't care about politics and it's one of the things he despises about America. Rambo just wants to be left alone and he is apolitcal, not wishing to be affiliated with any political party. 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 86% "Fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 62 ("generally positive") from Metacritic.
In 2008, First Blood was named the 253rd greatest film ever by Empire magazine on their 2008 list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. The character of John Rambo was considered a possible candidate for the American Film Institute's list 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains. The film itself was also a candidate for AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding movies. The character of John Rambo has now become one of the most popular action heroes of all time, spawning an entire franchise of action films.
The film, however, 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.
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.
|V • D • E|
|Films:||First Blood • Rambo: First Blood Part II • Rambo III • Rambo • Rambo: Last Blood|
|John Rambo on:||First Blood • First Blood Part II • Rambo III • Rambo IV • On-Screen Kills|
|Cast:||Sylvester Stallone • Richard Crenna|
|Video games:||Rambo • Rambo: First Blood Part II • Rambo (1987) • Rambo III • Rambo on Fire • Rambo (Sega) • Rambo: The Video Game|