Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Ted Kotcheff|
|Produced by||Andrew Vajna|
|Based on||First Blood|
by David Morrell
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Joan Chapman|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Box office||$125.2 million|
First Blood is a 1982 American action film directed by Ted Kotcheff, and co-written by Sylvester Stallone, who also stars as Vietnam War veteran John Rambo. It co-stars Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy, and is the first installment in the Rambo franchise, followed by Rambo: First Blood Part II.
The film is based on the 1972 novel of the same name by David Morrell. In the film, Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood veteran, must rely on his combat and survival senses against the abusive law enforcement of the small town of Hope, Washington.
First Blood was released in the United States on October 22, 1982. Despite initial mixed reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing $125.2 million at the box office. In 1985, it also became the first Hollywood blockbuster to be released in China, holding the record for the largest number of tickets sold for an American film until 2018. Since its release, First Blood has been reappraised by critics, with many highlighting the roles of Stallone, Dennehy, and Crenna, and recognizing it as an influential film in the action genre.
The film's success spawned a franchise, consisting of four sequels (all of which were co-written by and starred Stallone), an animated television series and a series of comic books, novels, video games, as well as a Bollywood remake.
Seven years after his discharge, Vietnam War veteran John Rambo travels by foot to visit an old comrade, only to learn that his friend had died from cancer the previous year, due to Agent Orange exposure during the war.
Rambo continues to travel, wandering into the small town of Hope, Washington. He is intercepted by the town's Sheriff, Will Teasle, who considers Rambo a drifter and an unwanted nuisance. Teasle, however, offers Rambo a lift to make sure he is headed out of town. When Rambo, now in Teasle's police car, asks for directions to a diner, Teasle tells him that there is a diner 30 miles up the highway. He then drives Rambo out of the town and tells him that Portland, where Rambo had initially said he was headed, lies straight ahead. Teasle then drops Rambo off and drives back towards the town. When Rambo tries to return, Teasle intercepts and arrests him on charges of vagrancy, resisting arrest, and possessing a concealed knife.
Led by sadistic chief deputy Art Galt, Teasle's officers abuse Rambo, triggering flashbacks of the torture he endured as a POW in Vietnam. When they try to dry-shave him with a straight razor, Rambo overwhelms the patrolmen, regains his knife, and fights his way out of the police station before stealing a motorcycle and fleeing into the woods. Teasle organizes a search party with automatic weapons, dogs, and a helicopter. Having spotted Rambo attempting to climb down a cliff over a creek, Galt defies orders from Teasle and attempts to shoot Rambo from the helicopter. Rambo however, realising he is a sitting duck, leaps from the cliff and lands on a tree branch, injuring his arm. With Galt still trying to shoot him, Rambo manages to throw a rock with his uninjured arm, fracturing the helicopter's windshield and causing the pilot to briefly lose control. Galt, who had removed his safety harness in order to get a better firing angle, loses his balance and takes a fatal plunge to the rocks below.
With the aid of a pair of binoculars, Teasle identifies Galt's dead body and swears revenge. Rambo tries to persuade Teasle and his men that Galt's death was an accident and that he wants no more trouble, but the officers open fire and pursue him into the woods. It is then revealed that Rambo is a former Green Beret and received the Medal of Honor, but Teasle, bent on revenge, refuses to turn the manhunt over to the State Police. One by one, using guerrilla tactics, Rambo non-lethally disables the deputies, using both booby traps and his bare hands, until only Teasle is left. Overpowering Teasle and holding a knife to his throat, Rambo tells him he could have killed them all and he threatens to give him a war he won't believe if Teasle does not let it go.
The state police and National Guard are called in to assist in the manhunt, while Rambo's mentor and former commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman, also arrives. Trautman confirms that Rambo is an expert at guerrilla warfare and survival, which he honed in intensive combat in Vietnam; as such, he advises that Rambo be allowed to slip through the perimeter and escape to the next town - thereby defusing the situation - then be permitted to surrender peacefully later. Confident that Rambo is hopelessly outnumbered, Teasle arrogantly refuses. He allows Trautman to contact Rambo – on a police radio he stole while escaping – and try to persuade him to surrender peacefully. Rambo recognizes Trautman but refuses to give up, condemning Teasle and his deputies for their abuse and noting "they drew first blood".
Trying to slip through the cordon, Rambo is surprised by a young boy out hunting; he overpowers but refuses to harm the boy, who alerts the pursuers. A National Guard detachment corners Rambo at the entrance of an abandoned mine. Against orders, they use a rocket, collapsing the entrance and seemingly killing Rambo. He survives and finds another way out, hijacking a supply truck carrying an M60 machine gun and ammunition and returning to town. To distract his pursuers, he blows up a gas station, shoots out most of the town's power, and destroys a gun store near the police station. Trautman, knowing that the sheriff is no match for Rambo, tries to convince Teasle to escape, but is ignored.
Rambo spots Teasle on the police station's roof, and they engage in a brief gunfight, ending with Teasle shot and falling through a skylight. As Rambo prepares to kill him, Trautman appears and warns Rambo that he will be shot if he does not surrender, reminding him he is the last survivor of his elite unit of Green Berets. Rambo collapses in tears and talks about his traumatic experiences watching his friends die in Vietnam and his mental struggle with the disrespect he received from anti-war protestors upon his return. Teasle is transported to a hospital, while Rambo surrenders to Trautman after being comforted and validated.
- Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo
- Richard Crenna as Colonel Samuel R. "Sam" Trautman
- Brian Dennehy as Sheriff William "Will" Teasle
- Bill McKinney as Captain Dave Kern
- Jack Starrett as Deputy Sergeant Arthur "Art" Galt
- Michael Talbott as Deputy Balford
- Chris Mulkey as Deputy Ward
- John McLiam as Orval Kellerman
- Alf Humphreys as Deputy Lester
- David Caruso as Deputy Mitch Rogers
- David L. Crowley as Deputy Shingleton
- Don MacKay as Deputy Preston
- Patrick Stack as Lieutenant Clinton Morgen
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Development and writing
Ted Kotcheff had been approached with the project in 1976. He only returned to work on First Blood after Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna of Anabasis Investments offered to finance one of his projects. Kotcheff offered the role of John Rambo to Sylvester Stallone, and the actor accepted after reading the script through in a weekend. Various scripts adapted from Morrell's book had been pitched to studios in the years since its publication, but it was only when Stallone decided to become involved with the project that it was finally brought into production. Stallone's star power after the success of the Rocky films enabled him to rewrite the script to make the character of John Rambo more sympathetic. While Morrell's book has the Rambo character kill many of his pursuers, and Kozoll and Sackheim's draft had him killing sixteen people, in the movie Rambo does not directly cause the death of any police or national guardsmen. Stallone also decided to let Rambo survive the film instead of keeping the book's ending where he dies. A suicide scene was filmed but Kotcheff and Stallone opted to have Rambo turn himself in at Trautman's urging. Stallone did an estimated seven revisions of the script. Kotcheff requested further work be done on the script, which was performed by Larry Gross and David Giler.
When David Morrell wrote the novel, which was published in 1972, the producers first considered Steve McQueen but then rejected him because they considered him too old to play a Vietnam veteran from 1975. 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 Colonel Trautman. James Mason, Milton Berle, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Jaeckel were also considered. Kirk Douglas was eventually hired, but just before shooting began, Douglas quit the role of Colonel Trautman over a script dispute; Douglas wanted the film to end as the book did (Rambo and Teasle fatally wound each other, Trautman finishes Rambo with a kill shot then sits with the dying Teasle for the sheriff's final moments). 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, a performance for which he received much critical praise.
The film was shot in British Columbia, Canada in the winter of 1981. The town scenes in the movie were shot in Hope and the nearby Othello Tunnels, called Chapman Gorge in the film, while the rest of the movie was shot in Capilano Canyon, Golden Ears Provincial Park and Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows. The weaponry used in the film had to be imported into Canada. Over 50 of the imported firearms were stolen midway through the filming.
The first rough cut was at least three hours and possibly three and a half hours long. According to Sylvester Stallone, it was so bad that it made himself and his agent sick. Stallone wanted to buy the movie and destroy it thinking that it was a career killer. After heavy re-editing, the film was cut down to 93 minutes; this version was ultimately released in theaters. The ending used in the finished film was shot in March 1982, after the original one was deemed unsatisfactory.
|First Blood: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by|
|Jerry Goldsmith chronology|
The film's score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, whose theme "It's a Long Road" added a new dimension to the character, and featured in the film's three sequels and animated spin-off. The soundtrack was originally released on LP by the Regency label, although it was edited out of sequence for a more satisfying listen. The album was reissued on CD with one extra track ("No Power") twice, first as one of Intrada Records' initial titles, then as an identical release by Varèse Sarabande. The complete score was released by Intrada in a 2-CD set, along with a remastered version of the original album (with the Carolco logo [previously released on La-La Land Records' Extreme Prejudice album] and the Rambo: First Blood Part II trailer music added), on November 23, 2010, as one of their MAF unlimited titles.
Author Morrell recorded an audio commentary track for the First Blood Special Edition DVD released in 2002. Actor Stallone recorded an audio commentary track for the First Blood Ultimate Edition DVD released in 2004. This edition also includes a "never-before-seen" alternate ending in which Rambo commits suicide— a fate more in line with the original novel's ending— and a "humorous" ending tacked on afterwards. A brief snippet of the suicide ending appears in a flashback in the fourth movie. Lionsgate also released this version on Blu-ray. Both commentary tracks are on the Blu-ray release.
Momentum Pictures released an HD DVD version of First Blood in the United Kingdom in April 2007. Lionsgate also released First Blood as a double feature on February 13, 2007, along with 2004's The Punisher.
The film was re-released as part of a 6-disc box set, which contains all four films in the series, on May 27, 2008. However, the box set is missing the David Morrell commentary, even though the packaging clearly states it is included. In anticipation of the release, the film was shown back in theaters for one night, May 15, 2008, through Fathom Events; the alternate ending was shown after the main feature.
First Blood was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on November 9, 2018.
First Blood topped the U.S. box office for three weeks in a row, and its $6,642,005 opening weekend was the best October opening at the time. The film ended as a significant financial success, with a total gross of $47 million domestically, the highest-grossing film of the fall, and the 13th highest-grossing film of the year.
The film grossed $125 million worldwide, against a $14 million budget. It was notably the first major Hollywood blockbuster to be released in China, where it was released in 1985. It sold 76 million tickets in China, the highest for a foreign Hollywood film up until 2018.
First Blood originally received generally mixed reviews, with several critics noting that the plot lacks any sense of credibility. Variety called the film "a mess" and criticized its ending for not providing a proper resolution for the main character. In the 2010 edition of his Movie Guide Leonard Maltin gave the film one-and a half stars out of four, saying that it "throws all credibility to the winds about the time [Rambo] gets off with only a bad cut after jumping from a mountain into some jagged rocks". In 2008, First Blood was named the 253rd greatest film ever by Empire magazine on its 2008 list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
Contemporary and retrospective reviews of the film have been positive, and it is considered by many as one of the best films of 1982. First Blood's release on DVD sparked a series of contemporary reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 85% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 7.16/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Much darker and more sensitive than the sequels it spawned, First Blood is a thrilling survival adventure that takes full advantage of Sylvester Stallone's acting skills." At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100 based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The film's three lead actors received much praise for their performances. In his review, Roger Ebert wrote that he did not like the film's ending, but that it was "a very good movie, well-paced, and well-acted not only by Stallone ... but also by Crenna and Brian Dennehy." He commented, "although almost all of First Blood is implausible, because it's Stallone on the screen, we'll buy it," and rated the film three out of four stars. 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". James Berardinelli of ReelViews called the film "a tense and effective piece of filmmaking". He noted that the film's darker tone, somber subtext, and non-exploitative violence allowed the viewer to enjoy the film not only as an action/thriller but as something with a degree of intelligence and substance. On Stallone's performance, he wrote "it seems impossible to imagine anyone other than Stallone in the part, and his capabilities as an actor should not be dismissed".
New York Times film critic Janet Maslin described Rambo as a "fierce, agile, hollow-eyed hero", who is portrayed as a "tormented, misunderstood, amazingly resourceful victim of the Vietnam War, rather than as a sadist or a villain." Maslin also praised the film's story for its "energy and ingenuity".
In a 2011 article for Blade Magazine, by Mike Carter, credit is given to Morrell and the Rambo franchise for revitalizing the cutlery industry in the 1980s; due to the presence of the Jimmy Lile and Gil Hibben knives used in the films. In 2003, Blade Magazine gave Morrell an industry achievement award for having helped to make it possible.
A sequel titled Rambo: First Blood Part II, was released in 1985.
In 2014, Rambo: The Video Game was released, based on the first three Rambo films.
In May 2013, Original Entertainment confirmed to have agreed to a five-picture deal with Millennium Films to produce Bollywood remakes of First Blood, The Expendables, 16 Blocks, 88 Minutes, and Brooklyn's Finest. In early 2016, Siddharth Anand was announced as the director of the First Blood remake. The film will be co-produced by Anand, Daljit DJ Parmar, Samir Gupta, Hunt Lowry, Saurabh Gupta and Gulzar Inder Chahal. It will follow "Rambo", the last member of an elite unit in the Indian Armed Forces, returning home only to discover a different war waiting for him, forcing him to the jungles and mountains of the Himalayas and unleash mayhem and destruction. In May 2017, Tiger Shroff was cast in the role of Rambo with principal photography set for February 2018. The film is scheduled to be released in October 2020. Shroff is expected to star in Hindi remakes of all five films in the Rambo franchise.
On August 14, 2020, a cedar wood statue of Rambo was unveiled in Hope, Canada, 38 years after Rambo was released. Mayor Peter Robb, Canadian Minister of Parliament Mark Strahl, and the statue's sculptor, Ryan Villers, attended the ceremony.
- Syndicate Sadists, an Poliziotteschi film that predates First Blood
- Wild Blood, a Turkish copy film of First Blood
- Thunder Warrior, an Italian film influenced by First Blood
- The Intruder, an Indonesian action film inspired by First Blood
- Son of Rambow, a British comedy film inspired by First Blood
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- Weichel, Andrew (August 18, 2020). "Sylvester Stallone 'very proud' of new Rambo carving in B.C. town". Retrieved January 30, 2021.
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