Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Ted Kotcheff|
|Produced by||Buzz Feitshans|
|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 is the first installment in the Rambo franchise and co-stars Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy.
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. Since its release, First Blood has received reappraisal from critics, with many praising 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 and 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 has died from cancer 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 an unwanted nuisance. When Rambo asks for directions to a diner, Teasle drives him out of town and tells him not to come back; when Rambo returns, Teasle arrests him on charges of vagrancy, resisting arrest, and possessing a concealed knife.
Led by 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 outside, stealing a motorcycle and fleeing into the woods. Teasle organizes a search party with automatic weapons, dogs, and a helicopter. Galt defies orders and attempts to shoot Rambo from the helicopter. Trapped on a high cliff over a creek, Rambo leaps into a tree, injuring himself, he throws a rock, fracturing the helicopter's windshield; the pilot's sudden reaction causes Galt, who has removed his safety harness in order to get a better firing angle, to lose his balance and take a deadly plunge to the jagged rocks far below.
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, 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 fight back with greater force 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 and suggests 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 refuses. Teasle allows Trautman to contact Rambo – on a police radio he stole while escaping – and try to persuade him to surrender peacefully. Rambo recognizes Trautman's voice but refuses to give up, condemning Teasle and his deputies for their abuse and noting "they drew first blood," before hanging up.
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 experience in Vietnam and after his return. Teasle is transported to a hospital, while Rambo surrenders to Trautman and is taken into custody.
- Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo
- Richard Crenna as Colonel Samuel "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 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. 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, his performance of which received much critical praise.
The film was shot in British Columbia, Canada in the winter; 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 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 over three hours, possibly three and a half hours long and according to Sylvester Stallone, it was so bad that it made him 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.
First Blood topped the North American 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, ranking as the 13th highest-grossing film of the year, and $125 million worldwide, against a $14 million budget.
Critical reception and legacy
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. More recently, 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 website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 87% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 7.21/10. 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".
First Blood has received the most positive reception of the Rambo franchise, while the next three sequels received mixed or average reviews; however, the sequels still developed strong cult followings.
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.
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.
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.
- Syndicate Sadists, an Poliziotteschi film that references First Blood.
- Wild Blood, an Turkish copy film of First Blood.
- Son of Rambow, a comedy film includes excerpts from First Blood.
A sequel titled Rambo: First Blood Part II, was released in 1985.
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