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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > War > Vietnam > Rambo – First Blood “Quadrilogy” (Blu-rays + DVD-Videos, including Complete Collector’s Set DVD Tin Box/Lionsgate)

Rambo – First Blood “Quadrilogy” (Blu-rays + DVD-Videos, including Complete Collector’s Set DVD Tin Box/Lionsgate)


Picture: B/C+     Sound: B/C+     Extras: C+     Films: B-/C-/C-/C+



John Rambo made a return to the big screen many years later, with more time between sequels than ever, so Lionsgate made it an excuse to do a home video blitz of all four films on DVD and now Blu-ray.  We will now take on each film once and for all for the first time.


First Blood (1982) we previously reviewed on Blu-ray a while ago, the same Blu-ray now in the Blu-ray Trilogy box, as this link will show:





It is the same exact disc in the new set, with then only thing changing is that I have seen the same Digital Internegative projected on a big screen in substandard video for a one-night event Lionsgate held at a handful of theaters and as is the case in the Blu-ray and less-impressive DVD versions, the film needs some work when it comes to detail, depth and color.  Andrew Lazlo and the audience deserve better than this.


Rambo: First Blood, Part II (1985) and Rambo III (1988) go into less-serious and increasingly problematic directions for the series that backfired severely in their rhetoric.  The second film is notoriously the ultimate Neo-Conservative Rollback fantasy as Rambo goes back to Vietnam to “win” complete with (at the very least, to be nice about it) confused racial politics, revisionist history of the U.S. role in Vietnam and his revision as almost a Marvel Comics-like superhero who can take bullets, knife wounds and other assaults on the body and just yell the pain and death away, complete with instant removal of some of the foreign objects.  It was silly, but some took it seriously and it was a hit.  Post, 9/11, its many problems are more glaring than ever.


The third film was a very expensive sequel that bombed and along with Red Heat, caused Columbia and TriStar pictures to merge, plus inevitably led to the end of Carolco Pictures for the worst.  This time, to bring down the Soviet Union, Rambo goes to Afghanistan to help a Taliban-like organization battle the USSR invasion (in their Vietnam) complete with Rambo battling KGB commandos (in some of the silliest hand-to-hand fights in 1980s cinema) and needless to say to serves as more Rollback propaganda.  The film’s production went on so long and so overbudget that the Soviets could not afford to stay and left the country a week before this film was released, assuring it would be the big bomb it was.  The James Bond film the year prior, The Living Daylights (1987, reviewed elsewhere on this site) had the same plot, but made more money and cost much less.  Needless to say that film has dated badly, Rambo battle exaggerations and all, though that was only the latter part of that film and The Cold War caused both franchises to take their longest break.  That is why the fourth film was made.


Sure, it was 19 years later, but Rambo (they would only add the number 4 outside of the U.S.) and the result is the film with the most violence, highest body count and to think that this is the shortened theatrical version.  You can read about the film and the ways it does and does not fit into the trilogy with our original review at this link:





Gone is the Right Wing propaganda, Rollback politics and superhero aspect of the first two sequels.  In this short version, it is not a perfect film, as Rambo unwittingly goes with some Christina Missionaries into a genocide zone near Thailand.  To Stallone’s credit, he does not hold back in showing how ugly the torture, humiliation, mutilation, sick treatment and murder relentlessly happens to its victims, made more interesting by a small militia army eventually joining him in the fight.  It may have its problems in this version and we would really like to see the long version, but as it stands, the film is smart in going back to the basics Michael Kozoll set-up in the first film to begin with.  That is why it deserves a closer look than the dismissal it has often received, especially at this time with so much genocide going unreported by the media.  You are not seeing much of it in any kind of filmmaking either, including commercial fare like this, making this Stallone’s best directorial work since Paradise Alley.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on all four Blu-rays are better than the soft image on all four DVD versions of the films, with the first two sequels have some of the same softness, detail and depth issues as the first films.  The first two films were shot in real anamorphic Panavision, the third in anamorphic J-D-C Scope and the fourth in Super 35mm, which partly may have been necessitated by the location shoot.  The first three should look much better and did in 35mm film, while the fourth has a Digital Internegative where the telecine artist went bonkers with color and details, degrading a picture constantly that should look much better than it does on Blu-ray or DVD.  This too looked a bit better on 35mm film.


The first three films used to have DTS 5.1 tracks at one time, but the three DVD versions are dated, have lame menus and lame Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes.  Not that the DTS HD mixes on the on the Blu-ray’s are up to what they should be (the first DTS HD 5.1, 2 & 3 DTS MA 5.1, 4 DTS MA 7.1) because the new soundtrack for the 2008 film seems to be pushing it at 7.1, while you wonder where the original audio elements from the first three films are in their remixes.


That digital presentation I recently sat through had Dolby 5.1 and some warping, much like here.  The first film was a Dolby A-type analog release, the second 4.1 Dolby 70mm mag stereo, the third Dolby SR (Spectral Recording) advanced analog presentation and the recent film an all-digital recording. 


As for extras, besides silly interactive guidance from the old menu set-up, the DVD tin box set’s bonus DVD comes with trailers and ten featurettes for the initial trilogy, only three of which appear on the DVD:  Drawing First Blood on one, joined by two audio commentary tracks and deleted scenes.  We Get To Win This Time is on the second with director’s commentary, while the third has Afghanistan: Land In Crisis, also with director’s commentary.  All have trivia tracks.


The fourth film is a two disc set sold as a separate DVD set, taking up two of the six DVDs in the tin or on Blu-ray, with the second disc allowing for a bonus Digital Copy for PCs and smaller electronic devices.  You also get six featurettes, deleted scenes, trailer gallery and Stallone audio commentary.  The Blu-ray adds picture in picture interviews as you watch the film and advanced (Profile 2.0 for Blu-ray) MoLog content.


This should be the last time the studio issues any of these, though Stallone intends to issue a longer version of the fourth film.  Hope Lionsgate does not go bonkers on another wave of reissues, unless they upgrade the first three.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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