Rambo – First Blood “Quadrilogy” (Blu-rays + DVD-Videos, including Complete Collector’s Set DVD Tin Box/Lionsgate)
B/C+ Sound: B/C+ Extras: C+ Films: B-/C-/C-/C+
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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