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First Blood (1982) - 4K Blu-ray Review

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First Blood (1982)

Sylvester Stallone was infamously underrated and dismissed until he stormed the box office and got an Oscar nomination for Rocky. By 1982 he’d attained enough box office clout to name his next project and what he decided to do was First Blood, an adaptation of a novel by David Morell that had been in development hell for years in Hollywood. Sly, as he would want to do for all his projects, elected to rewrite the latest screenplay to make the central hero, John Rambo, more pitiable. Ironically, considering what Rambo would become in latter installments, he steered the other writers Michael Kozell and William Sackheim to reduce Rambo’s body count and focus on the more topical subject of a Vietnam vet being victimized by prejudice. With the cartoon character that developed out of John Rambo in future installments, it’s an unjustified slight against Stallone to forget how brilliant this first entry was. Even Sly himself though his career was over when he saw the first cut. How wrong we all were.

"was tarnished unfairly back in the day with the memories of the ridiculous follow ups in the 1980s. But this is a true classic"


John Rambo is a rough around the edges drifter, a former servicemen from the Vietnam War, still wearing the flag and the trauma’s of his past firmly upon his drawn face. As he arrives in a small town to catch up with a fellow serviceman, he learns that he is the last of his platoon alive. Hurt and lost, Rambo returns to the road and is spotted by the town’s Sheriff (Brian Dennehy) who literally drives him out of town. When Rambo chooses to walk straight back toward town, things go pear shaped fast. Rambo is arrested and mistreated by some seriously prejudiced deputies, and when things escalate to bodily harm, Rambo’s true nature comes to fore and people get F-ed up.

On the surface of that description, you’re looking at an old school, testosterone fuelled slugfest, but it is so much more than that. While there’s plenty of macho for all who seek it, the spine of this movie is its focus on PTSD, the checkered history of what those who served in the Vietnam War endured upon returning to the country they served, and the failure of some of them to be able to reacclimatize to normal civilian life.

Stallone’s performance is brilliant. He is understated (something that quickly went away in the sequels), powerful, wounded, emotional, and pitiable. The violence he perpetrates on the nasty and very unprepared deputies is not gratuitous (although sometimes elaborate) and is brilliantly performed by Sly as a kind of triggered autopilot.

The writing is succinct and effective, occasionally falling down the cliché bravado hole, but never enough to take away from the film. In fact, when Richard Crenna’s Trautman and the Sheriff have a ‘discussion’ he unleashes one for the ages after warning the man not to send in a large force to collect Rambo: “If you send that many, don’t forget one thing—a good supply of body bags.”First Blood (1982)

It’s a dour looking movie, with the weather of location Canada serving well to backdrop the melancholy and suffering of Rambo. Its dark forest scenes are as beautiful as they are sad, with the camera work of Andrew Laszlo finding great detail in a difficult environment.

The wonderful Jerry Goldsmith added another infamous score to his tally, and was so successful with his “It’s a long road” theme continuing in all the sequels along with Stallone. I have personally listened to the scores of these movies more than I’ve seen them.

First Blood was tarnished unfairly back in the day with the memories of the ridiculous follow ups in the 1980s. But this is a true classic, a wonderful example of Stallone’s acting ability, his intelligence, and his instinct pick the right role. He needn’t have feared the results of his efforts in this one. It’s a classic and deservedly so.

4/5 stars

First Blood (1982)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate
Available on Blu-ray
- November 13, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K Blu-ray: Region free; 2K Blu-ray: Region A

VIDEO:

This is a masterfully handled native 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negatives. It’s clean, without sacrificing the grain, and the detail you get as a result has never been seen before. Contrast, thanks to the HDR, is palpable. Detail laden blacks and highlights punch the image through your TV. You see colours in this film that you’ve never seen before, whether it’s the multitudes of forest green, the badges on cop’s jackets and their sirens, or the amazing oranges of explosions and fires in the night, it’s as layered and immersive as it gets. This film, as stated in the review, was consciously dour in pallet and always presented as washed out with unrefined shadowing night scenes. All of that, with this 4K release, has been proven to be hogwash. It’s an A grade disc.

AUDIO:

While effective, this is just a ported over mix from the previous Blu-ray release. not an Atmos or DTS-X level. It frustrated me when the companies go to extraordinary lengths to deliver the films in the best possible transfers and then cheap out on the soundtrack. Having said that, the 5.1 DTS-HD mix was always decent, with clear centre channel dialogue, and effective (at times) surround capabilities in the explosion/gun fire scenes. It weakens in environmental scenes, like rain and tunnels etc. It’s nowhere near as immersive. It’s a competent if dated mix and a disappointment to me.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • From Sylvester Stallone
  • From David Morrell

Special Features:

Broken record here: you get the same features available on the Blu-ray, which is also packaged in this set, with the exception of the two commentaries. They’re actually on the 4K

  • Rambo Takes the 80s Part 1
  • Making Of
  • Alternative Ending
  • Outtake
  • Deleted Scene
  • The Restauration.
  • The Real Nam
  • Forging Heroes
  • How to Become Rambo Part 1
  • Original Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

First Blood (1982)

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
93 mins
Director
: Ted Kotcheff
Writer:
Michael Kozoll
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna
Genre
: Action
Tagline:
He never fought a battle he couldn't win.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Are you telling me that 200 of our men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?"
Theatrical Distributor:
International Film Marketing
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 22, 1982
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 13, 2018
Synopsis: A formidable but unstable veteran Green Beret is forced by a cruel Sheriff and his deputies to flee into the mountains and wage an escalating one-man war against his pursuers.

First Blood (1982)

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