He'll give you a war you won't believe! Here's our review of First Blood on 4K Ultra HD!
Vietnam veteran John Rambo is pushed to his limit by the hard-nosed sheriff in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, sending him into a downward spiral of mayhem and destruction. Also stars Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy. Directed by Ted Kotcheff.
In 1982, Sylvester Stallone followed up Rocky III by taking a gamble, playing a very different type of hero in Vietnam vet John Rambo. It was a gamble that paid off big for the actor, and resulted in a film that defined action heroes for a generation.
Based on a novel by David Morrell, First Blood is not a conventional action film - underlying the action and thrills is a social message that resonated at the time. Less than a decade after the end of the Vietnam War, America had a very different attitude towards veterans, and movies which depicted the war were bleak and often unsympathetic to returning soldiers.
At the time, movies like The Deer Hunter began to explore the effects of the war on veterans, and in 1982, First Blood took that theme and added a revenge element to it. Although it is known as a relentless action film, there is far more to Rambo’s first adventure than outstanding stunts and explosions. Unlike the action-oriented sequels that followed, there’s an emotional depth to First Blood, and an underrated performance from Sylvester Stallone.
On the disc’s audio commentary, Stallone calls First Blood his favorite action film, and it’s easy to see why. The film is entertaining and relentless, an amazing result for a film that suffered a troubled production and a disastrous first cut.
With engaging performances by both Brian Dennehy and Richard Crenna, as well as an iconic score from Jerry Goldsmith that is near-perfect, First Blood is a landmark action film, and not just because it introduced a film character that defined a decade. It changed how action films were made, and cemented Sylvester Stallone as an action film icon.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer of First Blood is fantastic. That’s not to say it’s perfect, because it isn’t; there is significant grain in the image, and the original print used for the transfer shows its age. However, as a fan who has watched First Blood on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and even on LASERDISC - I must say that the film has never looked this good. This is reportedly a new transfer and restoration made for the 4K release, and I can confirm that there is an upgrade in image quality from the softer look featured on the Blu-ray.
The 4K image has bolder, richer colors than the Blu-ray, which featured colors that looked a bit washed out. The 4K image transfer appears to be darker than previous video releases, but the detail is better, so the many night scenes look outstanding. Casual fans may not see a marked difference in image quality from HD to UHD, but the improvement in fine detail and color is absolutely there.
The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HDMA mix, and while it isn’t as robust as soundtracks for modern films, it does feature excellent clarity, and Jerry Goldsmith’s score is given proper prominence.
It should be noted that the subtitles are not exactly true to the dialogue. According to the credits, the subtitles were done for a French home video release, so it appears it was translated from French into English, and it often doesn’t match the spoken word.
The bonus features are included solely on the Blu-ray that is included in the set, as the 4K disc only includes the film and audio commentaries. Most of the extras come from previous home video releases.
The disc even includes several historical featurettes about the Vietnam War, with no reference to the film. It's a smart addition, especially for those viewers not old enough to remember the war and its effect on the country at the time.
It should be noted that some of the special features appear to have been produced for a previous French home video release, so some of the extras include French titles. Even the special features menu features a couple of French words, an oversight that should have been corrected for the 4K release. The video quality for the extras varies from HD to SD.
The special features include:
“Rambo Takes The 80s Part 1” featurette. This is a bonus feature created just for the 4K release. Cast, crew, and critics discuss how First Blood and the character of Rambo affected the culture in the 1980s, particularly in light of the end of the Vietnam War and the country’s social attitude at the time. David Morrell, author of the original First Blood novel, is among those interviewed. Running Time: 17:43
“Drawing First Blood” documentary. Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, David Morrell, director Ted Kotcheff and other members of the crew discuss the making of the film. Produced in 2002, the documentary uses some interview clips from a French “making of” featurette (you’ll see French titles a few times), and yet provides a fascinating look behind the scenes. Even die-hard Rambo fans will find several interesting anecdotes in it. Running Time: 22:34
Alternate Ending. The infamous alternate ending, in which Rambo dies, is included here. You’ll likely recognize the footage, as it was partially used in 2008’s Rambo in a dream sequence. Running Time: 2:02
Outtake. In this blooper from the alternate ending, we see a bit of levity from Stallone and Crenna during a particularly heavy scene. Running Time: 54 seconds
Deleted Scene. In this deleted flashback scene, Rambo remembers a lost love from the war. Running Time: 2:28
“The Restoration” comparison. This reel of “before and after” shots, with French titles, shows how the removal of dirt, scratches, and other debris from the film print improved the image. Running Time: 1:35
“The Real ‘Nam” documentary. In this historical documentary (produced independently of the First Blood film) The Vietnam War is recounted by the soldiers who lived through it. With French titles. Running Time: 26:56
“The Forging of Heroes” featurette. The training of the Green Berets is detailed in this featurette. Real Green Berets discuss their extensive regimen and experiences. Running Time: 9:54
“How to Become Rambo, Part 1” featurette. Dr. Franco Columbu, Sylvester Stallone’s body building coach, demonstrates the training program he used to get the actor in shape for the Rambo films. Running Time: 14:20
Theatrical Trailers. Two original 1982 trailers are featured. Running Time: 2:13
Audio Commentaries. There are two separate commentaries are included: one with Sylvester Stallone, and one with David Morrell, the author of the novel First Blood.
The Stallone commentary is superb - he is completely open and honest about the production, and provides some great stories. He also passes along more than a few anecdotes that are worth hearing. The Morell commentary isn’t nearly as interesting, but he does provide some nice insights, and he often compares how the film deviated from his book. He also shares a handful of interesting stories.
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, redeemable through services including VUDU and FandangoNow, is included. However, the code currently only provides an HD version of the film, not UHD. We suggest waiting to redeem your code until Lionsgate confirms a 4K UHD digital version is available with your service provider. Lionsgate movies do not port to the Movies Anywhere service.
4K ULTRA HD SPECS
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Running Time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Audio Commentary: Two commentaries, one with Sylvester Stallone, one with David Morrell