Thus far, I've been able to view both First Blood, as well as Rambo: First Blood Part II, in 4k, and my words will be up later today. In anticipation, I've reached out to David Morrell, for a bit of background regarding his creation of one of the cinema's most beloved, and popular heroes. ******* David Morrell is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, who spans numerous genres from espionage novels such as The Brotherhood of the Rose (the basis for the only TV miniseries to air after a Super Bowl) to deeply researched Victorian mysteries such as Murder As a Fine Art. Murder is one of my favorite novels of the last decade, and is the first volume of a trilogy based upon Thomas De Quincy. The trilogy covers a very different world from that of John Rambo, and illuminates Mr. Morrell, as a novelist fully in charge of his craft. Originally from Canada, Mr. Morrell received his M.A. in American literature from Penn State in 1967 and his Ph.D in 1970. His first published work was First Blood, which introduced the character of Rambo. The novel appeared in 1972 and has never been out of print. The film adaptation, starring Sylvester Stallone, was released ten years later, in 1982 and now has a new home, a video release in 4k. RAH: I read that there was some confusion when you received a call from your agent congratulating you on your first book contract and you thought he meant your doctoral dissertation on John Barth, not First Blood. Is this true? DM: I was 28 years old. I’d spent three years working on First Blood while I was also working on my doctorate. These days, action thrillers are on bestseller lists all the time, but that was hardly the case when my agent submitted the manuscript to publishers in 1971. I was prepared for failure and automatically assumed that my dissertation about John Barth was what he’d sold. It took him quite a while to make me understand what he was referring to. ”No, not John Barth,” he kept saying. “Rambo.” I laugh every time I remember my confusion. RAH: One of the things that comes up in any discussion of your work is the amazing amount of research that goes into your writing. DM: I love to do research. For my protective-agent novels, such as The Fifth Profession and The Naked Edge, I was trained by a former U.S. marshal, who helped protect John Hinckley Jr. after he shot President Reagan. For the aircraft scenes in The Shimmer(about the real-life mysterious Marfa Lights of west Texas), I became a private pilot. For the car fights in The Protector,I spent a week at the Bill Scott Raceway in West Virginia, learning defensive/offensive driving at fifty miles an hour. For my Victorian mysteries, which begin with Murder As a Fine Art,I literally spent years reading histories about 1850s London. RAH: You wrote First Blood while you were in graduate school. What gave you the idea? DM: When I came to the United States, I was a married Canadian with a young daughter, so I couldn’t have been in the Vietnam War. In Canada, very little was said about Vietnam, so in surprise I watched the news about the hundreds of protests in America. The nation seemed to be falling apart. “It’s as if the war came home,” I remember thinking, and that became the idea for the novel. There’s a strong contrast between the characters. Rambo is a disaffected war veteran who hates what he learned about himself. Teasle is a member of the Establishment who was a hero in the Korean conflict and doesn’t understand how the country is changing. Col. Trautman represents the system that created Rambo and ultimately destroys him. Sometimes I thought of the book as a version of a Western in which a weary gunfighter wants to hang up his guns but the local law won’t let him. RAH: How did you go about your research? DM: I interviewed a lot of Vietnam veterans, learning about the symptoms of what’s now called post-trauma stress disorder. I also researched the Choisin Reservoir Retreat in the Korean conflict—that’s a major part of the police chief’s background and isn’t included in the film. I also received weapons training from a gun club and researched the “Shade Gap Incident,” which took place in central Pennsylvania in the mid 1960s, one of the largest mountain manhunts in U.S. history. RAH: You said the novel took three years for you to write. Can you describe the process? DM: It was my first book, so naturally I made a lot of mistakes. For example, I started with the chase through the mountains, but since the reader didn’t know who Rambo and Teasle were, the chase had no significance. Finally I began with Rambo coming to town and Teasle seeing him. “His name was Rambo, and he was just some nothing kid for all anybody knew.” That became the first sentence. The original typescript was 600 pages, focusing on numerous characters. When I finally decided on alternating viewpoints between Rambo and Teasle, the novel came to life. The eventual page count was 300. My goal was to write an action book that didn’t feel like a genre book. RAH: How involved were you in the creation of the film? How closely did you work with the screenwriters and the director Ted Kotcheff? DM: I wasn’t involved at all, which is a good thing because I’d have gone crazy as the project went through 26 scripts and 4 studios over 10 years. Steve McQueen was going to be Rambo until someone realized that Steve was in his mid-40s and there weren’t any fortyish Vietnam veterans in the 1970s. The only input I had involved Carolco producer Andrew Vajna calling me to ask if the story would be damaged if the locale were switched from Kentucky to the Pacific Northwest (the studio had financial incentives to shoot in British Columbia). I told him there wouldn’t be a problem. I should have asked for a screenplay credit because I said there wouldn’t be a problem. Ha. My ending was changed also, and as I said, the police chief’s character was minimized, but even though it’s on a different train track than my novel, I think it’s an excellent film. Stephen King once told me he thought I’d been treated as well as Hollywood can treat a novelist because he actually recognized my plot. Ted Kotcheff is a fine director. Jerry Goldsmith’s music can’t be beat. Andrew Laszlo’s cinematography is amazing, especially the way he lights the cave sequence. As for Sly, Richard Crenna said to me that in Richard’s long career, only two actors seemed to him to really know what to do in front of the camera through the use of their eyes and props. Those actors were Steve McQueen and Sly. On Location, in Israel, for Rambo III RAH: How do the films and your novel compare to each other? DM: My novel First Bloodhas more action than the film. As I mentioned, it also changes my ending and switches the locale, but an even more important difference is that in the novel Rambo is furious about what the war taught him about himself whereas in the film he’s portrayed as a victim. In Rambo (First Blood Part II)and Rambo III, he’s different again, becoming jingoistic. For Rambo IV (the official title is merely Rambo but that’s confusing), Sly phoned me and said he thought the second and third films glorified violence and that the fourth film would go back to the bitterness of the character in my novel. Sly said he wanted to treat the violence as if Sam Peckinpah directed the film. RAH: Any closing thoughts? DM: Just that this new high-resolution version of the film has an audio commentary by me in which I go into greater detail about my novel and the film. I tell a lot of background stories, such as how Rambo’s name was inspired by an apple. Also if anyone would like more information about Rambo, there’s a page about him on my website, www.davidmorrell.net. RAH: Mr. Morrell and I thought it might be fun to open questions to the HTF community. For those who might like to join in, please send potential questions to me via HTF mail, and many will be passed along. And for those seeking a bit of news on the new Lionsgate 4k releases, it's all good news. A few words... to follow.