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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Rambo - The Complete Collector's Set (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set


Studio:    Lionsgate
Year: 1982, 1985, 1988, 2008
US Rating: All Rated R. Part Four R -Strong Graphic Violence, Sexual Assaults, Grisly Images & Language
Film Length: 96 Mins, 95 Mins, 102 Mins, 91Mins
Aspect Ratio: Original Trilogy 2:35.1, Rambo IV 2.40:1 – Each 16X9 1080p High Definition
Audio: First Blood - English 5.1 DTS-HD HR, Parts II and III - English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, Rambo IV – English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: Optional English and Spanish



Release Date: July 27, 2010

Review Date: July 18, 2010


Disc One:

First Blood


“I could have killed 'em all, I could kill you. In town you're the law, out here it's me. Don't push it. Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe.”

 

The Film: 4 out of 5

 

John Rambo, hero war machine from the Vietnam War, has become a drifter walking a long and lonely road in search of something no person can provide nor place can deliver. Rambo is searching for himself, lost somewhere in the brutality of his wartime experiences. The peace he searches for is elusive, but derision and disrespect are easy to find. When he drifts into a small town called Hope, looking for a hot meal and a break from his journey, he is quickly picked up by Hope town Sherriff Will Teasle and shuffled to the other side of town and told to keep walking. Rambo, not one to suffer fools lightly, chooses to head back into. From that moment through the next riveting hour and a half, what unfolds is a great ride with an unusual kind of hero and one of cinema’s most recognizable figures.

The film is based on a novel by David Morrell and was directed by a very capably Ted Kotcheff. It’s a true cat and mouse tale with exciting pace and tense set-pieces. The thrilling action simmers through the cold, rainy mountainous hills on the outskirts of the small town, where the over-zealous Sherriff, played by Brian Dennehy, stages his massive manhunt. Once Rambo escapes from the custody of the small-town, narrow-minded police force, the film engages a taught energy that is smart and furious at times. Pursued, hunted, outnumbered and outgunned, it is Rambo’s resourcefulness and connection with the raw of nature that gives the film its tight atmosphere and drama.

Once the local law enforcement realizes they have bitten off more than they can chew, Rambo’s ex-military commander (the late Richard Crenna) is called in to help talk Rambo down. The relationship between commander and subordinate is where the film really gets to explore the aftermath of not only the war in Vietnam, but the unfortunate treatment of those that served when they returned back home.

Stallone’s performance is noteworthy also, particularly because it was before the days where his characters became a little too self aware, and as a result, a little smug. It was also before action heroes seemed to be tethered by a need to spout off a quip after each handy dispensing of a bad guy. John Rambo in this film is a quiet, tough and tortured man who does only what he has to, reacting rather than aggressing against others, at least until the final act. Stallone in this character frame excels and provides amongst the very best of his film performances.

 

The Video: 4.5 out of 5

 

The image for First Blood is very good. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in fine 1080p High Definition, there is a good balance of color between the brighter opening scene and the drab, gray that pervades the thread of the film as Rambo is hunted through the cold forests. There is no real dust and debrit to be found, and of the original three films, First Blood is the cleanest and most solid presentation. The darker scenes, particularly when Rambo is tucked away in the cave, cooking his pig dinner and speaking with Trautman, show just how far superior to the DVD version.

 

The Sound: 4 out of 5


The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is solid during the action, though, and perhaps not surprisingly, it doesn’t have the same dynamic warmth or completeness of more recent movies. But that is to be expected given the films age. What the audio does manage is a clean delivery of the dialogue and Jerry Goldsmith’s superb score for this little dramatic action film from the early 80’s. The sub-woofer kicks in loudly during the larger explosions, particularly at the gas station when Rambo stages his attack on the town. More could have been done in the surrounds to create a greater sense of ‘being there’ with Rambo as well.
 

 

The Extra's: 3 out of 5


Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: –A thoughtful and intelligent commentary is provided here by co-screenplay writer and star, Sylvester Stallone. One of the most interesting parts of the commentary is Stallone sharing his fervent reservations about taking on this character and how, during the rise of the conservatives in America, the character and story were a risk. He also mentions where certain deleted scenes would take place and overall, provides one of the more engaging commentary tracks that I have heard.

Audio Commentary with author David Morrell: Energetic commentary track by the author of the novel from which the story and the Rambo character were born. Morrell appreciates this adaptation, celebrating the triumphs and quite often reflecting on the differences between his source novel and the finished film.  His observations and calling out of interesting trivia (especially the mine rats)are most definitely worth listening to.
 

Alternate Ending/Deleted Scene:–Though short, the first alternate ending is surprising, even shocking. The flashback deleted scene would have upset the general tone of the sequence it was cut from, and was best left out. The last deleted scene is more of an outtake and is good for a quick chuckle.

Out of the Blu Trivia (with 2.0 audio):

 

Drawing First Blood:– (22:33) –A good look at First Blood and how it became a metaphor for the effects of the Vietnam War on America. The thought of Kirk Douglas playing the role of Trautman raises some interesting questions about how it could have been.
 


Disc Two:

Rambo: First Blood Part Two


“To survive a war, you have to become war”

 

The Film: 3.5 out of 5

 

By the time the First Blood sequel hit the screen, the name Rambo had become very well known the world over, so it made sense that the naming convention for the next chapter would go out the window in favor of capitalizing upon that name recognition.

Rambo begins with Col. Sam Trautman bringing our hero a proposition as he labors away in a prison facility. The chance for a full pardon is his if he will take on a top secret and deadly mission into Vietnam to search for American prisoners of war. Rambo’s elite training and incomparable skills make him the ideal candidate to successfully complete the mission. Rambo accepts the offer and makes his journey into the deep and unforgiving jungles. But despite finding POW’s, breaking them free and making his way to the pick-up point, the bureaucratic ‘pencil-pusher’ from the government overseeing the mission abandons Rambo, and those rescued, to protect the politicians from the mission that was never supposed to succeed. Rambo is once again a forgotten soldier who must struggle on his own to do what is right and to fight… and fight hard.

When I first saw Rambo: First Blood Part II, I remember being enthralled at the relentless action of one man going up against an entire army. Revisiting the incredibly popular sequel years later yielded a more subdued response, but the heart of the First Blood follow up is now a quintessential 80’s American action movie. Written by Sylvester Stallone and James Cameron (from a story by Kevin Jarre), the story is far less of a thriller, but packs a more vivid punch than the smaller, tighter original of the series. Instead of fighting against ignorant lawmen and inner demons, Rambo’s enemy is a blend of Vietnamese and Russian soldiers and American Bureaucrats. The action is handled efficiently by Director George P. Cosmatos who keeps the pace consistent, allowing Rambo to do what he does best. Once the story hits the jungle, Rambo is in his element and the film feels closer to its predecessor as we are drawn in. The occasional one-liner quips don’t fit the character that we were first introduced to but were no doubt crowd pleasers at the time.

As an action film, it works very well, with Rambo transforming from the hero of solitude, reacting to outward influences to protect himself, into a fully fledged ‘go get ‘em’ savior. The film also successfully tied in the familiar enemy of the day, the Russians, to create an easy to dislike foe for the audience to enjoy watching Rambo kick their proverbial butts.

Stallone’s physical excellence and performance sets a bar here, heightening the action and keeping the film exciting to this day. It has a story well timed for the year it was released and though it contains some clunky dialogue, the abundance of bravado seems to compensate. The superb chopper sequence in the third act would no doubt have had audiences standing and cheering in the theater. A dumbed down sequel for sure, but a superbly solid one.


 

The Video: 4 out of 5


Rambo: First Blood Part Two is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p High Definition and it looks excellent for a 25 year old movie. There are times where the image appears a tad soft, particularly in a few jungle scenes, almost as if they were run through the same filter that captured Cybil Shepherd on Moonlighting, but likely a creative choice during filming than an issue with the transfer. This is a very clean image with fine detail. Night scenes are a little bright, perhaps over-delivering the glow of the moon, but otherwise is just fine.

 

The Sound: 4 out of 5


The most popular of the Rambo films has an effective 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that delivers the multiple machine gun rounds and the explosions caused by combat helicopters. There is a certain hollowness to the audio track that I have found with each of the Rambo trilogy, but nothing too distracting. Dialogue is again just fine and the bass gets a good work out just when you need it. While the audio on this film and the others in the trilogy, isn’t able to go toe to toe with modern cinematic creations, it handily does what it needs to in order to satisfy the ears as the carnage plays out.


 

The Extra's: 2.5 out of 5


Audio Commentary with director George P. Cosmatos: –I find the late George P Cosmatos an interesting man to listen to, but not a particularly engaging commentator on this track. He has much information to share and does so with an odd and restrained excitement.

 

Out of the Blu Trivia (with 2.0 audio):

 

We Get to Win This Time:– (20:02) –A nice insight into the Cameron version of the script and the direction he wanted to take the film is provided early on here, as well as how the direction for rescuing American POW’s was decided upon by those writing the film. George P. Cosmatos shares the search for locations that would double for Vietnam and how best to capture that feel.


 

Disc Three:

Rambo III

 

“I'm no tourist”

 

The Film: 3.5 out of 5


Rambo III is perhaps the most misunderstood of the series. A probable misstep as a follow up from the very American Rambo: First Blood Part Two, it takes a chance by introducing audiences to an unfamiliar people and conflict (at the time), and by being a far less broad action piece.

Rambo has set up a quiet life for himself in Thailand. While he earns money stick fighting in a marketplace arena as others make and take bets, he lives peacefully and helps fix up a local monastery; a penitent and lone existence. But once again, he is visited by Col. Trautman with a request to join him on a dangerous and secret mission inside Afghanistan where the invading Russians are destroying Afghans with their military might. But Rambo declines. Sometime later he is visited once again, this time by the men in suits that accompanied Trautman with news that the mission had failed and his former military commander had been captured. Now, with a reason to become involved, Rambo requests to go it alone, under the radar, into Afghanistan and rescue his friend.

Once involved, Rambo gets to know the Afghan people, their plight and their fight, shining a light on the ‘enemy of the enemy’. All the requisite action elements are here; impossible odds, impenetrable prison camps and a ruthless, obsessive and vindictive foe looking to destroy Rambo and the horse he rode in on. The Afghan based plot provided a refreshing battleground for Rambo and gave the film a chance to educate people on a corner of the world most would never have come to know. It was the only film to explore the terrible things happening there and give a bit of a history lesson on the proud Afghan people. The action feels bigger this third time around, but there is less of it. Far more conversations take place than one might expect, providing interesting and necessary back story exposition, since the film was dealing with people and places that were not familiar like the Vietnam was had been in these films. Necessary stuff, but it comes at a cost of slowing down the pace.

I am not sure audiences could get past the strange territory and vastly different fight that Rambo was involved in. It could also have been Stallone’s waning popularity, which had begun at that time, that stunted the films appeal. In context of the four films, Rambo III makes more sense than it did back in 1988. A reluctant hero, still fighting his inner-self while rampaging against a brutal enemy; instinctively drawn to do what is needed, regardless of the risk to self. This film is flawed, but it tries hard to be relevant to the notion of a war ravaged people suffering, wherever that may be. A little preachy at times, but its point is well made.

 

The Video: 4 out of 5


Rambo III is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and the 1080p High Definition transfer shows off significant detail. As with parts one and two, this third installment looks incredibly good for its age. Not as crisp as First Blood or as lively as the first sequel, Rambo III does succeed in erasing blemishes, dust or other image issues while remaining faithful to the original film (as I recall it), with high and consistent in quality throughout.
 

The Sound: 3.5 out of 5


While presented with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, the sound in the third installment is not as effective as it perhaps could have been.  However, the frequent and rambunctious action sequences do still come with fine audio accompaniments. There is good use of the surrounds most of the time and effective booms in the sub-woofer. Dialogue in the center channel is clean and clear and Goldsmith’s final and alternately soft and bombastic score sounds great.

 

The Extras: 3 out of 5


Audio Commentary with director Peter MacDonald: –Director MacDonald provides a reasonably interesting commentary track but does seem absent at times.

Deleted Scenes:–8 deleted scenes that include an alternate opening (with a great crane shot) and two alternate endings (though one is more of a joke than a legitimate choice for the films close)

Afghanistan: Land in Crisis: – (29:45) – This featurette, with archival footage of Afghanistan, discusses the choice for setting the third chapter in the troubled, rough-terrain land. The history shared reveals a complexity of the land not often heard. This is the kind of quality extra that expands upon the appreciation and understanding of the film itself.

 

Disc Four:

Rambo: The Fight Continues

 

“Maybe you've lost your faith in people. But you must still be faithful to something. You must still care about something. Maybe we can't change what is. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life, is it?”

 

The Film: 3.5 out of 5

 

More than twenty years after Rambo III hit theaters and failed to capture the sentiment and support of audiences, Sylvester Stallone managed to successfully go back to the character well and resurrect the iconic John Rambo. The success of Rocky Balboa, which recognized and capitalized on the aged Stallone filling the shoes of a hero from the 80’s, was more than enough to open a door for audiences to accept the revisiting of another great character after all this time. In both cases, Stallone served as co-writer and director, personally orchestrating the revival of two of movie history’s most recognizable figures.

 

Rambo, happily resigned to a rudimentary routine in the heat of a Thailand existence, lives in the solitude of personal retreat. His days under the weight of his troubled inner-peace are complicated when he is approached by a group of missionaries’ intent on entering war torn Burma to provide aid and faith to the victims of the harsh Junta military regime. Resistant at first (isn’t he always); Rambo eventually agrees to take them on his boat into the dangerous territory where he drops them off before heading home. The Missionaries are caught in the crossfire of the deplorable slaughter that appears commonplace in Burma and the few survivors are imprisoned. When Rambo is once again approached, this time by a minister who needs Rambo to ferry a handful of mercenaries back into Burma for a rescue mission, the story has found its way to put the inexplicably evil Burmese military bad-guys in Rambo’s ferocious and unforgiving crosshairs.

 

As with Rocky Balboa, the thought of an aging Stallone bringing the iconic Rambo character back to the big screen was filled with reservations. However, again as with Rocky Balboa, there is much to enjoy in the experience of Rambo’s return, flaws and all. The story, co-written by Stallone with Art Monterastelli, pits the good guys against the bad guys in a fashion that harkens back to the disposable body counts of the 1980’s, but that is not to say that it is merely a flashback to the action films of that era. While the Burmese military are shown from the get-go to be brutal, heartless monsters, slaying unarmed men, women and children with a barbarism and perverse glee that is extremely disturbing, it is that very same gory, unfiltered gruesomeness that places the action in a different place from its 80’s relative. The Rambo films unlike many others of the same ilk, have worked a little bit harder to make a distinct point about war and its consequences. First Blood, the best of the quartet, explored the inner toll. Part two gave an action movie voice to the forgotten of war and showed the political walls that are erected ‘for the greater good’. Part three explored how the ‘enemy’ was doing irreparable harm to a kind and simple people in a county most people had never heard of (at the time); a worthy aim for an action movie. And so, twenty years and some serious body-building steroids later, Rambo is back doing the same thing, slashing and burning his way through the evil perpetrators and exploiters of war.

 

Stallone provides stable direction but does allow clunky and convoluted dialogue to spoil the moment from time to time. There are some stunningly beautiful shots of the Thai locations (where the movie was mostly shot), and the peace of these shots is an interesting counter to the unflinching bloodshed that washes over a grand amount of the running time.

 

The brutality of the violence will immediately stand out to fans of the Rambo series, or action movies in general. It is simply overwhelming at times but never to the point of parody. It exists, I believe, to be a persistent reminder of how despicable evil can be. It is a statement about the evil that men do. Most action movies, especially from the decade where Rambo first appeared, were filled with bad guys (and good), being shot and falling over a railings or smashing through a roof; being blown away by shotgun blasts or just dropping like flies. These action sequences were filled with disposable people that served, so it seems, to merely ‘up’ the films body count. Rambo does not do that. While it is an action movie and you will find yourself cheering a little when the bad guys get their comeuppance, the film shows what really happens when someone is hit by a bullet, blown up by a landmine or hacked with a machete. It is, oddly enough, an element of unfiltered reality in a purely fictional plot.

 

In the end, it is the reluctant and troubled hero, stepping in to do what no-one else can or will do, that is the main appeal at play here, and on that front Rambo is a success.

 

Special mention should be made of Brian Tyler who takes over scoring duties for the late Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith, one of the greatest composers to ever have lived, provided subtlety and depth to the Rambo films with his music in surprising ways. While Brian Tyler is a little more functional here, his treatment of the Rambo theme is a perfect ode to Goldsmith. Many parts of the score remind of Hans Zimmer’s lovely score for Beyond Rangoon as well.

 

 

The Video:  4.5 out of 5

 

This version of Rambo does not include the extra nine minutes available on the same day as this collection’s version of Rambo, though the image quality is exactly the same.  There are times when the image appears to have been treated with a sepia tint, giving the image an almost ‘old photograph’ quality or war footage from the Vietnam era, a choice likely made by the director and his cinematographer. Some mosquito noise in brighter spots onscreen at times is a little distracting but the grain, appropriate to the film, helps create an almost Vietnam movie feel. The colors are bright in some places, especially the flourishing green of the jungle and fit the tone and spirit of the film. Overall, quite the solid high definition release.

 

 

The Sound: 4.5 out of 5

 

Rambocomes with a powerful English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, packing a punch and a half during the fighting scenes and providing great audio space for Bryan Tyler’s very capable score. There are a few scenes in the film set during heavy rain and storms and the surrounds put you directly in the midst of the downpour. Dialogue in the center channel predominantly is issue free but the real power comes from the bass and subwoofer as the bullets smack into bodies. The thump of bullet hits can be felt in the chest at times, especially during the carnage of the final showdown. This is a release with a terrific audio; powerful, punchy, clean, and immersive.


 

The Extras: 4 out of 5


Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: –Stallone provides another insightful and interesting audio commentary. He is a little more subdued this time around, but is able to provide good information on the production and the choices made in the film. Again, an easy recommend to listen to.

 

Bonusview ™ :Commentary with Extended Exploration into the film’s casting, locations, and other filmmaking secrets.

 

Molog ™:

Deleted Scenes: – (15:00) –Four deleted scenes that can be played individually or with the ‘Play All’ function. These additional, discarded scenes, the majority of which occur from before the missionaries made it into Burma, don’t really add much to the final film and were appropriately left out. The film, as it stands, works just fine.

Legacy of Despair: The Struggle in Burma: – (10:41) –This is a valuable featurette, giving a brief history of the country and an evaluation of its horrific situation. The devastating treatment of monks after an organized protest is especially horrifying. Be warned, some of the footage is quite disturbing.

It’s A Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon: – (19:52) –Stallone, producers and writers discuss bringing the character back to life, from audience reaction to finding a story worthy of getting Stallone back into the role. Stallone shares alternate ideas, which is quite revealing, and lends more intrigue and satisfaction with the plot and story that were ultimately chosen. It does also bode well for the possibilities of further installments.

A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo: – (6:40) –A discussion of how best to tribute and use Goldsmith’s wonderful score. Brian Tyler appears the right mold of character, musically at least, to treat the Goldsmith legacy right. Stallone also shares his thoughts on the process; on Goldsmith and the work of Brian Tyler finding the right music for the scenes. Tyler wrote two new main themes for the film to work in league with Goldsmith’s score and they are very effective in the film.

The Art of War: Completing Rambo -  Part One: Editing: – (6:46) –Interview with Editor Sean Albertson and Stallone on cutting the movie. Albertson first worked with Stallone on Rocky Balboa and so it seems fitting that he was present in resurrecting another icon.

The Art of War: Completing Rambo -  Part Two: Sound: – (3:16) –Interview with editor Sean Albertson and sound editors on getting the sound right for the film.

The Weaponry of Rambo: – (14:23) –Interview with Kent Johnson, property master and Stallone on getting the weapons and other items right. The detail achieved, at the hand of the property master, is impressive.

A Hero’s Welcome: Release & Reaction: – (9:30) –A bit of a fluff piece covering the big event premiere in Las Vegas. The segment that discusses reaction from soldiers is of note and this extra becomes elevated when discussing the oppressive regime in Burma.

 

Theatrical Trailers for All 4 Rambo Films:

 

Final Thoughts


From the drifter caught up in America’s anti-Vietnam sentiment after coming home from that war to an aging recluse of a man who acts like a missionary with a machine gun, bringing retribution rather than religion, Rambo is a true cinematic icon and a success to varying degrees. The series lost much of its intelligence after the first film, but never lost the core of the character; a tortured soul looking for peace while bringing destruction and justice to bad people in situations he would rather not be in.

The four films in the collection are, without a doubt, entertaining and presented here in this fine blu-ray collector’s edition with many, but not all of the previously released special features (available in the previous collectors tin of the original three), is worth picking up if you didn’t already spring for the previous blu-ray release of the original trilogy (which the first three discs are the exact same), and if you have no interest in the extended version of part four (which is not available here).

 

Overall Score: 4 out of 5

 

Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC

 

Steve Christou

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I haven't got these action classics on Blu-ray yet. This is a very tempting set.


Thanks for the review.
 

JediFonger

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i thought this 4pak was basically taking the original 3 movie release and throwing in the extended Rambo4 in there?


cause the original 3 had DTS-HD HR, not MA. can som1 confirm that this pak really does indeed have the true lossless DTS-HD MA?
 

ScottJH

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Rambo: FB Part 2 & Rambo III were released later than First Blood and have always had DTS-HD MA. So the only one in question is First Blood.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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Hi Aaron - it certainly is - it even says 'Disc 1' on it, indicating it was pulled from 2008's 2-disc blu-ray release. It is a shame that they did not include the extended version as part of the collection!


This collection literally is all the previously released discs pulled together for those that did not already jump on the previous trilogy release and also want the last movie. The price-point is quite good for that.

Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman

Is the disc in this set identical to the original standalone BD release of the most recent movie?
 

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