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HTF REVIEW: "Rambo Trilogy" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein

Rambo Trilogy

I can tell you that it was quite an experience
to be once again exposed to one of America's most
macho fantasy characters, John Rambo. For the past
3 days I have almost painlessly sat through the
three series of films that started as a serious
adventure with a real commentary on the plight of
veterans to sequels that elevated its hero to a
mere cartoon character. Make no mistake about it,
Rambo is the ultimate fighting machine and the
ultimate movie character.

One year after Artisan released the three films
on DVD, the studio has decided to go back and do
a brand new remaster of each film, packaging them
in the ultimate Rambo Trilogy. The 4-disc
set arrives in a sturdy tin cover with raised
artwork and lettering. One can easily slide out
the DVD packaging that is housed in cardboard with
DVDs resting in plastic hub casings. A 10-page
collector's booklet rests a pocket inside the case.

The booklet contains a lengthy summary of the
history of the films through the words of its
author, David Morrell, who as a young writer
had an idea for a novel that would somehow bring
the conflict in Vietnam back to his hometown.
Color pictures of Rambo are scattered throughout the
pamphlet. The final pages of the booklet are
devoted to Chapter Indexes for all three films.
All three films come on a 2-sided DVD with
a widescreen transfer on one side, and a
full-frame transfer on the other. These DVDs
have been souped up with all-new digitally
remastered video and 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital
surround. Each of these DVDs contain at least
one featurette and original trailer.
Be warned: Like every release before it, Artisan
continues to exclude English subtitles on their
releases, thus making it impossible for the
hearing impaired individuals to enjoy their titles.


Studio: Artisan
Year: 1982
Rated: R
Film Length: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
and Standard (1.33:1) Transfers

"They drew first blood -- not me!"
When you get right down to it, First Blood
is the real meat and potatoes Rambo movie. It's
an almost brilliant action movie that should have
no relationship to the silly sequels that followed

The film begins as soft-spoken Vietnam vet John
Rambo (Sylevester Stallone) drifts into a small
town looking for no trouble, but finds it in the
form of a psychotic local sheriff (Brian Dennehy)
who finds pleasure in hating him for no reason.
When the sheriff arrests him for vagrancy, Rambo
escapes showing his old Vietnam fighting skills and
takes to the woods as the sheriff and deputies try
and find him in his element. When things get out
of hand, Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), Rambo's
old commander appears to shed light on the situation.

Directed by Ted Kotcheff, who took on the project
after it passed through many hands. Steve McQueen
was originally in line for the role of Rambo, but
Sylvester Stallone was given the role after his
success in Rocky, where his underdog persona was
spotted by producers Kassar and Vajna. The film
became an important symbol of the realities of
post-Vietnam America.
How is the transfer?
All the Rambo films pretty much have the same
characteristics. I never know what to expect from
transfers of catalog product from the 70's and 80's.
However, Artisan has done an incredible job with
this series. The transfers look absolutely stunning.

First of all, there are absolutely no blemishes
in these transfers. Picture remains consistently
clean throughout. There is also narely a hint
of video noise, which is one of my biggest pet
peeves. While colors look somewhat on the faded
side, the flesh tones are extremely accurate. The
only complaint I have is that the transfer seems
to be a tad too dark for my taste -- but then again,
this could be the way the movie was filmed.
Where this DVD really shines is in its all-new
remastered DTS and Dolby Digital surround. For
a film from this period, I was not expecting much
from the surround channel. Instead, I was pleasantly
surprised by the amount of rear channel activity
that includes everything from the town's traffic
to thunder and weather effects in the wooded
mountains. When the Sheriff chases Rambo riding
a motorcycle, we hear the sound of screeching tires
throughout the rear channels. The LFE channel even
gets a slight boost when a gas station ignites in
flames and explodes. The only problem I had with
the first two Rambo films is that the exchanges of
gunfire stay in the front channel. There is no
distinct directionality of flying bullets. This
sort of dulls the sonic experience of watching this
film. Overall, the DTS remix is quite noticeable
and effective.
Special Features

The DVD features audio commentary with writer
David Morrell.
Drawing First Blood is an all-new documentary
that features new interviews with Sylvester Stallone
and Richard Crenna. Author David Morell talks about
his earlier days as a teacher who had to deal with
students just back from Vietnam who questioned him
as an authority figure. He would hang around after
school and talk to these students to find out what
problems of the war still plagued them. The result
was the writing of the novel, First Blood, released
in 1972. The book had always been in development
for a film, but was delayed for fear of being released
too close to the end of the Vietnam war. It was
years later that Producers Mario Kassar and Andrew
Vajna that took the project and developed it through
Carolco Pictures. There are new interviews with
Kassar and Vajna who talk about the development of
this project from novel to script to screen.
(length: approx. 21 minutes)
Production Notes give us a little insight
about how author David Morrell was inspired to
write the book FIRST BLOOD. It also talks about
how Producers Vajna and Kassar changed the motif
of Rambo, making him more of a sympathetic character.
Sylvester Stallone went on to re-write the script,
keeping the spirit of the book's character alive,
but making him less psychotic.
Cast and Crew gives us more than the standard
filmography stuff we see on other DVDs. Here, we
get sufficient background information on the actors,
such as a story about the trauma that left Sylvester
Stallone's face paralyzed at birth, which has
contributed to his slurred speech, drooping lower lip
and crooked left eye. And did you know that
Richard Crenna worked on radio serials in the late
1930s? There are really some great little-known
facts that are given for each of the individuals
involved with the film.
The film's original trailer and teaser
trailer are presented on this DVD.


Studio: Artisan
Year: 1985
Rated: R
Film Length: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
and Standard (1.33:1) Transfers

"Sir, do we get to win this time?"

After First Blood had raked up a record-
breaking $14.9 million in its first 12 days of
release, you can bet that a sequel was on the minds
of everyone involved with the original film.

As Rambo II begins, we find John Rambo
in a hard labor prison camp. Colonel Samuel
Troutman shows up to offer Rambo a special deal.
Removed from prison, Rambo goes on a top-secret
operation to bring back POW's still held in
Vietnam. Rambo's assignment is to only take pictures
of where the POWs are being held, but Rambo wants
to get the POWs out of Vietnam. With the help of
a Vietnamese woman (Julia Nickson), Rambo cases
out the camp and manages to rescue an American POW.
But when left behind by the "stinkin beareaucrat"
named Murdoch (Charles Napier) who orders the mission
aborted before Trautman can pick him up, Rambo sets
out to free the rest of the POWs and get the ultimate
revenge on the man who betrayed him.
How is the transfer?
Like the rest of the DVDs in this series, the
transfer looks immaculate. There are no blemishes
to be seen in the picture, and rarely a hint of
any video noise. Colors look very accurate --
especially in the flesh tones. This transfer also
looks less dark than First Blood did. In
all, this is an incredible catalog transfer.

The DTS surround track is very active from the
sound of an igniting plane to the surroundings of
the Vietnam jungle. The rears add much support to
the ambient effects of the film such as thunder
clapping during a rain storm in the POW camp or
a waterfall whose water noise seems to envelope
the entire sound field. There is even some
considerable LFE channel bass response such as
when a patrol boat is blown up. My only complaint
once again is that there is no distinct directional
clarity given to the gunfire exchanges, as those
sounds remain in the front channels. This greatly
dulls the overall sonic experience of this film.
Special Features

The DVD features audio commentary with Director
George Cosmatos.
We get to win this time is an all-new
documentary with interviews of Stallone, Crenna,
Nickson and Napier. It's interesting to note
that James Cammeron wrote the film's first draft
script, which had the idea of Stallone and John
Travolta appearing together. That idea was
scrapped, though the premise of rescuing POWs in
Vietnam was kept intact. Director George P. Cosmatos
was brought on board to add a more visual and
emotional edge to the film. Stallone was attracted
to the project as the film now really showed Rambo
at home within his elements. Director George
Cosmatos talks about filming the Vietnamese scenes
in Acapulco Mexico, which gave ample jungle scenery
only within minutes from the hotel the crew was
staying at. A rice pattie field was even built to
add more authenticity to the setting. There are
many shots behind-the-camera of the movie being
filmed, as we hear about the political problems
the cast and crew experienced while in production.
This featurette even explores the Rambo phenomenon
that resulted upon the film's release, grossing
$180 million in international box-office receipts.
Rambo became symbolic as a character that rises
above oppression.
(length: approx. 19 minutes)
Production Notes talks a little about
James Cammeron's original screenplay, and how
although Sylvester Stallone loved it, he felt
that it needed a more personal touch added to it.
Extensive Cast and Crew biographies
are presented here. Did you know that Charles
Napier (Murdoch) appeared on many 1960's TV
shows that included HOGANS HEROES and STAR TREK?
Two Theatrical Trailers are included,
but they cannot be played individually. As soon
as you hit the PLAY TRAILERS button, both play
one after another. The quality of these trailers
are in fairly poor condition.


Studio: Artisan
Year: 1988
Rated: R
Film Length: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
and Standard (1.33:1) Transfers

"Your wosrt nightmare"

Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is enjoying the
serenity of Thailand while he helps the monks
build temples. On his days off, he sojourns from
the mountain to stick fight in the city. It is
here that Colonel Samuel Troutman finds him.
Colonel Samuel Trautman has been assigned to
lead a mission to help the Mujahedeen rebels
who are fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Troutman needs help, but the Buddhist Rambo turns
him down. When the mission goes belly up, Trautman
is kidnapped and tortured by Russian Colonel Zaysen
(Marc de Jonge) and it's up to Rambo to go in and
rescue him.

There can be little argument that the Rambo hero
has now become something of a joke. You can't help
but laugh not only at the bad one liners, but the
fact that Stallone and Crenna single-handedly go up
against the entire Russian army, dodging every bullet
thrown in their direction. The movie became so silly,
that "Weird Al" Yankovic couldn't help but to do a
dead-on spoof in his film, UHF.
How is the transfer?
Again, we have a transfer that is free of blemishes.
Picture quality is consistently clean with accurate
colors represented, although I noticed the flesh
tones run a little more red this time around. There
is narely a hint of video noise present. A truly
outstanding transfer from a catalog product of this

Of all the DVDs, Rambo III is the best
sounding disc of them all. The DTS surround is
spectacular. Unlike the previous two films, there
is certainly more of a directional sonic feel to
this film. Stereo separation is more defined and
there is a much stronger LFE presence that will
have your subwoofer rumbling from the hoofs of
horses to the engines of the Russian planes. Even
gunfire exchanges finally have directionality to
them as bullets whiz past the viewing area, crossing
through each individual channel. A scene of a
Russian raid on a rebel camp will give no doubt to
the superior sonic quality of this DTS transfer.
Special Features

The DVD features audio commentary with Director
Peter MacDonald.
Afghanistan: Land in Crisis is more of
an interest to Americans now than it was back
in the late 1980's when depicted in the third
Rambo installment. This all-new documentary
begins with Producer Buzz Feitshans talking
about his interest in Afghanistan and its people.
Stallone was always very conscious of the conflict
between the Mujahedeen and the Russians. Stallone
found it very apt to put Rambo in the middle of
that conflict and a group fighting for the right
to be free. Through historians, we learn much
about Afghanistan's history and conflicts with
other countries that attempted to dominate it,
including the Russians who wanted to use the country
as a gateway to Asia and the seas. It's amazing to
learn of the strong-will of the Mujaheeden people
and the amount of resistance they put up to opposing
armies. We see startling images of the war-tarnished
country and its people. Stallone talks about the
homage given to these people in the film --
especially Ahmed Shah Massoud who was recently
assassinated. The documentary also touches upon
the rise of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.
Stallone talks about the untimely release of
the third Rambo film. Here was a movie depicting
hostile Soviet-American relations at a time when
Mikhail Gorbachev was in America making amends
with our country. The cold war was ending, and
Rambo III was depicting a war with Russia.
(length: approx. 29 minutes)
Production Notes give us insight into the
shooting locales of the film. Most of the film
was shot on a four-thousand-foot mountaintop above
the Dead Sea in Israel. The rest of the film was
shot entirely on location in Thailand, Israel and
Extensive Cast and Crew biographies
are presented here. Did you know that Director
Peter MacDonald was a second unit director and
camera operator during the late 1960s? His camera
credits include GORKY PARK, SUPERMAN THE
Two Theatrical Trailers are included,
but they cannot be played individually. As soon
as you hit the PLAY TRAILERS button, both play
one after another. Quality of these trailers is



The extraordinary Rambo Special Edition
Trilogy DVD Collection also includes a bonus
fourth disc (exclusive to the box set) that
contains seven exciting featurettes, three
documentaries and a Rambo trilogy trivia

The Real Name: Voices From Within is a
starling, frank look at the Vietnam war from all
sides -- those for it and against it. Through
still pictures, archived footage and interviews
from those who fought, we learn how we became
involved with Vietnam after the Indo-China war,
as we tried to control the growth of Communism.
This documentary doesn't attempt to hide the
horrors of this war and the irresponsibility of
the Americans in their mass killings. The topic
of American politics, sending in young men to get
killed and political considerations in life and
death situations is also frankly discussed. Truly,
this is one of the most honest and blunt
documentaries on the war in Vietnam that I have
seen. (length: approx. 25 minutes)

Guts and Glory explores Rambo, a fantasy
of white male escapism. It's basically an overview
of the Rambo phenomenon. Rambo became a global
figure of the military hero. We take a look at
the onslaught of Rambo related merchandise from
knives and headbands for adults to guns and action
figures for the kids. President Reagan's famous
"We are gonna win this time" speech which is a
homage to Rambo, is included in this featurette.
We learn how the fitness culture of the 80's also
contributed to the hardbody Rambo -- he became the
beefcake hero and the knife became the extension
of his body. Rambo ultimately became the essential
spirit of the 80's.
(length: approx. 26 minutes)
The Forging of Heroes: America's Green Berets
focuses on the elite group of Armed Forces known
as the Green Berets. Described as being a one-man
army who are more technicians than killers, we learn
about the extensive training of these special forces.
We learn of the history of Special Forces starting
with the O.S.S. in the 1950s. These soldiers come
so close to death so many times that they appreciate
life a lot more than the average person.
(length: approx. 9 minutes)
Rambo-nomics concentrates on the financial
success of the Rambo franchise. We learn of its
monetary success in both domestic and foreign markets
as well as what countries banned the film and for
what reasons.
(length: approx. 2 minutes)
Suiting Up is a rather interesting look
Rambo's survival hardware from sly bowie knife
to M60 machine gun to 81MM M29 Mortar to Russian
T-64 MBT. Specs are given on each weapon as we
are shown scenes from each film where the weapon
is used.
(length: approx. 7 minutes)

Selling a Hero is all about the merchandise
that came out of the franchise. From action figures
to artillery to flying machines -- it's all here.
What makes this a lot of fun is that the Producers
have taken these action figures and toys and made
a little movie of their own. You'll have a blast
watching the action figures sneaking up on one
another engaging in combat either on the ground or
in the air. And, if you ever wondered the cost of
these toys, a pricetag is always readily available.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)
First Blood: A look back is a featurette
that originally appeared on last year's DVD
release. It's nothing more than a collage of
scenes from the film set against a rousing soundtrack.
There are no interviews, no recollections -- nothing.
It's basically the entire 96 minute condensed to
just under 4 minutes.
(length: approx. 3.5 minutes)
Rambo III Full Circle also appeared on
the original Artisan DVD release last year. It
is nothing more than a 5-minute collage of scenes
from the film set against a rousing soundtrack.
No added material here, but rather the entire 102
minute film condensed to 5 minutes.
(length: approx. 6 minutes)
An American Hero's Journey: The Rambo
Trilogy also appeared on the original Artisan
DVD release. In material previously covered,
author David Morrell talks about his idea of
bringing the Vietnamese war to the United States.
How did the name of Rambo come to be? Morrell
talks about that faithful day when he took a bite
out of a delicious apple, asking his wife what kind
of apple it was. This documentary is mostly
authors David Morell and Christopher Vogler talking
about the inception of the characters and how the
storyline of all three films evolved. We also learn
about the harrowing stunts that Stallone did on his
own. Finally, the character is compared to other
famous mythological characters such as Sherlock
Holmes, James Bond and Tarzan. He was approached
in such a way that Rambo became a metaphor for
(length: approx. 25 minutes)
A Rambo Trivia Game lets you answer
questions about events in the film, total box-office
grosses to its first appearance as a cartoon.
Answer correctly and Rambo wins the fight. If you
answer wrong, he gets tortured.
Sneak Peeks gives you peek at upcoming
Artisan releases that include: Reservoir Dogs
10th Anniversary DVD, Frank Herbert's Dune,
and Van Wilder.
Final Thoughts
While there is no argument that First Blood
and perhaps First Blood Part II belongs in
every action lover's collection, there is still
much debate over the silly Rambo III and
its worth in purchasing the entire Trilogy set.
For a price tag of under $45 on-line, Artisan
has put together a very attractive package of
all three titles. In addition, the bonus 4th
DVD offers some new documentaries that are just
outstanding -- most notably, Voices From
Within that is a unrestrained look at the
Vietnam war and the mistakes we, as Americans,
made in it.
Terrific transfers and remastered DTS sound
that really adds depth to the film's soundtrack
is a reason for upgrading last year's release.
I would have given this set all the praise in
the world if not for the fact that Artisan failed
to include English subtitles on it.
Release Date: May 28, 2002


Second Unit
Jun 6, 2000
Great review, Ron. I'm wondering though. What kind of discs is the trilogy pressed on? DVD-10 or DVD-18? Thanks!


Senior HTF Member
Jul 25, 2000
Real Name
there is still much debate over the silly Rambo III and its worth in purchasing the entire Trilogy set.
No debate here. I love'd Rambo III. All that glorious AK-47 action.
Great review Ron. I was planning on picking it up, you confirmed my purchase.
Peace Out~:D

Chris M

Second Unit
Apr 15, 2000
Well, that confirms it, even if I can't afford it, I'm picking it up! haha! Sounds great Ron! Thanks for the review!


Garry I

Stunt Coordinator
Feb 9, 2001
DVD-14 (Dual layer for extras with widescreen and single layer has P&S). I thought that it was going to affect the bitrate, but this shouldn't be much of an issue. I'm glad they didn't put PS and Widescreen on the same side
I am wondering if Rambo II still has the same faint vertical banding on the right side of the screen as the older edition released in 1999. It was the only one of the 3 discs that was dual layer, probably to hide the film/digital artifacts or possible damage to the print??. I also remember the large amount of shimmering on the older set.
I ebayed mine in anticipation for this set. Hopefully it looks as good as you say it is. Looking forward to the new transfers and DTS sound! :).

Bruce Hedtke

Senior HTF Member
Jul 11, 1999
I'm going to pick up the box set, but let's just say that Ramboo III (not a typo) probably won't get more than one viewing.


Greg S

Supporting Actor
Mar 13, 2000
I'm in! I'm glad I didn't pick the old version up last year when it dropped to rock bottom pricing.

Looking forward to this one.


Greg Br

Second Unit
Dec 13, 2001

Your pretty amazing, I said to myself, I might want to pick this set up, I wonder if Ron reviewed it, and bam it is here for me today!



Nick Graham

Oct 16, 2001
Just saw this at Wal-Mart, and thought it looked quite sweet, even though I've never seen the first 2 (caught the 3rd when I was a kid). Methinks I will pick it up once my money from "They Live" gets here.


Mar 7, 1999
Darn it. I really can't afford this but I'm having trouble NOT pre-ordering it. After Ron's review, ... ARGH!
By the way, I know there are alot of you out there that don't listen to commentaries very often. I'm one of those as well. However, David Morrell's commentary on First Blood is really good. So give it a chance if you have the time. :emoji_thumbsup:
P.S. At least one of the major B&M retailers will have the trilogy for $39.99 with the individual titles @ $12.99 each.

Dave H

Senior HTF Member
Aug 13, 2000
I will say this is a great review.

Believe it or not, I have NEVER seen any of the Rambo movies and I am 30 years old. I will have to definitely check them out.

todd stone

Dec 1, 2000
"After First Blood had raked up a record-
breaking $14.9 million in its first 12 days of
wow, and to think where we have come with spidermans money :)
Gonna pick this one up too.

Eric T

Second Unit
Apr 1, 2001
Thanks for the review, Ron. I'm sure I'll at least pick up the First Blood disc. I didn't care much for the other two.


Senior HTF Member
Jul 17, 2000
Upstate NY
Real Name
FYI: Not only did Artisan not include English subs on the discs, they also dropped the subtitles in Rambo III that were present when they speak in Russian. DVDFile's Cliff Stephenson posted the info at DVDTalk.
Thought you guys might want to know this before the discs come out. I got a chance to check out the new Rambo Trilogy special edition and on Rambo III, they've dropped all the subtitles that were present when they speak in Russian. The other two discs were fine as far as I could remember, but Rambo III is screwed up. I don't know how many times this same thing has to happen before they realize that it might be best to leave well enough alone.

Gary Kellerman

Stunt Coordinator
Jul 30, 1999
The helicopter pilot in RAMBO 2 who gets kicked in the "chones" by Sly near the end of the film is actor Martin Kove. He was in my spanish class in 10th grade in 1961. I can still hear his laugh today because my pronunciation of spanish in high school left a lot to be desired and in one incident he just broke out laughing exclaiming "Kellerman, you have the worst spanish pronuciation I have ever heard". He is in my 1964 yearbook. The last time I saw him personally was when I was walking home from school and passed him on the athletic field both saying hi to each other in the spring of 1964. I first saw him on a tv show in the mid-70's. He looked so much better after all those years but I would have not known it was him if he had not used is real name for acting credits. He even made PEOPLE MAGAZINE in 1986.

I have the LD on Rambo 2. This decoded very well on my 5 channel dynaquad system. While I did get some split channel decoding from the disc on this circuit, I cannot recall any gunfire coming out of the rears; those sounds were up front.

One specific sound I did hear is when Rambo draws his bow with the grenade laden arrow. It came out of my right rear channel. Rambo 3's LD had a more ambitious surround track ans as such that might be the reason why this remastered disc has a more ambitious 5 channel surround track that Ron heard on his system.

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