In 1982 John Rambo took some canvas thread and permanently stitched himself onto the fabric of society.
First Blood, the Rambo movie and the novel it was based on, was an action-psychological thriller that shone a light on post traumatic stress and the difficulties Vietnam veterans faced reintegrating themselves into society. What it ended up doing was changing the face of action movies and spawning a character that would become the spokesman of the genre, especially in the 80's. The word 'Rambo' is now synonymous with war, firing a machine gun with one hand while holding the ammo feed in the other, kicking ass and taking names.
While the following Rambo movies lost much of the dramatic weight of the original, they still focused on a man who would do anything for his country, but had no place inside it. He also had a tendency to walk into the distance after missions, sometimes without a shirt. The final Rambo movie in the series, Rambo, bookends the original and shows John Rambo returning home to a world that would finally accept him.
Rambo Movies at Amazon
The Rambo Movies
The Rambo movies, starring Sylvester Stallone, changed the face of the action genre, particularly in the 1980s. Starting in 1982 with First Blood, Stallone painted the picture of a Vietnam vet suffering from post traumatic stress and struggling to integrate himself back into a society that didn't respect or want him, despite his heroics in the war.
An often unrealised fact about the first Rambo film considering its legacy, is that there is only one on-screen death. That death occurs in self defence and was probably not Rambo’s intention. Throughout the movie Rambo wounds but intentionally does not kill the people hunting him.
The following Rambo movies moved away from the psychological aspects of First Blood but kept the focus on a Vietnam vet who felt unwanted by his country. He also happened to be a killing machine and, as his mentor Colonel Trautman explained in First Blood, a man “who's the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands”.
Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985 and Rambo III in 1988, Stallone’s Rambo movies set the bench mark for gratifying violence and cheesy lines for action movies in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Arguably 1985’s Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, also played a significant role in glorifying bloody but cartoonish violence and cheesy one-liners. However, deleted scenes from Commando show Trautman’s Commando ‘counter-part’ General Franklin Kirby effectively copying Trautman’s lines from First Blood. This shows the influence the Rambo movies had on Commando. Rambo: First Blood Part II was also released 5 months before Commando.
Stallone made a welcome return to the Rambo movies in 2008 to provide closure and also to return the series to the tone and themes of the original. It was in circumstance to Rocky Balboa in 2006 where Stallone was motivated to return to the Rocky movies and make a final Rocky film, Rocky Balboa. In both film series the sequels lost their way and became the campier money making vehicles that were prominent in the 1980s.
‘Rambo’ in 2008 put an exclamation point on the Rambo movies by tallying the biggest body count of them all – 236 deaths. It also bookended the first film; it is grittier than the first two sequels and features a more contemplative character trying to make peace with his role as a killer. He is seemingly able to do so, and John Rambo finally returns home to America.
Rambo in Other Media
Rambo for Kids
Rambo and the Forces of Freedom
In 1986 kids were treated to an animated version of Rambo. It was originally intended to be a five part mini series but ended up being renewed as a daily cartoon. 65 episodes of Rambo and the Forces of Freedom were made before cancellation in December. Jerry Goldsmith's distinctive score for Rambo: First Blood Part II was used throughout each show. Naturally, a line of toys were also made for the series.
Along with mechanical engineer Edward "Turbo" Hayes, ninja White Dragon, and master of disguise and martial arts Katherine Anne "Kat" Taylor, John Rambo was a member of the Forces of Freedom. Their commanding officer was Colonel Samuel Trautman.
Forces of Freedom went on missions fighting General Warhawk and the Secret Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy and Global Extortion. Fortuantely the words made the accronym S.A.V.A.G.E., so it was called that for short. General Warhawk was helped by his side kick Sergeant Havoc.
The show had plenty of hand to hand combat and gun fire. However, no one ever got killed or even injured. Each episode focused on a moral or life lesson.
Rambo's adventures with the Forces of Freedom, based on airing date, would have occurred between Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III. However, none of the adventures or even his new teammates are ever mentioned in Rambo III or the last Rambo movie. He certainly could have used help from Turbo, White Dragon and Kat when rescuing Colonel Trautman in Rambo III and the missionaries in 'Rambo'
Rambo and the Forces of Freedom Intro
First Blood at Amazon
First Blood (The Novel)
The original novel the first Rambo film is based on
Like in the fim, the novel focuses on the conflict between Vietnam veteran Rambo and Sheriff Teasle. Teasle attempts to stop Rambo from stopping in his town by dropping him outside the city limits. When he keeps coming back he is arrested. While being groomed Rambo has a Vietnam flashback, freaks out and escapes on a motorcycle, becoming the focus of a manhunt. In many ways this is where the similarities with the film end.
The novel focused on the differences between two decorated veterans from different wars. Teasle, a Korean war veteran, and Rambo, recently returned from fighting in Vietnam. In the novel Teasle is the more sympathetic character, while Rambo's skills, instincts and post-traumatic stress turns him into a cold-blooded killer. Unlike the film where only one person dies, Rambo kills many police officers and National Guardsmen.
The biggest difference though, may be the ending, where Colonel Trautman shoots Rambo in the the face with a shotgun, killing him.
David Morrell got the insiration for the name Rambo from the Rambo apple. He was given the first name John for the movie.
Rambo Novelisations at Amazon
on the movies
David Morell wrote novelisations on the first two Rambo sequels, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III. Technically these are not sequels to his original book because Rambo died in Morell's First Blood novel.