FIRST BLOOD was loosely based on David Morrell's 1972 novel of the same name and was the first of five films in the Rambo series. In contrast to the sequels, which were war adventure films set abroad, FIRST BLOOD was a post-Vietnam War psychological thriller set in the United States. In FIRST BLOOD there is mainly blood and violence missing, which should later become a trademark of the series. Since its release, First Blood has been a critical and commercial success, and has had a lasting influence on the genre. It has also spurred countless parodies. The film is notable for its psychological portrayal of the after-effects of the Vietnam War, particularly the challenges faced by American veterans attempting to re-integrate into society, something not deeply examined in subsequent Rambo movies. In 2008, the film was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.Long before Sylvester Stallone was hired to play Rambo, other actors were being considered for the role such as Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Nick Nolte, John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, James Garner, Kris Kristofferson, and Michael Douglas. Terence Hill, as recently confirmed during an interview to an Italian TV talk-show, was offered the role but rejected it because he considered it "too violent", and Dustin Hoffman declined the role for the same reason. When Al Pacino was considered for the role of John Rambo, he turned it down when his request that Rambo be more of a madman was rejected.
For the role of Sheriff Teasle, the producers approached Academy Award-winners Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall, but both turned the part down. Lee Marvin, another Oscar winner, turned down the part of Col. Trautman.
Various screenplays adapted from Morrell's book had been pitched to studios in the years since its publication, but it was only when Stallone, who at the time had limited success outside of the Rocky franchise (most of his non-Rocky films either barely broke even or were flops altogether), decided to become involved with the project that it was finally brought into production. At least one First Blood poster references his Rocky success: "Stallone. This time he's fighting for his life."
Stallone’s star power after the success of the Rocky films enabled him to suggest changes to the script, to make the character of John Rambo more sympathetic. While Morrell's book has the Rambo character violently kill many of his pursuers, in the movie version Rambo does not directly cause the death of any police or national guardsmen. In fact, he only wounds anybody who pursues him and the one person he did kill was in self defense and not his fault.
Prior to Stallone taking the lead role, Steve McQueen expressed interest in it. When David Morrell wrote the novel in 1972 the producers first considered McQueen, but then rejected him because they considered him too old to play a Vietnam veteran from 1975.
Just before shooting began, Kirk Douglas quit the role of Col. Trautman over a script dispute; Douglas wanted the film to end as the book did, with the death of the Rambo character. Rock Hudson was approached but was soon to undergo heart surgery and had to pass up the chance to work with Stallone. Richard Crenna was quickly hired as a replacement; the role of Trautman became the veteran character actor's most famous role, his performance of which received much critical praise and talk of an Academy Award nomination. A suicide scene was filmed, but ultimately Kotcheff and Stallone opted to have Rambo turn himself in at Trautman's urging, allowing the character to live. This proved to be a fortunate decision, as it changed Rambo's history forever and allowed for a very lucrative and popular franchise.
The town scenes in the movie were shot in Hope, British Columbia, Canada. The rest of the movie was shot in Golden Ears Provincial Park and Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows, also in British Columbia, Canada. The rat cave in the film was actually a much more horrifying bat cave in the novel. In the movie, the rats that Rambo struggles with in the cave were actually white lab rats that were dyed brown.
James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone both wrote the film FIRST BLOOD PART II. Cameron was actually working on Aliens while the release on The Terminator was being delayed during production of the film. Cameron said that he only wrote the action scenes, while Stallone wrote more of the serious and politically-oriented dialogue.
Originally, the filmmakers wanted to cast John Travolta as Rambo's partner, but Stallone felt it was unnecessary and would make the film cheap, so they decided against it.
Stallone cast George P. Cosmatos as the director because his son, Sage, recommended him after seeing his work in the film Of Unknown Origin, and Dolph Lundgren was originally set to play Podovsky, but was recast after Stallone realized he was playing the villain in Rocky IV.
After Co Bao was killed, Rambo shouted 'No!', which echoed through the jungle as the camera zoomed out dramatically. Test audiences laughed at this, however, and it was cut down to the simpler, more quiet grieving we see in the film.
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was filmed primarily in Mexico, in the jungles outside Acapulco as well as a Mexican air base. Most of the Mexican flags on the planes were covered up to make it look like an American air hangar in Thailand. During filming a typhoon hit; the largest in years, which nearly stranded the crew in the country because it destroyed the roads back. Many funny things happened during the shoot, including Stallone getting pantsed by Crenna during an interview by Maria Shriver. As retaliation, Sly threw a cream pie in Crenna's face during his respective interview. Also, mud fights between the actors were common. The crew had a good time during filming, despite the fact that it was like filming in a warm, smelly shower the whole time, and many parts of the jungle were only accessible by helicopters.
Since it was difficult to find Asian extras in Mexico during the shooting, all pirates, soldiers and villagers who did not stand in line were merely workers from local Chinese restaurants. RAMBO II was banned in the Soviet Union and was the first film to be shown in 20,000 American cinemas. The film counts 67 corpses, 57 of which were killed by Rambo himself.
The movie RAMBO III was shot mainly in Thailand and Israel. The scene in the Buddhist monastery was shot in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Some scenes were filmed in Bangkok, Thailand while others were shot in Eilat, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Israel. The Afghan market scene was a decorated set in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the scene took place. The film was nearing completion when the film was forced to remove from Israel to film, instead resorting to filming the ending scenes at the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in Yuma, Arizona in America. This led to the loss of authentic Soviet and Afghan weaponry.
Original director Russell Mulcahy was replaced after two weeks of filming by Peter MacDonald due to creative differences. Three cinematographers (directors of photography) also succeeded. The character Masoud (Spiros Focas) is a reference to Ahmad Shah Masoud, a real-life leader of the Afghani resistance against the Russian occupation, minister of defense of Afghanistan (after the Russian occupation ended) and later again a leader of the resistance, this time against the Taliban regime.
The original VHS release had in the end credits: "Dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters", although this was later changed to "Dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan."
The 1990 Guinness World Records deemed Rambo III the most violent film ever made, with 221 acts of violence, at least 70 explosions, and over 108 characters killed on-screen. However, the body count of the fourth film in the series, Rambo, surpassed that record, with 236 kills. The Mi-24 Hind-D helicopters seen in the film are in fact modified Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma transport helicopters with fabricated bolt-on wings similar to the real Hind-Ds which were mainly used in the former Soviet bloc nations. The other helicopter depicted is a slightly reshaped Aérospatiale Gazelle.
The film's extensive score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, although the full version was not used. However, on the soundtrack, it was restored to its normal length.
Public reaction to how the Soviets were portrayed as the evil villains and the Mujahideen portrayed as the angelic protagonists received some public backlash. Some political experts state that, despite the Soviet's atrocities, they would have stabilized Afghanistan had the CIA not assisted the Mujahideen.
In between the making of the third and fourth films in the Rambo franchise, the films' original producer, Carolco Pictures, went out of business. In 1997, Miramax Films purchased the Rambo franchise. The following year, Miramax subsidiary Dimension Films intended to make another film, and a writer was hired to write the script, but attempts to make it were deterred by Sylvester Stallone, who had stated that he no longer wanted to retire the characters of Rambo and Rocky and focus on other, new projects. In 2005, the studio sold those rights to Nu Image/Millennium Films. The Rambo saga had been dormant since Rambo III's release in 1988, and Stallone had indeed gone onto do other projects, such as Lock Up, Cliffhanger, Daylight and Cop Land. Stallone wanted to do a fourth Rambo film since he had previously revisited his Rocky Balboa character (who had not been in a film since 1990's ROCKY V) and properly concluded the story in 2006. Although Lionsgate wanted the film to be called "Rambo: To Hell and Back", because 2006's final "Rocky" film had been called Rocky Balboa, Stallone wanted to call the fourth Rambo film, potentially the concluding chapter of the series, John Rambo. Lionsgate, however, did not want the public to think that the franchise was ending in case later sequels would be made, so the title was simply changed to RAMBO.
Since the first three Rambo films all covered different issues in different parts of the world, Stallone wanted the fourth film to continue this tradition, but he wanted to raise attention to an issue that was not being covered in the press. Stallone looked at conflicts across the world, such as the middle east (a region already explored in Rambo III) or Mexico, but felt they were too well covered by the media. To find a conflict he could raise attention to, Stallone called Amnesty International and the United Nations and asked what the worst conflict in the world was. Immediately, both replied: "Oh, Burma!" Fascinated, since he had not heard anything about Myanmar, and because Burma is located on the border of Thailand (where both Rambo sequels take place), Stallone began researching the crisis in Burma. He found that it was the longest-running civil war in the world, having been going on for longer than fifty years. Stallone was shocked at the severity of the relatively unknown situation, including the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and the many atrocities, such as demining. Stallone immediately declared that he had found the conflict to publicize in RAMBO IV. Stallone was attached to the project as not just the star, but also the director, what he had previously done with Rocky Balboa, to ensure that the potential final film would be done right.
Filming started on January 22, 2007 and ended on May 4, 2007. It was shot in Chiang Mai, Thailand as well as in Mexico and the United States in Arizona and California. The snake farm that was featured in the film was a real snake farm and the employees seen in the film were the real employees. While filming near Burma, Stallone and the rest of the crew narrowly avoided being shot by the Burmese military. Stallone described Burma as a "hellhole". He said "we had shots fired above our heads" and that he "witnessed survivors with legs cut off and all kinds of land-mine injuries, maggot-infested wounds and ears cut off."
Jerry Goldsmith, the composer for the first three movies, had passed away in 2004, so Brian Tyler was brought in to replace him. Tyler's score incorporated the first movie's score with the scores of the two sequels to create a score that had the feel of the sequels but with a lighter, more sombre side of the original film.
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