Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set
First Blood, Rambo – First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 27, 2008
When I was a young jazz-musician-in-training, there was (and, by the way, still is) a company called Mosaic Records, whose catalog consisted entirely of limited-edition box sets, that were each like the most scholarly and exhaustive treatment of a particular jazz musician’s career, or phase of his career. The typical title format that Mosaic would follow with these sets was/is something like The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonious Monk — in essence, each box set would include every single recording that a particular jazz musician did for a given record label, plus dozens of never-before-heard alternate takes, lengthy liner notes, complete discographical information, ultra-rare photographs, etc., etc.
Anyway, if Mosaic were suddenly to change the focus of its content from classic jazz to action movies, they would be eminently proud of a release like Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set. Seriously, for all you Rambo lovers out there, this is the one product that you need. It is definitive and — until further Rambo sequels are produced (a possibility to which Sylvester Stallone alludes in one of the set’s innumerable extras) — genuinely complete.
I remember seeing a Stallone interview a while ago, in which he said that his movies are mostly about the lone man rising above his oppressors. Well, there’s plenty of that in the six discs of this collector’s edition. John Rambo is a complex character, and there are tons of ways you can look at him. On one level, maybe even the main one, he’s entertainment. Indeed, for whatever else is wrong with or right about the Rambo movies, they all qualify as very entertaining moviemaking. For example, aside from the obligatory nonstop action sequences, the four films include a few absolutely stand-out lines of dialogue, each of which on its own makes this set totally worth its purchase price. My current favorite occurs in First Blood, when Rambo asks Colonel Troutman (played by Richard Crenna) what he’s been doing in the years since Rambo last communicated with him. Troutman explains that he’s been in D.C., “shining a seat with my ass.” A couple of the sequels also feature some of the greatest Russian accents since The Bullwinkle Show.
On another level, Rambo functions as that one no-bullshit guy with common sense, who sees things as they really are, who’s been around the block, and who (perhaps most importantly) has the balls to go after people who are bad, no matter what the cost is to himself. In any one of these senses, Rambo is instantly likable. A lot of times in life, you come across situations that you know, down deep, are just plain wrong. But how many of us consistently have the courage to right such wrongs, particularly if doing so could wind up being fatal? Well, Rambo is a near-perfect embodiment of a person who is essentially dedicated to that overall vision of life. When you combine all that with an actor as charismatic as Sylvester Stallone, you really do wind up with a figure of mythic proportions.
Aside from an occasional line of comic relief here and there, the four Rambo movies are presented as serious. That is, they are not supposed to be a joke. This is one of the many reasons they are so great. One of the things that contributes to life in 2008 (and over the last ten-or-so years) sucking so positively much is that people — particularly entertainers — seem to have lost the ability to take anything seriously, or to be passionate about something. It’s almost as if they first need to make fun out of whatever it is that they’re doing, so as to save face if some audience member were to laugh at their passion. This has basically resulted in the downfall of the ability to dream, and that in turn is largely why pop culture has become so boring. These days sarcasm and irony have replaced passion or seriousness about anything. See Mo Rocca for an example of this regrettable and pathetic phenomenon. Or any recent Will Ferrell movie.
This has considerable bearing upon what’s great about all of the Rambo movies — namely, they predate this new dedication to constant idiocy. Even the latest sequel from earlier this year. In the final scene of Rambo: First Blood Part II, when an enraged Rambo warns Murdock, “Find them, or I’ll find you!” (in reference to any remaining American POWs in Vietnam) and then proceeds to tearfully tell Troutman what it is that he wants (i.e., to be loved by his country as much as he and other Vietnam veterans love it), it’s no joke. Now, you would think that such an observation would be obvious to the point of not even having to make it. But in the hands of today’s Will Ferrell crowd, I don’t doubt that their first inclination would be to make fun out of the overdramatic nature of Stallone’s delivery of these lines. Well, I got some news for you: That crowd can suck my d*ck. And here’s an additional news flash for such folks — caring about something passionately (and without the constant need to make fun of doing so) is the one ingredient that was left out of your bodies when your generation was created, and a big part of the reason that I like the Rambo movies is because they’re the polar opposite of all that crap. You see, all you “Can you hear me now?”™ idiots out there can laugh all day long about whatever cliched or unrealistic plot elements are occasionally employed in the Rambo movies, but as you do so, realize that you’re missing the overall point — i.e., the triumph of the lone man rising above his oppressors, of good over evil, and of human courage. For whatever is lacking in these movies, these three timeless themes are continually well served.
On a semi-related note, I read somewhere that Slyvester Stallone was originally looking for a young actor to star opposite him in the Rambo sequel that came out earlier this year. On this subject, Stallone was apparently quoted as saying, “I’ve been looking for the next Robert Mitchum or Steve McQueen, but the fact is, they just don’t exist. Tough guys today are getting their hair done at Hollywood hairdressers. What ever happened to having a beer and scratching your balls?” This points up how much things have changed since the first couple of Rambo movies came out, and also reinforces why all four movies are so cool. In short, Rambo is probably the last remaining vestige of a long tradition of real Hollywood action stars. Like Charles Bronson, for example. In contrast, who the heck do we have today to fill such shoes? Vin Diesel? Keanu Reeves? ‘Nuff said.
DVD Bonus Features
Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set features a vertiable Vietnamese boatload of extras, not the least of which is that it comes in a nifty metal case vaguely reminiscent of a lunch box. In fact, there are so many extras that it is debatable who the bigger star of this box set actually is — Stallone or the set’s special features. I mean, we’re talking hours of extras, distributed among well more than a dozen individual special features. Some of the cooler ones included are:
- a ton of audio commentary from several different Rambo luminaries, including the individual movies’ directors and Stallone himself;
- an alternate ending for First Blood;
- interactive viewing modes that are kind of video game–like (like Survival Mode, for example);
- deleted scenes;
- original theatrical trailers; and
- over a dozen featurettes.
In short, buy this box set, and you’ll be watching Rambo in one form or another for at least the next three weeks. For those of you have merely seen all four movies when they were originally shown in theaters, watching this DVD set will give new meaning to John Rambo’s staccato cry of “Nothing is over!” from the last few minutes of First Blood.