Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (30th October 2010).
The Film

Say whatever you will about the ups and downs of Sylvester Stallone’s career, one which has lasted through five decades, but you can’t deny that he has bestowed upon us two of the most-enduring screen characters in cinema: Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. Though they couldn’t appear to be any more opposite, the simple fact is that these two titans share a common fantasy that many of us harbor, that being the will to overcome impossible odds to triumph in the face of adversity. Both characters are simple, modest men on the surface, but there beats the heart of a ferocious warrior within them. Where Rocky Balboa figuratively disassembles his opponents in the ring, John Rambo literally does so, often with extreme prejudice. The character has endured since his big screen debut in “First Blood” (1982) on up through the new millennium with “Rambo” (2008). But why? What is it about this solitary man, this mass of sinew and muscle who is capable of snapping a man’s neck with the flick of his wrist? Quite honestly, I think a big part of the reason he’s survived both cinematically and in the zeitgeist is because he IS such a brute force, but beneath it is a man who would just prefer to be left to his own devices. Rambo isn’t a bloodthirsty killing machine with little regard for human life; he’s a real person who only strikes out when backed into a corner (literally, as seen in the first film), and brother, when he lashes out you had better hope you aren’t within an arrow’s distance of him.

Stallone first brought the character to life in “First Blood”, based on the novel by David Morrell. Rambo, having returned home from the Vietnam War some years earlier, heads to Washington to look up an old war buddy, but he learns that his friend had died some time earlier due to Agent Orange exposure. Dejected at the loss, Rambo sets off on foot through the town of Hope. It isn’t long before he runs across Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), the local big shot who has a hard-on for drifters and wants Rambo out of his town. At first he complies, but when Teasle catches him within city limits again, he decides to make an example of the man. Shackled, beaten, abused and with flashbacks of his torture in ‘Nam beginning to resurface, Rambo makes a daring escape which leads to the police department organizing a massive manhunt. But when Rambo’s mentor, Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) shows up on the scene, he informs the men that “what you call hell, he calls home”, insinuating that it’s going to take one hell of an army to bring the man down, if it can even be done. Rambo’s abilities in these no-win situations are second-to-none and he sends frequent reminders to the police and army guards as they are constantly overwhelmed by his killer instincts.

If you mention the name “Rambo” to most people, it conjures up images of a ripped Stallone pumping round after round of machine gun fire into the bodies of his enemies. But I’d be willing to bet that most don’t recall that Rambo doesn’t kill a single man in “First Blood”. In fact, aside from a deputy who loses his balance and falls from a helicopter, there isn’t a single on-screen death in the film. Even when given a ripe opportunity to plunge his trusty blade deep into anyone who gets in his way, Rambo always lets them off with a warning or an injury, but never death. He lives by a moral code; he isn’t some savage brute looking to prove a point. When Trautman is brought in to negotiate with Rambo, it’s because he knows that he’s the only man John will listen to – the only one he truly respects. Originally, Morrell’s novel had Rambo committing suicide at the conclusion of the story. In fact, the Blu-ray includes that sequence as an alternate ending, but the film’s producers saw that the character had franchise potential, so the decision was made to let him live so that we could be given one of the most violent, latently homosexual action films ever birthed from the ‘80s…

“Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985) was a watershed film for Stallone. That year saw his two most popular franchises (this, and "Rocky" (1976)) release their two most successful entries, propelling Stallone to the top of the box office list for 1985. Though it wouldn’t be until the second half of the year when he unleashed the juggernaut that was “Rocky IV” (which went on to gross more than $125 million), he more than whet the collective appetite of action fans everywhere when “Rambo: First Blood Part II” assaulted cinemas in May of that year. With no novel on which to base the screenplay, James Cameron (a name you might know…) wrote a first draft which was substantially re-written by Sly to beef up the politics of the picture. Director George P. Cosmatos was locked in, though it has been revealed that the bulk of the directorial duties were shouldered by Stallone. Coincidentally enough, the same thing happened to Cosmatos on “Tombstone” (1993), a film he ostensibly directed but was actually helmed by star Kurt Russell.

Regardless, the film took aim at a delicate subject in American life - that of P.O.W.'s left behind after the war in Vietnam had ended. In this installment, Rambo, still serving time breaking rocks in a military prison, is recruited and reinstated to head up a reconnaissance mission to photograph possible P.O.W. camps. Of course, we all know Rambo isn’t dropping into the jungle all alone and NOT killing enough soldiers to fill Arlington Cemetery. Sure enough, he finds the P.O.W.'s, but instead of rescuing them the mission is called off by the sycophantic leader of the U.S. base, Murdock (Charles Napier). Stranded and left to interrogative torture, Rambo eventually escapes his captors and returns to deliver one of the most testosterone-laden assaults on a military compound since Arnold Schwarzenegger went hog wild in “Commando” (1985, co-owner of the “Most Unintentionally Homoerotic Film of 1985” award). And let me tell you, it’s a thing of beauty. You don’t know satisfaction until you see Rambo unsheathe his long, hard knife and plunge it deep into some dude. Wait, that sounded wrong… Damn these metaphors! Let me just put it this way, if you pretend Rambo’s penis is his gun then it would be fair to call him a man whore of epic proportions since he whips that thing out for just about anyone. And just wait until he gets to Murdock! But, all kidding aside, this is one of my favorite action films of all-time because it’s impossible to not get caught up in all the carnage. I’m sure many American males have fantasized about returning to Vietnam to get a little payback – Rambo is just one man and he does the job of hundreds. In the end, though, he “just wants his country to love [him], as much as [he] loves it”.

Speaking of countries we DON’T love, though… Let’s move on to “Rambo III” (1988). Now, Stallone may be good at many things, but predicting the future ain’t one of them (if it were, I might not have had to endure the torture that was 1990’s “Rocky V”). So, no one can really knock the guy for fighting alongside the Afghanistan people against the Russians. After all, hating on Mother Russia was all the rage in the 80's. Of course, in the 80's, Mother Russia hate on you! But I digress, he had a good hook at the time and he ran with it. For this penultimate installment, Rambo is living in Thailand and whipping some serious ass in stick fighting matches. Col. Trautman shows up asking for his assistance in delivering aid to the Afghan people in their fight against Russia, but Rambo turns him down because he’s trying to be all peace loving and crap. Of course, without Rambo the mission goes awry and soon the Colonel is in enemy hands and being subjected to some serious torture. This does not sit well with Rambo, and soon his chiseled physique is called back into action to stomp some Russkie ass. Oddly enough, one of the most memorable scenes from the film features Rambo playing some kind of polo-style game using a dead sheep carcass with the locals. As you can imagine, this entry was not nearly as well-received as the previous two.

So, what went wrong? Who can say? “Rambo: First Blood Part II” was a massive box office success, grossing over $150 million by the end of its run. “Rambo III” managed a little over a third of that sum. It isn’t for lack of action because Rambo manages a kill every 1.30 minutes (statistic courtesy of a flowchart some interwebs nerd made that I found), which, if accurate, is higher than the body count in the previous entry. Not that mutilated, bullet-riddled corpses make a movie better, but they certainly don’t make it worse. I think it was just a combination of the fact that, even though Rambo is still a human wrecking machine, he’s mellowed out a bit since he went into balls-out overload kill mode in “Rambo: First Blood Part II”, plus this film didn’t have the benefit of using a controversial war we still don’t feel right about as the main selling point. I agree that “Rambo III” lacks something, but the pieces are all there, so in the end I think it’s just a case of not having a compelling enough story to sell the picture. Once you’ve hit your pinnacle with a character in any film series, living up to that high watermark can be a daunting challenge for any subsequent films in the canon.

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. And that would bring us to the final entry in the series, “Rambo” (2008). You know what I love? I love this new renaissance that Stallone’s career is enjoying. It began with the critically-acclaimed swan song for his beloved character Rocky in “Rocky Balboa” (2005) and most recently he’s pioneered the successful throwback to action films of yore, “The Expendables” (2010). With “Rambo”, Stallone did a full 180 degree turn with the role. Rambo now lives in Thailand, on the border of Burma (now Myanmar), wrangling poisonous snakes and generally minding his own business. He’s far removed from the chaos and hell that once ruled his life. A group of missionaries shows up asking for a boat ride into Burma to deliver aid, and Rambo rebuffs their offer, but when the lone attractive female of the group, Sarah (Julie Benz… groan), asks him to reconsider he acquiesces to their demands and drops them off at a village off the river. Cut to a few weeks later and Rambo gets a visit from the group’s pastor (Ken Howard, in a role that was originally going to be left for Crenna to return as Trautman if he weren’t dead), who informs him that they’ve gone missing and a mercenary team is being assembled to attempt a rescue. They want Rambo to be their guide, something that doesn’t sit well with some members of the group for fear that he’s either too old, too slow, or he’ll get them killed. But those fears are quickly assuaged when Rambo springs into action, wiping out a squadron of Burmese soldiers with his trusty bow & arrow. Soon the group tracks down the military outpost where the missionaries are being held, and when the soldiers give chase after a daring rescue... well, let’s just say that you had better be a world away when Rambo steps behind a jeep-mounted .50-caliber machine gun with a seemingly infinite supply of bullets. You haven’t seen pure, unadulterated violence like this in years!

“Rambo” was a fitting end to the character, just as “Rocky Balboa” was for that series. I think they should have used the international title here in the States (it was known as “John Rambo” in most other markets) because I look at the succinct, eponymous titles as a fitting tribute and send-off for his most popular cinematic roles. There had been some talk about pursuing a “Rambo V”, with storylines ranging from Rambo going down to Mexico to confront the trafficking of women as sex slaves to having him fight a feral, primal beast in the wilds of some jungle or forest. But, thankfully, Stallone has confirmed in recent months that he’s done with that role and intends to now focus on franchising his hit film “The Expendables” (a wise move if you ask me). Rambo doesn’t need any more films to remain relevant in today’s age. His name is already part of the cultural lexicon; it can be used as a verb to describe going ballistic on someone or something. People will be watching these films for years to come, much like they will the “Rocky” series. Stallone has gifted us with some real turkeys over the years, but his legacy will be forever linked to Rocky or Rambo, and something tells me he’s just fine with that.

Individual film scores:

- "Rambo: First Blood" Rating: A
- "Rambo: First Blood Part II" Rating: A-
- "Rambo III" Rating: B-
- "Rambo" Rating: A-

Video

“First Blood” sports the same 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer that the original Blu-ray release featured. Given the film’s limited budget, it looks very good in high-definition. The biggest benefit the image receives is the improvement in clarity and fine detail. Though the image may often be soft at times, the picture exhibits clear line delineation and sharp edges on objects in the foreground. Colors aren’t very robust, but the majority of the film is filled with the muted, earthy tones of the Pacific Northwest’s forests. Black levels could stand to be more rich and deep, but they’re acceptable given the limitations of the picture at the time. This is the best I’ve ever seen the film look and, while it may be far from the best demo material available, this is a solid upgrade from all previous home video editions.

“Rambo: First Blood Part II” assaults viewers with a 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer that blows away the DVD competition. The lush colors of the jungles of Acapulco, Mexico (standing in for Vietnam) give the picture a warm palette courtesy of legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff. The image is often soft at times, though, rendering poor lines which are typically devoid of sharp, clearly-defined edges. Cosmatos mentioned smoke being used in some scenes, so that might explain some of the inherent softness in the picture. The use of anamorphic lenses to shot the film is another reason why some edges of the picture look noticeably softer. Black levels hold up well, however, and white levels are cool without appearing overblown or excessively hot. Skin tones and facial close-ups look incredibly detailed, with every pore and scar clearly visible on Rambo’s war-ravaged body and face. Could it look better? Maybe, but what we do get is a reasonable upgrade, even if it isn’t exactly perfect for such a popular film.

The 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps VC-1 encoded image found on “Rambo III” is the strongest of the three films from the 80's. The image features a striking amount of detail over the previous entry, as well as a stronger range of color displayed on screen. It seems fitting that the film which Stallone was in the best shape for (he got down to a lean 3.8% body fat) also happens to feature the best appearance. The combat during the day looks intense and sharp, as do the night time battles which are often well-lit and covered with a fine layer of film grain which lends a more cinematic appearance to the image. The exquisite detail of the desert canopy is enhanced by the ability to make out the minutest of details, from grains of sand down to the grizzled, hardened faces of the Russian enemies. Just as with the first film, there are earthy tones of the desert which stand in stark contrast to some of the uniforms worn by the soldiers, allowing each to have a distinct appearance on screen.

Last, but certainly not the least, is “Rambo”. It should come as little surprise that the 2.40:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer is the strongest of the bunch; it had better be seeing as how the film came out some 20 years after “Rambo III”. Shot with a decidedly gritty, real world approach, the film nonetheless looks spectacular in high-definition. The image has the strongest colors and detail of the four films, but this is also the only entry to employ such a hard look to the image. The dichotomy of the lush, green hues of the jungle painted against the harsh, muddy, burned-out villages creates a stark contrast that gives each a strikingly different palette. There is minimal film grain to be found here; the grit and grime on screen do more than enough to give the picture a filmic quality. Much of the first two acts of the film takes place either in darkness or very dim lighting, and I’m pleased to say that the black levels hold up extremely well under those conditions. The most impressive aspect of the picture is the detail, which is (severed) head & shoulders above the previous entries. Just look at the front side of Rambo’s .50-caliber machine gun after he turns a Burmese lackey into red jello. The chunks of what was once human looks incredibly realistic slimed across his weapon. A downside, of course, is that the often-poorly rendered CGI bullet wounds and assorted carnage stand out like a sore thumb at times. I know that using CGI in place of squibs is more cost efficient, but the price is that it lacks the tangible quality that real life effects provide. Still, that’s a minor quibble for what is a strong image for this final film in the series.

Audio

The English DTS-HD High Resolution 6.1 Matrix mixed at 48kHz/24-bit on “First Blood” is a solid track for a film coming out of 1982. Though it lacks some of the finesse of newer mixes, the track sounds wonderful when Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score is coming in from all sides. Explosions and gunfire bring the LFE and rear speakers to life, but never overpower the track. Dialogue is mostly clear, but there’s also only so much you can do with the audio when Stallone is mumbling on screen. The guy can be downright unintelligible at times. Otherwise, this is a perfectly satisfactory listening experience. Note that the film seems to default to the English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 surround sound track, so you may want to check which track is enabled before starting the picture, also included is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. Subtitles are included in English and Spanish.

“Rambo: First Blood Part II” features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit which I found to be a bit underwhelming. The track showcases a number of heavy action scenes which roar all speakers to life, but I expected more dynamic range for a film with so much gunfire and explosions. I wanted this track to be a behemoth, to absolutely crush all other action films of this era. But I usually found that the explosions could have packed a little more of a punch than they do. There’s still LOTS of life to the audio, though. Don’t for a second think that this is a disappointing track on the level of some DTV action flick. The dialogue is clearly discernible and well-balanced among the rapid gunfire and mortar shells. I wanted the LFE track to pound my neighbors into oblivion just a little more than it does, but by no means is it a slouch. There is also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track included. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

“Rambo III” features another English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed a 48kHz/24-bit. Just as the last film was a marked upgrade in video/audio quality over the first film, this too is an upgrade over that film. The track has a greater sense of dimensionality and range, opening up the film to greater soundscapes which make more use of all speakers. The LFE track packs a bit more of a wallop in this installment, lending a more powerful low-end to the film’s many explosions. As before, dialogue is well-rendered, balanced and easy to hear. I’ve come to expect the audio tracks for these films to be akin to the man himself - lots of power, but light on the frills. There’s not always much going on in the rears, aside from the score and some filler effects, but when it’s time to get down things really roar to life. There is also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track included. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

And now we get to the colossus of the collection, “Rambo”. Much like the man himself in this entry, “Rambo” features a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit that is a brutal, heavy hitter. The final 20 minutes of the film is likely to blow the roof of your house with the audible assault courtesy of machine gun fire, mortar rounds, flamethrowers and grenades. I keep going back to it, but when Rambo starts pumping away with his .50-caliber machine gun, you literally feel like he’s standing right behind you blasting away enemies. When things are a bit quieter, however, the audio does a nice job of using the rear speakers to fill out the ambient sounds of the jungle canopy. Though he still slurs some of his words, Rambo and the rest of the cast sound pitch perfect in terms of dialogue clarity. Stallone set out to make a film that genuinely showcased the atrocities occurring in Burma on a daily basis, so the sound design here is crucial in stressing just how chaotic the situation can be. Each gun shot in this film hits home with tremendous force, giving viewers a nightmarish glimpse into the reality many of these people face. The LFE track will be sweating like it’s been confined to a Turkish bath house thanks to the film’s many explosions which aim to rattle the very roots of your sound system. War is hell, and this track makes sure you feel like you’ve got a front row seat to the violence. An English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 surround sound track is included. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Extras

“Rambo: The Complete Collection” is a bit of a misnomer since this set lacks many of the bonus features that were found on previous DVD editions of each film. Likewise, it also fails to include the recently released "Director’s Cut" of “Rambo” which hit Blu-ray the same day as this set. Regardless, we do get a healthy amount of special features included here, though most are relegated to the latest film, “Rambo”, while the classic 80's era entries are missing some features that were worth keeping from their prior incarnations. What we do get are multiple audio commentaries, featurettes, trivia tracks, deleted scenes, trailers and more spread out across the sets 4 discs.

Buyers should be aware that these are literally the exact same discs that were individually released by Lionsgate before, so if you already own those I can think of no reason to purchase this set unless you really need to save some space, as they all come housed in an amaray keepcase which is slightly wider than normal. Even the Blu-ray for “Rambo” still says “Disc 1” on it, since the current BD release has a second disc containing a digital copy - one that isn’t included here.

DISC ONE:

The audio commentary with Sylvester Stallone is a fantastic example of how commentaries should be done. Never at a loss for words, Stallone is an endless stream of information regarding all aspects of the production, and his thoughts provide some wonderful insight into how this classic came together. I was amazed at just how much he remembered about the film all these years later. Even such minor details as the lighting in some scenes or what the weather was like; it’s little bits like this that make these features so imminently important.

The second audio commentary track is with the writer of the novel, David Morrell. His track is complementary to Stallone’s in that Morrell engages the listener as though they’re more of a student. A former English professor at the University of Iowa, he dissects the film from a literary perspective, offering up a lecture on the character, his motivations, parallels to real-life students and many more aspects of Rambo that may not have been fully carried over to the film. Morrell even takes a moment to get personal, discussing how his son, who was dying of cancer, received a phone call from Stallone to perk up his spirits.

“Out of the Blu” is a trivia track which provides viewers with information on the film, via a small pop-up window, about the locations, weapons and much more. If you’ve already seen the film a dozen times (like me) then this is a great way to learn some more information while watching it. Personally, I’ve always found features like this to be best used when paired with a commentary track.

“Drawing First Blood” (480p) is a behind-the-scenes featurette which runs for 22 minutes and 36 seconds. Nearly all of the film’s principals – director Ted Kotcheff, Sylvester Stallone, writer David Morrell, producers Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna – discuss how the project went from languishing in development hell (where it was drafted 26 times!) to finally getting the greenlight. They talk about the scripting process, the film’s two major (and completely different) endings, their thoughts on the Vietnam War, and they also offer up some anecdotes on the production. It might not be terribly long, but they cram a great deal of information into this piece.

A reel of deleted scenes (480p) runs for 5 minutes and 33 seconds. The film’s divisive alternate ending is included here, as well as a flashback John has of a traumatic night out in Vietnam.

Some bonus trailers (1080p) are included for the following Lionsgate releases:

- “The Descent” runs for 2 minutes and 23 seconds.
- “Crank” runs for 2 minutes and 3 seconds.
- “Lionsgate Blu-ray promo” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.

DISC TWO:

An audio commentary with director George P. Cosmatos gets things going. He’s often very dry, and there are some lengthy gaps of silence throughout, and he does have an accent thick enough to be cut with a large knife, but he does offer up some worthwhile information. Seeing as how he barely directed the film, it’s no surprise that he isn’t as talkative as Stallone might have been. When he isn’t simply describing what’s happening on screen, he drops information on shooting locations, difficulties on set and other typical anecdotes.

”We Get to Win This Time” (480p) is a featurette which runs for 20 minutes and 4 seconds. Director Cosmatos, Stallone and the film’s producers discuss how the sequel got off the ground, writing the script with James Cameron, the initial idea of pairing Rambo up with a buddy (to have been played by John Travolta!) and the grueling workout Stallone took on to get himself into insanely good shape. As with the previous featurette on “First Blood”, this is a highly informative piece given its minimal running time.

The “Out of the Blu” trivia track is presented here as well, offering up information in the same way it did on “First Blood”. There are a few morsels included here that were overlooked on the commentary and featurette.

The disc opens with a bonus trailer (1080p) for “Rambo”, which runs for 54 seconds.

DISC THREE:

First up, an audio commentary by director Peter MacDonald. Yaaawwwwnnnnn. I’ll tell you, MacDonald is drier than the deserts seen in the film, offering up some useful tidbits of information, but more often than not sounding like he’s fallen asleep at the podium. His monotonous, singularly-pitched tone does little to keep you, the listener, engaged in his words. We learn a bit about how he got the gig after the previous director was given the boot, as well as the standard information most directors should be able to offer up, but he lacks the ability to make it a fun, exciting track. You’d think we were listening to commentary on a film about English parliament or something. I’d recommend skipping this one unless you’re a really big fan of the film. And even then, you’ll probably find yourself nodding off along with him.

“Land in Crisis” (480p) is a featurette which runs for 29 minutes and 48 seconds. The film’s principals have a very detailed discussion about the decision to use Afghanistan as the backdrop for the film, the years of warring and turmoil within the country and what struggles the people there have had to endure. They talk about some of the characters who were actually inspired by real life people from the region, and how some dialogue was even quoted verbatim from them. As with the previous featurettes (it’s obvious these were all shot together and split up), this is a tremendous amount of worthy information in a short amount of time.

The disc also features the “Out of the Blu” trivia track found on the previous films, offering up information via the same pop-up window as before.

A bonus trailer for “Rambo” (1080p) opens up the disc, and runs for 54 seconds.

DISC FOUR:

The highlight of this disc is easily the audio commentary with director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone. As usual, he’s never at a loss for words, talking at great length about the crisis in Burma. He intended to make the film as savage and brutal as possible, not to glorify violence, but to help people to understand how dire the situation is over there. Much like with his commentary on “First Blood”, Stallone delves into the minutia of the production, spilling details on much of what occurred on set, who many of these actors are (almost all of the Burmese soldiers are, ironically enough, real life freedom fighters who live in fear for their lives on a daily basis) and much, much more. As usual, Sly provides an insightful, often introspective commentary that is an absolute must-listen affair.

“Bonus View” picture-in-picture video commentary (available for profile 1.1 players and up) tacks about 40 minutes onto the run time as a small pop-up window appears with Stallone providing commentary on the film. The window occasionally expands to fill the entire screen, at which time we are treated to some behind-the-scenes clips regarding the other aspects of the production. It can be a little jarring at times going from these tangents back to the main film, but it helps to expand on much of what Stallone covered in his solo track.

“It’s a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 19 minutes and 44 seconds. Stallone and the film’s producers talk about the struggle to find the right storyline to justify bringing Rambo back into theaters. Once they latched on to the struggle in Burma, they felt there was justification enough to give the character one last mission. The discussion then delves into the specifics of the story, as well as casting and locations.

“A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 6 minutes and 31 seconds. Composer Brian Tyler talks about how he worked hard to incorporate Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic theme music into his own score for the film. Stallone also chimes in with his thoughts on Goldsmith and how Tyler would be a fitting replacement for the late composer.

“The Art of War: Part 1: Editing” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 6 minutes and 47 seconds. Stallone, and the film’s editors, discuss how they sifted through countless hours of footage to assemble their cut of the film. They were sure it would receive an NC-17 rating based on the violence alone, but surprisingly their first submission to the MPAA yielded an R-rating for the version widely seen in theaters.

“The Art of War: Part 2: Sound” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 3 minutes and 15 seconds. The film’s editors and sound team talk about working with Stallone to make sure the sound matched up with the gritty realism of the picture.

“The Weaponry of Rambo” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 14 minutes and 23 seconds. Property master Ken Johnson discusses his obsessive attention to detail in selecting weapons for each member of the main cast. Stallone calls him “Eager Beaver Over Achiever” because the man is such a stickler for authenticity and minutia most people wouldn’t even notice or care about.

“A Hero’s Welcome: Release and Reaction” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 9 minutes and 31 seconds. The film’s cast and crew talk about the big premiere at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, where they were all a bit awestruck by how well they were treated as guests of Stallone.

“Legacy of Despair: The Real Struggle in Burma” (1080i) is a featurette which runs for 10 minutes and 42 seconds. Quite possibly the most important featurette on this disc, members of human rights groups across the country discuss the atrocities which occur in Burma on a daily basis. Footage is shown of some of the conflicts in the region and, let me tell you something, if you thought “Rambo” was hardcore then you won’t believe how these people treat their own citizens. Absolutely devastating, and there doesn’t seem to be much international interest in stopping the regime in power there anytime soon.

Four deleted scenes (1080p) are available for the following, which can be played all at once or separately:

- “Do You Believe in Anything?” runs for 2 minutes and 26 seconds, Sarah tries once again to convince Rambo to shuttle their group down the river.
- “Who Are You Helping?” runs for 4 minutes and 42 seconds, Sarah waits for Rambo on the boat docks, and this time is finally successful in convincing him to ferry them down river to assist the people of Burma.
- “Boat Ride” runs for 4 minutes and 12 seconds, Sarah engages Rambo in some discussion while they travel down the river.
- “Let’s Keep Going” runs for 2 minutes and 21 seconds, Rambo bandages a wound on Sarah’s foot while they’re on the run.

“MoLog” is another useless BD-Live feature that allows users to chat while they watch the movie. Why you’d ever want to do this is beyond my comprehension.

A “Rambo Series Trailer Gallery” has original theatrical trailers (1080p) for the following:

- “First Blood” runs for 2 minutes and 35 seconds.
- “Rambo: First Blood Part II” runs for 2 minutes and 26 seconds.
- “Rambo III” runs for 2 minutes and 4 seconds.
- “Rambo” runs for 2 minutes and 24 seconds.

Some Lionsgate bonus trailers (1080p) are included for the following:

- “Rambo: Ultimate Edition DVD promo” runs for 31 seconds.
- “War” runs for 52 seconds.
- “Crank” runs for 2 minutes and 23 seconds.
- “The Punisher” runs for 1 minute and 57 seconds.

Finally, the disc contains the bookmarks feature used to mark your favorite scenes.

Packaging

The four-disc set is housed rather clumsily in an amaray keepcase which is slightly wider than a standard case. There are two swinging inserts inside where the discs are housed on opposite sides of each other. One issue I have is that the hubs are a little too shallow, allowing the discs to fall off and float around the case. I don’t know why Lionsgate didn’t simply jam all four current releases into a box and call it a day – perhaps space limitations on store shelves. The set has a slipcover which replicates the cover art included, and there’s also a large sticker proclaiming that the films feature “a legend from The Expendables”. It’s impossible to remove and is already dated since that film is out of theaters. Also, if we’re getting technical here, Stallone is arguably the only true “legend” in that film. Jason Statham ain’t earned those wings yet.

Overall

If you don’t own any previous editions of these films on Blu-ray, then this set is a must-buy. You might be losing out on some features found on the DVD editions (so hang on to them if you’re a supplement nerd), but I think what is included provides a plethora of information along with substantial upgrades over the DVD editions in terms of both audio and video. Rambo is a character whose cinematic legacy will endure for years and years, and this is the perfect set for those who want to own all of his adventures in one complete package. The lack of Stallone’s "Director’s Cut" of “Rambo” makes this set feel a bit incomplete, but since that Blu-ray can be had for around $10, I’d say its lack of inclusion is a minor offense. These are all good films and they absolutely belong in the collection of every action fan.

The Film: B+ Video: B Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.