First Blood appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Not exactly a visual showcase, the 4K UHD nonetheless reproduced the source well.
Sharpness worked fine. Some softness lightly impacted a few interiors, but exteriors – which dominated the movie – tended to look very good. These factors left this as a largely accurate, well-defined presentation.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. With a natural sense of grain, I didn’t suspect any egregious digital noise reduction, and print flaws remained absent.
First Blood featured a subdued, naturalistic palette, and the disc replicated those hues nicely. The colors came across with good accuracy and depth, and they showed no signs of noise, bleeding or other issues. The 4K’s HDR capabilities gave the hues a minor boost but thankfully they didn’t tend toward an overly peppy, cartoony impression.
Black levels came across as dark and dense, while shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy, without excessive opacity. I felt very pleased with this appealing presentation.
As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it provided a fairly solid soundfield. The forward spectrum dominated the proceedings and offered reasonably good spread across the front. Music showed nice stereo presence, while effects moved cleanly and accurately across the channels.
The surrounds added occasional reinforcement, and they also became more active during a few scenes; helicopters would zoom from front to rear, and dogs barked in the back. However, the front presented the strongest presence, and the track seemed to offer a reasonably involving soundfield.
Audio quality was more than adequate for its era. Speech sounded distinct and natural, and I discerned no problems related to intelligibility.
Effects displayed minor distortion at times, mainly due to gunshots, but the elements usually came across as fairly accurate. Music also showed nice range and accuracy. This never became a great mix, but it seemed satisfactory for its era.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the prior Blu-ray release? Audio showed greater range and impact, and visuals boasted superior delineation and cleanliness, with a more natural feel. This turned into a nice upgrade over the Blu-ray.
On the 4K UHD, we find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which features novelist David Morrell. According to the credits, Morrell had no direct involvement in the movie; they based it on his book, but that was that. Because of this, I didn’t expect much from the commentary other than a comparison of the two, and I thought this would be a bland piece.
I was wrong on both accounts. Yes, Morrell does tell us many differences between novel and film, but he also adds a slew of great production notes and anecdotes about the film. He possesses a wealth of knowledge about the movie - and the rest of the series, it appears - and he offers an engaging and lively personality.
Almost no dead spaces appear, and Morrell only occasionally tells us what we see on the screen. Usually he interjects a quick statement in that regard but then quickly returns to his story. Folks who like commentaries that stick heavily to the onscreen action might not care for this one, but I think it provides a consistently entertaining and informative track.
The second commentary presents co-writer/actor Sylvester Stallone. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the “curse” of the project and his reluctance to take the role, aspects of the character and his performance, the other actors, their work and their parts, stunts, action and fights, the script and rewrites, location and sets, and some tensions during the shoot.
Though he plays many monosyllabic characters, Stallone proves very chatty in real life. He gives us plenty of good information about the flick and his work throughout this discussion.
Stallone throws in many entertaining anecdotes such as how Kirk Douglas almost played Troutman, and he’s not above telling potentially embarrassing tales about himself. Stallone fades a bit as the track progresses, but he offers more than enough nice material to make this a winning commentary.
The remaining extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, and one Deleted Scene comes next. “Saigon Flashback” goes for two minutes, 30 seconds and shows Rambo on R&R.
The scene is most notable due to its use of a song that sounds a whole lot like Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” – but not enough for a lawsuit, I guess. It also offers some very nice nudity from an unnamed Asian actress, but it would’ve felt out of place in the final film.
Called “Humorous Ending” on a prior disc, an Outtake goes for 54 seconds. It’s actually pretty serious for most of its running time, but it ends with a laugh. Clearly it never was intended to be part of the movie.
An Alternate Ending spans two minutes, two seconds. It would’ve concluded things in a dark manner that could’ve prevented sequels. It’s actually “Humorous Ending” with a darker finale.
After this we find Making of, a 22-minute, 34-second look at the movie. It offers notes from director Ted Kotcheff, novelist Morell, executive producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar, producer Buzz Feitshans, and actors Sylvester Stallone and Richard Crenna.
Despite its brevity, the program offers a nice look at the production. It traces the film from its origins as a novel through early attempts to make it, casting, and various aspects of the shoot. “Making of” provides an entertaining and informative piece that seems consistently enjoyable.
Next comes Rambo Takes the 80s Part 1, a 17-minute, 43-second reel with Morrell, actor/writer/producer Nick Moran, digital editor Adam Woodward, ShortList Magazine editor Joe Mackertich, actor Chris Mulkey, film critics Anna Smith and Kevin Maher, professional bodybuilder Danny Hester, Rambo III director Peter Macdonald, and storyboard artist William Stout.
“80s” looks at the novel and its adaptation, views of Rambo and the film in general. “80s” provides a fairly erratic reel that flits around without much consistency. It’s not a bad piece, as it gives us a few insights, but it’s not especially good.
The Restauration runs one minute, 35 seconds and shows before/after examples of the movie’s clean-up. Why is it called “restauration” and not “restoration”?
Because it was apparently created for a French Blu-ray. It also reads “avant” and “apres” instead of “before” and “after”. It’s a fairly useless reel.
With The Real Nam, we find a 26-minute, 56-second program with former American soldiers Michael McDonnell, Major Mark A. Smith Jr., Harold Bell, and S. Brian Willson, former US Senators Tom Hayden and Robert K. Dornan, former South Vietnamese soldier Colonel Le Khac Ly, and historian Howard Zinn.
“Real” mixes basic history about the Vietnam War along with personal memories of the soldiers’ experiences. Obviously a 27-minute program can’t deliver a full examination of the conflict, but “Real” does a nice job and brings us a powerful piece.
After this comes Forging Heroes, a nine-minute, 54-second reel with a bunch of unnamed participants. “Heroes” examines aspects of the US military Special Forces. It’s weird that the show doesn’t name any of the speakers, but it still gives us a decent view of the subject matter.
In addition to two trailers, we wrap up with How to Become Rambo Part 1. In this 14-minute, 20-second featurette, we hear from bodybuilding coach Dr. Franco Columbu.
We learn about Stallone’s workout regimen for First Blood Part 2. I’m not sure why this got split into multiple parts and why it doesn’t entirely reside on the Part 2 disc, but I guess it’s painless enough if you want to get some exercise tips.
Although its sequels made Rambo a household name, I think only the original film stands up after all these years. First Blood has its flaws, but it generally offers a vivid and compelling action flick that also includes more depth than usual. The 4K UHD provides very good picture with satisfactory audio and a largely informative set of supplements. This turns into the best version of the film on the market.
To rate this film visit the original review review of FIRST BLOOD