First Blood appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didn’t expect much from this picture, as many flicks of the era haven’t held up well. To my surprise, the movie often looked quite good, with only a few problems along the way.
Sharpness seemed solid for the most part. At times, some wide shots displayed a little softness, but this never became a significant issue. The picture usually looked nicely crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did notice some light edge enhancement at times. Those haloes never seemed severe, but they were apparent on occasion.
Print flaws were a bit more of a distraction. Throughout the flick, I witnessed a moderate level of specks. Though I didn’t think these seriously marred the presentation, they were the transfer’s biggest problem.
First Blood featured a subdued, naturalistic palette, and the DVD replicated those hues nicely. The colors came across with good accuracy and depth, and they showed no signs of noise, bleeding or other issues. Black levels came across as dark and dense, while shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy. First Blood dropped below “A” level mainly due to the edge enhancement and the source defects, but overall, this was a solid image.
As for the film’s Dolby Digital 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 showed its age at times but seemed pretty solid for the most part. Speech sounded slightly thin on occasion, and a little edginess appeared. However, dialogue generally was distinct and natural, and I discerned no problems related to intelligibility. Effects displayed minor distortion at times, mainly due to gunshots. Otherwise they seemed fairly clean and accurate, and some elements like explosions and thunder showed good low-end response. Music seemed acceptably bright and dynamic, as they score also displayed decent bass. This was a more than acceptable mix for an aging flick.
In terms of extras, the biggest attraction comes from an audio commentary with 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.
Three Deleted Scenes come next. We find “Alternate Ending” (2:01), “Saigon Flashback” (2:28) and “Humorous Ending” (0:54). “Alternate” would’ve concluded things in a dark manner that could’ve prevented sequels, while “Flashback” on R&R. The latter 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. “Humorous” is really just an outtake; clearly the filmmakers never considered it for use.
An interactive feature called Survival Mode offers some additional options. Periodically during the film, an icon appears onscreen to notify you that you can access “Survival Mode” components. Hit “enter” and check out the material as the flick progresses.
I don’t care for features that make the movie stop and start like that, so I’m happy the DVD includes a “Direct Access” area that gathers the “Survival Mode” pieces under one roof. “Access” breaks into five domains. “Metabrief” shows us “intelligence dossiers” for five characters: John Rambo, Sheriff Will Teasle, Deputy Arthur Galt, Deputy Mitch Rogers, and Colonel Trautman. These contribute fairly interesting – though stat-oriented – biographies for those personalities.
“Metascope” provides info about a mix of topics that crop up during the film. It tells us a little about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rambo’s knife, Punji stakes, Vietnamese booby trap, wild boars, triangulation, M16 rifle, MI36 rocket launcher, and M60 machine gun. Though these are presented as running clips, they mostly consist of text; they appear as video footage so we can see the movie sequences in which they appear. As with the “dossiers”, these are rudimentary but enjoyable.
Over in “Metasight”, we get a weird look at some of the threats posed to Rambo. It views these concerns as though seen through the eyes of the Terminator and analyzes the various dangers. It’s an odd feature and not one that adds anything to the package.
Next comes “Metapoint”, a similarly strange effort. It displays a bizarre – and not useful – topographical grid to track Rambo’s movement. As with “Metasight”, it seems like a waste of time to me.
“Survival Mode” ends with “Metamap”. It follows in the same path as the prior two components as it shows an awkward global satellite view of two segments. Maybe someone will enjoy it, but I think it’s useless. Really, “Metabrief” and “Metascope” are the only moderately involving “Survival” features – and even they aren’t anything special. The whole “Survival Mode” feels like a silly gimmick much of the time.
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 DVD features good picture and audio as well as a strong audio commentary that highlights the otherwise pretty insubstantial extras. Action fans should definitely give First Blood a look, and this DVD creates a good version of the movie.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” DVD of First Blood can be purchased on its own or as part of a three-disc set. The latter also includes Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III. Each of the three films can be found individually, but the collection saves you some money if you want all of them. Bought separately, they’d go for a total of about $30, but taken as a package, they list for $22.98. That’s a good price if you do like all three flicks.
To rate this film visit the original review review of FIRST BLOOD