Rambo III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, this was a mediocre transfer.
Sharpness was erratic. Much of the film showed decent delineation, but I saw a fair amount of soft shots as well. This meant the movie often came with tentative definition. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects interfered, but I noticed mild to moderate edge enhancement at times.
Source flaws were a more prominent concern. Some grit and marks appeared, and I saw quite a few examples of speckles. These never became excessive, and they declined as the movie progressed, but the nonetheless provided distractions.
None of the Rambo films offered bright and vivid palettes, and Rambo III stayed with a pretty subdued color scheme. However, the DVD represented those tones well, as it showed clear and concise hues throughout the movie. Black levels came across as fairly deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed a little inconsistent. Most low-light scenes looked fine, but a few of them appeared a bit murky and hazy. Rambo III was watchable, but with its specks and occasional softness, I thought it deserved a “C+”.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Rambo III provided very strong audio. The soundfield featured solid use of all five channels and seemed surprisingly active given its age. Admittedly, 1988 wasn’t all that long ago, but most mixes that came out prior to the common use of digital surround in the early Nineties sound pretty dated. Rambo III managed to offer a rather lively and compelling affair. The various effects always emanated from logical places, and they blended together quite well. Panning and movement between channels was clean and well delineated. The mix also showed a lot of ambient sound as well as many elements that made this an active piece. The rear channels worked as active partners and even featured a fair amount of split-surround material.
Audio quality also appeared solid. Speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct, and I heard no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music seemed bright and vivid and showed good range. Some explosions occasionally demonstrated a little distortion, but the effects usually came across as clean and vibrant, and they packed a pretty good punch. Bass sounded slightly boomy at times, but those problems weren’t major. Ultimately, Rambo III provided audio that seemed excellent for its era.
By the way, this new Rambo III fixed a subtitle problem found on prior releases. Those lacked translations for Russian dialogue, but this DVD finally offered the appropriate text.
This “Ultimate Edition” of Rambo III provides a modest mix of extras. We get an audio commentary from director Peter MacDonald, who delivers a running, screen-specific piece. Though not as bad as the clunker from First Blood Part II director George P. Cosmatos, MacDonald’s chat stands as a fairly weak commentary. The biggest negative relates to the amount of information he provides. On occasion, extremely long spans of time pass between his statements, and when MacDonald does speak, he often just tells us what we see.
However, he does periodically manage to provide some good facts about the shoot. MacDonald presents a reasonably candid personality and he offers information about various problems encountered on location. He offers enough information to make the track worthwhile for big fans of the film, but others may find it to seem excessively frustrating.
Eight Deleted Scenes appear. These include “Alternate Opening” (3:37), “Rambo Prepares Knife” (1:18), “Afghan Wedding” (0:40), “Zaysen Interrogates Trautman – Again” (1:10), “Rambo Shoots More Russians” (1:48), “’A Lost Tourist’” (0:25), “Alternate Ending”(1:35), and “Joke Ending” (0:30). The “Opening” shows us the Russian threat in Afghanistan and the failure of prior Americans there; it’s superfluous because we don’t need to actually see this material before we re-encounter Rambo in Thailand. “Knife” is just another of the “Rambo prepares for battle” bits, so it doesn’t add anything.
“Wedding” provides nothing more than a cheap one-liner joke, while “Interrogates” seems as redundant as its title implies; how much Trautman torture do we need? “Russians” is simple more mayhem, though I do think “Rambo Shoots More Russians” should’ve been the title of the film. “Tourist” just throws out another one-liner from Rambo. “Ending” is actually almost interesting, as Rambo decides to stay with the Afghans; it’s an intriguing character choice, though I’d assume it was dumped because it would’ve hamstrung any more sequels. “Joke” provides a lighter – and really lame - conclusion between Trautman and Rambo.
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 six characters: John Rambo, Robert Griggs, Mousa Ghani, Colonel Zaysen, Masoud Hamadi 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 Thai stick fighting, Rambo’s knife, Rambo’s facial scar, Buzkashi, land mines, cauterization, and grenade launchers. 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.
Though it was supposed to make a mint, 1988’s Rambo III tanked and killed the franchise – well, at least until Stallone decided to revive it 20 years later. In its own right, Rambo III isn’t that bad, but it certainly doesn’t offer much that seems original or compelling. The DVD features mediocre picture along with excellent sound. The extras include a sporadically interesting audio commentary along with some deleted scenes and a borderline useless interactive component. This is a decent release but the lackluster supplements and erratic visuals mar it.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” DVD of Rambo III can be purchased on its own or as part of a three-disc set. The latter also includes First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II. 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 RAMBO III