First Blood (1982)

R | 94 mins | Adventure | 22 October 1982

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HISTORY

       According to a comprehensive article in the 27 Oct 1985 LAT, writer David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood garnered immediate attention in Hollywood and went through a long development history before arriving onscreen in 1982. One of the major stumbling blocks in the development process was the book’s ending in which the character, “John Rambo,” dies. In 1972 Columbia Pictures purchased the rights for $75,000 and Richard Brooks was set to write and direct. An item in the 23 Jul 1972 NYT reported that Brooks envisioned the story as a tale of two veterans, one from World War II and one from Vietnam. According to the LAT article, Brooks never completed the script, but planned to have “Sheriff Teasle” put down his gun and approach the unarmed Rambo at which point an unknown assailant shoots Rambo. Brooks wanted Lee Marvin or Burt Lancaster to play the sheriff, and he wanted Bette Davis to play a psychiatrist. When the production did not work out at Columbia, John Calley purchased the rights for Warner Bros. in 1973 for $125,000. Robert DeNiro and Clint Eastwood were considered for the project. As reported in the 10 Aug 1973 HR, Walter Newman wrote a script and Martin Ritt came onboard to produce and direct. Ritt wanted Robert Mitchum to play the sheriff and Paul Newman to play Rambo. In late 1974 or early 1975, Sydney Pollack considered the project and thought of Steve McQueen as Rambo and Burt Lancaster as the sheriff. According to an item in the 3 Sep 1975 ... More Less

       According to a comprehensive article in the 27 Oct 1985 LAT, writer David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood garnered immediate attention in Hollywood and went through a long development history before arriving onscreen in 1982. One of the major stumbling blocks in the development process was the book’s ending in which the character, “John Rambo,” dies. In 1972 Columbia Pictures purchased the rights for $75,000 and Richard Brooks was set to write and direct. An item in the 23 Jul 1972 NYT reported that Brooks envisioned the story as a tale of two veterans, one from World War II and one from Vietnam. According to the LAT article, Brooks never completed the script, but planned to have “Sheriff Teasle” put down his gun and approach the unarmed Rambo at which point an unknown assailant shoots Rambo. Brooks wanted Lee Marvin or Burt Lancaster to play the sheriff, and he wanted Bette Davis to play a psychiatrist. When the production did not work out at Columbia, John Calley purchased the rights for Warner Bros. in 1973 for $125,000. Robert DeNiro and Clint Eastwood were considered for the project. As reported in the 10 Aug 1973 HR, Walter Newman wrote a script and Martin Ritt came onboard to produce and direct. Ritt wanted Robert Mitchum to play the sheriff and Paul Newman to play Rambo. In late 1974 or early 1975, Sydney Pollack considered the project and thought of Steve McQueen as Rambo and Burt Lancaster as the sheriff. According to an item in the 3 Sep 1975 DV, Martin Bregman developed the project in 1975 with Al Pacino as Rambo. David Rabe was hired to write a screenplay and his script eliminated the character of “Colonel Trautman” and focused on the relationship between Teasle and Rambo, ending with Teasle killing Rambo, but Al Pacino decided the script was too extreme. Mike Nichols considered doing the Rabe script, and Martin Ritt and Ray Stark also considered working together on the project. In 1977, producer William Sackheim co-wrote a screenplay with Michael Kozoll and their script would ultimately become the basis for the movie although, in their original version, Trautman shot Rambo. They initially hoped that John Badham would direct and John Travolta would star as Rambo. George C. Scott was considered for Trautman, while Gene Hackman and Charles Durning were in the running for Teasle. That project did not come together, but the Sackheim/Kozoll script moved forward with producer Carter DeHaven , who bought a one year option from Warner Bros. Financed by Cinema Group, the film’s ending was changed and Kozoll did the rewrite in which Rambo lived. John Frankenheimer was to direct, and Brad Davis was cast as Rambo, although Powers Boothe, Michael Douglas and Nick Nolte had been considered. An item in the 2 Jun 1980 DV reported George C. Scott was also cast. That project fell apart, however, when Orion Pictures took over the film’s distributor, Filmways&sortType=sortByExactMatch'>Filmways. According to the 31 Mar 1982 HR, Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar of Carolco, a financing and foreign sales company, were looking for their first feature production to fund from “in-house sources.” The LAT article reported that Vajna and Kassar optioned, then bought First Blood from Warner Bros. for $375,000 and also paid Cinema Group approximately $150,00 for the Sackheim-Kozoll script. Vajna and Kassar felt that the Vietnam War was no longer an unpopular subject and, according to an article in the 9 Feb 1983 DV, their plan was to make Rambo more of a hero than a psychotic killer. They hired Sylvester Stallone to star as Rambo and to rewrite the script. According to the LAT article, Stallone wrote at least seven versions of the script between Jul 1981 and Nov 1981. Director Ted Kotchoff, who had previously been considered for the project in 1976, was brought on board and he requested that Larry Gross do a revision. David Giler also reportedly worked on the script. The ending was still troublesome and two versions were filmed, including one where Rambo dies. Test screenings were split over the ending, but Vajna, Kassar, and producer Buzz Feitshans chose to have the character survive.
       An item in the 16 Nov 1981 HR noted that the project, budgeted at $15 million began production on 16 Nov 1981. Filming took place in Hope, British Columbia, Canada, located in the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, British Columbia. According to items in the 15 Dec 1981 HR and the 15 Dec 1981 DV, Kirk Douglas was cast as Trautman, but he left Vancouver, claiming “artistic differences,” reportedly about the script. The 17 Dec 1981 DV reported that Richard Crenna arrived in Vancouver to replace Douglas in the role. The LAT article reported that producer Ed Carlin had a heart attack and Buzz Feitshans stepped in as Carlin’s replacement.
       According to an article in the 13 Nov 1982 Screen International, sunny weather was a problem for a production that wanted a grey, overcast look. However, as reported in the 6 Jan 1982 HR, heavy snow shut production down for about a week. According to the LAT article, hazardous snow conditions shut down production for two months, and therefore, principal photography lasted approximately five months. An article in the 15 Dec 1982 HR reported that difficulties on the production also included serious injuries to the stars during filming. And, according to an article in the 27 Jan 1982 NYT, approximately $50,000 worth of guns altered to shoot blanks were stolen from the production. Superintendent Roy Byrne, investigating for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, noted that it would be fairly easy to make the stolen weapons fully operational.
       According to the LAT article, upon completion of shooting, Vajna and Kassar put together an eighteen minute promotional reel to attract a distributor. But when that didn’t attract either 20th Century-Fox or Warners, a fifty-five minute reel was shown at the American Film Market (AFM). The longer reel secured foreign sales, but a domestic distributor was still to be found. According to Vajna, Warners and Paramount were interested but, as reported in an item in the 15 May 1982 LAHExam, Filmways&sortType=sortByExactMatch'>Filmways Pictures, which had been taken over by Orion and was in the process of changing its name to Orion Pictures, would handle domestic distribution. The article in the 15 Dec 1982 HR noted that Orion’s deal was for domestic rights only. Vajna and Kassar retained all other rights.
       The film opened on 22 Oct 1982 and according to the Screen International article, it grossed $9.2 million in its first week in the United States. The 15 Dec 1982 HR article noted the picture had grossed more than $40 million dollars to date. First Blood also did well internationally. According to the 20 Jan 1983 HR, the film set records in its initial releases in twelve European and Asian countries, and the 16 Mar 1983 HR reported that its three day gross of $2,147,000 set a box-office record in Hong Kong.
       An article in the 2 Aug 1984 DV reported that Warner Bros., Cinema Group Inc. and author David Morrell filed suit against Andrew S. Vajna, Carolco S.A., and Anabasis Investments regarding profits over First Blood, claiming Carolco’s accounting was “faulty.” Articles in the 13 Sep 1985 DV, the 17 Sep 1985 HR and the 18 Sep 1985 Var reported that David Morell filed suit against Carolco and its subsidiary, Anabasis Investments, claiming he had not received his full share of net profits from First Blood and its sequel Rambo. In addition to damages, Morell wanted to cancel his copyright agreement with Carolco. Items in the 5 Sep 1986 HR and the 8 Sep 1986 DV reported that Carolco Services and Anabasis Investments filed suit against Orion Pictures over profit disagreements. Carolco and Anabasis wanted $3 million in damages and $20 million in punitive damages.
       The success of First Blood launched a series of sequels, including Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), and Rambo (2008) (see entries).

             End credits include the following quotes: "Filmed in Golden Ears Park, Province of British Columbia, with the assistance of the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing" and "The producers wish to thank Justis Greene of the Ministry of Tourism, Province of British Columbia, for his help and cooperation." Camera operator Jim Turrell is miscredited in the end credits as Jim Turrel.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1975.
---
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1980.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1981.
---
Daily Variety
17 Dec 1981.
---
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1983.
---
Daily Variety
2 Aug 1984.
---
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1985.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1982
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 1986.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
15 May 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Oct 1982
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
27 Oct 1985
p. 32, 33, 37, 38.
New York Times
23 Jul 1972.
---
New York Times
27 Jan 1982.
---
New York Times
22 Oct 1982
p. 6.
Screen International
13 Nov 1982.
---
Variety
27 Oct 1982
p. 14.
Variety
18 Sep 1985.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna Present
A Ted Kotcheff Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d unit dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Helicopter cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Dir of photog, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
Chief gaffer
Lighting consultant
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
2d unit key grip
Still photog
Loc laboratory
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dept coord
Storyboards
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Standby carpenter
Prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
Const coord
Set plasterer
Knife des by
Arkansas knifesmith
COSTUMES
Ward supv
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Apprentice sd ed
Asst to sd dept
Asst to sd dept
Sd re-rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff best boy
Spec eff asst
Titles and opt
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Visual consultant
Unit loc mgr
Unit loc 2d unit
Weapons specialist
Addl casting
Script, 2d unit
Transportation coord
Driver capt
Prod accountant
Asst auditor
Accounts clerk
Unit pub
Craft service/First aid
First aid
Rat wrangler
Boar handler
Dog handler
Prod office coord
Prod secy
Asst to exec prod
Asst to exec prod
Asst to Mr. Feitshans
Prod asst
STAND INS
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel First Blood by David Morrell (New York, 1972).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"It's a Long Road," music by Jerry Goldsmith, lyrics by Hal Shaper, arranged by Daivd Paich, Marty Paich, produced by Bruce Botnick, sung by Dan Hill.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
22 October 1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 October 1982
Production Date:
began 16 November 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Anabasis Investments, N.V.
Copyright Date:
28 October 1982
Copyright Number:
PA155219
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26816
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Vietnam veteran John Rambo arrives in the Pacific Northwest to look up fellow veteran Delmar Barry, but learns Delmar died of cancer. Rambo soon stops in the remote mountain town of Hope to get lunch. Sheriff Will Teasle, however, does not like drifters and gives Rambo a ride out of town. As Teasle heads back across the bridge into town, he sees Rambo turn around. Furious, Teasle arrests Rambo for vagrancy and resisting arrest. When he discovers Rambo’s hunting knife, Teasle adds a concealed weapons charge. At the Sheriff’s station, Rambo remains silent as thuggish deputy Galt and two others try to get information and fingerprint him. As Galt harasses him, Rambo flashes back to a torturous prisoner of war experience. Young officer Mitch is more sensitive to Rambo’s situation, especially when he sees the scars crisscrossing Rambo’s chest and back. Galt, however, has no sympathy and, unprovoked, slams Rambo with his baton. Mitch is upset but the others laugh as they “shower” Rambo with a high-pressure hose. Preparing to shave Rambo, Galt restrains him with a baton as another officer brandishes a straight razor. This ignites another flashback and launches Rambo into action. He overpowers the guards, grabs his knife, steals a motorcycle and takes off. A chase ensues as Teasle follows Rambo up muddy mountain roads. Rambo has the advantage of cutting through the trees on his motorcycle but Teasle is in close pursuit until his car slides off the road and tips over. Teasle calls for help. Rambo ditches the bike and heads through an icy creek up the mountainous ... +


Vietnam veteran John Rambo arrives in the Pacific Northwest to look up fellow veteran Delmar Barry, but learns Delmar died of cancer. Rambo soon stops in the remote mountain town of Hope to get lunch. Sheriff Will Teasle, however, does not like drifters and gives Rambo a ride out of town. As Teasle heads back across the bridge into town, he sees Rambo turn around. Furious, Teasle arrests Rambo for vagrancy and resisting arrest. When he discovers Rambo’s hunting knife, Teasle adds a concealed weapons charge. At the Sheriff’s station, Rambo remains silent as thuggish deputy Galt and two others try to get information and fingerprint him. As Galt harasses him, Rambo flashes back to a torturous prisoner of war experience. Young officer Mitch is more sensitive to Rambo’s situation, especially when he sees the scars crisscrossing Rambo’s chest and back. Galt, however, has no sympathy and, unprovoked, slams Rambo with his baton. Mitch is upset but the others laugh as they “shower” Rambo with a high-pressure hose. Preparing to shave Rambo, Galt restrains him with a baton as another officer brandishes a straight razor. This ignites another flashback and launches Rambo into action. He overpowers the guards, grabs his knife, steals a motorcycle and takes off. A chase ensues as Teasle follows Rambo up muddy mountain roads. Rambo has the advantage of cutting through the trees on his motorcycle but Teasle is in close pursuit until his car slides off the road and tips over. Teasle calls for help. Rambo ditches the bike and heads through an icy creek up the mountainous terrain. In a deserted lumber camp, Rambo finds a canvas tarp and some rope, from which he fashions a poncho before heading further up the mountain. More cops arrive, also bringing Orval and his hunting dogs. Rambo finds himself trapped on the edge of a cliff at Chapman’s Gorge. As Teasle leads a posse up the mountain, Rambo has no choice but to climb down the exposed rocky cliffside. He is partway down when a helicopter arrives with Galt in the shotgun seat, aiming to kill. Teasle is surprised to hear the shots and tries to call Galt over the radio, but Galt ignores his boss and keeps shooting. Rambo jumps off the cliff, falling through branches before landing on the ground, blood pouring from a gash on his arm. Galt keeps shooting. Rambo grabs a rock and throws it through the helicopter’s windshield. The copter rocks and Galt falls to his death. Rambo grabs Galt’s gun and heads into the forest to sew his wound. Rambo tries to turn himself in to Teasle, saying it was not his fault, but the other cops start shooting and Rambo takes off. Teasle learns that Rambo is a Green Beret and Congressional Medal of Honor war hero, but Teasle does not care. He wants to get Rambo for killing Galt. A storm descends as the manhunt begins again. Skilled at guerilla warfare, Rambo outwits his pursuers with a decoy scarecrow and a booby-trapped branch with spikes. Rambo seriously wounds the team one by one, until he has a knife at Teasle’s throat. Before he disappears back into the woods, Rambo warns Teasle to let it go or he will give Teasle a war he will not believe. As the wounded are taken out, reinforcements arrive, including the National Guard. Teasle gets stitched up at the base camp but will not step down, even when Colonel Trautman, Rambo’s commander in Vietnam, arrives to retrieve “his boy.” On the mountain, Rambo kills a wild boar and cooks it in a deserted mineshaft while he listens to a stolen police radio. Trautman wants Teasle to defuse the situation, so they can peacefully pick Rambo up when he eventually resurfaces. Teasle refuses. He has two hundred men against one. Trautman advises Teasle to get a good supply of body bags. Trautman gets on the radio and Rambo responds, but refuses to turn himself in, saying that they drew "first blood," not him. Teasle is able to get a fix on Rambo’s position and goes after him at first light. As men move up the mountain, Rambo emerges from the stream behind them. A boy spots him, but Rambo does not hurt the boy, he just disarms him. The boy alerts the others and National Guardsmen chase Rambo to the mineshaft where they open fire. The weekend warriors are shocked when Rambo shoots back. They have orders from Teasle to bring Rambo in alive, but the guardsmen pull out their rocket launcher, blow up the mine entrance and believe they have killed Rambo. Teasle is furious when he arrives and orders the men to find Rambo’s body in the rubble. However, Rambo did not die. He slogs through water past rats, looking for a way out of the mineshaft. At a local bar, Teasle joins Trautman for a drink and admits that he wanted to kill Rambo. Trautman cannot say what he would have done; he would have to see Rambo in person first. Out of the shaft, Rambo sneaks past the guardsmen and hijacks a truck carrying an M60 rifle and ammunition. A police car is soon in pursuit. As officers shoot at him, Rambo forces them into a parked car and the police car explodes. At night, Rambo parks at a gas station, grabs the M60 and some ammunition, then sets fire to the truck, which explodes. As officers race to the scene, Teasle gets on the town’s loudspeaker and warns everyone to get off the streets. Trautman arrives at the Sheriff’s station, but Teasle is not about to give up to Trautman or Rambo. Teasle heads for a rooftop vantage point that also offers a skylight window view into the station. Rambo expertly shoots transformers to knock out power as he maneuvers toward the Sheriff’s station. When Rambo blows up a nearby gun store, the explosion draws Teasle into view for a moment and gives Rambo a fix on him. Teasle shoots and Rambo returns fire, hitting Teasle who crashes through the skylight. Teasle dares Rambo to kill him, but Trautman enters and orders him not to do it. Rambo reloads as cop cars surround the building. Trautman offers to take Rambo to Fort Bragg; this mission is over. But for Rambo, nothing is so easily turned off. The difficult readjustment to civilian life and the negative reaction to Vietnam veterans are tearing him apart. Rambo breaks down as he tells Trautman that all the members of their team are dead. Rambo is haunted by his friend Danforth’s horrific death in Vietnam when nobody would help Rambo save his friend. Trautman is clearly moved and puts his arms around the troubled veteran. Teasle is wheeled off in an ambulance as Trautman escorts the handcuffed Rambo out of the building and away from the town called Hope. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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