Before Sylvester Stallone turned John Rambo into a poster child for senseless violence, there was First Blood.
This competent action thriller from Ted Kotcheff (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Uncommon Valor, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) introduces Rambo as a lonely and confused Vietnam veteran drifting through small-town America. Rather than the ridiculous comic book hero he later morphed into, this Rambo is a sympathetic anti-hero struggling to come to terms with reintegration into an unwelcoming society.
Although it gained notoriety in Britain following the Hungerford Massacre, First Blood is a relatively tame action-adventure film even by the standards of 1982. The poignant finale shows Rambo to be not only physically vulnerable but emotionally accessible and gives the film a veneer of social relevance that's a million miles from the brutality of its successors.
While First Blood has plenty of Hollywood polish, it is far more downbeat than its sequels, largely because of its damp, wintry setting (it was filmed in central British Columbia) and the underlying subject matter. Accordingly, its tone is consistent with that of similar contemporaries such as Southern Comfort and Deliverance. Its grimy '80s sensibility is at odds with today's action films that are heavy on CGI and the kind of OTT action that later Rambo films helped to popularize.
First Blood's gritty realism is reflected on the cover of this Mondo X SteelBook, which is officially #003 in the series of special editions released exclusively by Canadian retailer Future Shop (now rebranded as Best Buy). The cover, by Mondo artist Ken Taylor, is dominated by a stark reproduction of Rambo's rugged face in shades of grey. Stallone's angular features appear to protrude from a rock wall, which fits with his unwaveringly stoic expression and the character's ability to be at home in the wild.
Behind Rambo's face is a vertical line of images showing other characters in the movie and three snarling dogs. The metallic grey colouring and the expressions on the faces of those who are pictured leave no doubt that First Blood is a film short on humor. Completing this effect is the plain, one-tone, blood red background that provides a stark contrast to the cold metal.
Decorating the single Blu-ray disc inside is an image of the snarling dogs shown on the cover. Here, however, they are isolated against a red background, emphasizing their aggression. This choice is characteristic of the artwork in this steelbook, which is modest by the standards of those that have come before (reviewed here and here): the image on the inside front and inside back covers shows black silhouettes of trees, whereas the back cover is all black except for a red sun in the centre encompassing the silhouette of an eagle.
The Best Buy Exclusive Mondo X SteelBook does not have the level of variety and detail that we have seen in other entries in the series but its front cover art is entirely fitting for the film it honors. Collectors of Mondo's movie art should snap it up and fans of the film should find this a compelling alternative to the standard Blu-ray release.
In addition to the movie on Blu-ray disc, this release comes with two audio commentaries, a 22-minute making-of featurette, deleted scenes, two alternate endings and a code for a Google Play digital copy.