On the 30th anniversary of the Rambo films, it's time to give their hero the credit he deservesby Lindsay Johns / October 1, 2012 / Leave a comment
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the first celluloid outing of the most famous human war machine in the Western popular consciousness. As immortalised by Sylvester Stallone in the 1982, epoch-defining film First Blood, it is exactly 30 years since legendary Vietnam vet and Green Beret John Rambo burst onto our screens with his trademark headband, serrated hunting knife and laconic dialogue.
I am a massive Rambo fan. I was 12 in 1988 when Rambo III was released and vividly remember watching it on video—my first encounter with the character who would both inspire and influence me right through into my adult years. I marvelled at the ferocity of the action sequences and the uncompromising yet chivalrous moral code of the man who was so well versed in the art of death.
Nowadays, when gung-ho, 80s action flicks aren’t quite so popular, I am still immune to the scornful looks and put downs that I receive from those astonished by my choice of role model. I believe that Rambo is actually an existential everyman and the perfect hero for our troubled times.
I am of course willing to concede that in his various celluloid outings Rambo has got a bad press. Seen as a monosyllabic, bloodthirsty psychopath, Stallone’s character is constantly derided as a brute and a Neanderthal, a “dumb ox” in the words of The Observer film critic Phillip French. On the contrary, Rambo is the ultimate pugilist-penseur. Look closely at his ripped abs and chiselled pecs and you will find there is not an ounce of moral or intellectual flabbiness on him either. His is mindful, not mindless violence.
John J Rambo first entered the public arena in the savage, nihilistic, 1972 novel First Blood by David Morrell. He was born on July 6th, 1947 in Bowie, Arizona, of mixed parentage (half German, half Native American). Rambo enlisted in the army at 17 and after training for the US Special Forces (Green Berets) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, went on to highly decorated military service in Vietnam. On his return to America, where he was met with hostility by anti-war demonstrators, Rambo suffered an acute case of post-traumatic stress disorder and, discombobulated by the return to civilian life, ended up as an out-of-work vagrant. This is the man we meet at the…