“First Blood” helped a certain industry a whole lot, and we bet you’ll have a hard time guessing which one it is. In a 2011 article for “Blade Magazine,” writer Mike Carter gives credit to David Morell, the writer of the original book, and the Rambo franchise in general for revitalizing the cutlery industry in the eighties, thanks to the presence of knives from the Jimmy Lile and Gil Hibben lines in the films.
Even before that article was penned, the magazine gave Morell an industry achievement in 2003 for doing so much to repopularize the hobby of knives and knife collecting. The knives featured in the films include one of the legendary Bowie knives, and there are plenty of other sharp implements included as well.
Might Not Have Been Him
It’s impossible to imagine anybody but Stallone as the lead character for this film and the rest of the Rambo movies, but he was far from the first choice for the role. The first choice was none other than Dustin Hoffman, who turned down the role because he felt the script was too violent. There were plenty of other choices: Powers Boothe, Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Nick Nolte, Chuck Norris, Ryan O’Neal, John Travolta, and James Woods were all considered.
James Garner was another choice, but Garner was a veteran of the Korean War with a pair of purple hearts and didn’t want to play a vet who fought cops. Al Pacino was also asked to star, and he accepted on the condition Rambo becomes more of a madman. He was turned away.
The Critical Response
All three of the lead actors from “First Blood” (Stallone, Richard Crenna, and Brian Dennehy) received rave reviews for their acting, and the film as a whole was highly lauded as a dark and sensitive look at the horrors of war. While the sequels would go on to be far more standard action movie fare, this film has a lot more to say about trauma, veterans, and how people of the time treated both.
A number of remakes, sequels, video games, and other pieces of media would come later. In addition, the parody movie “Hot Shots Part Deux” takes a lot of elements from the Rambo series and twists them into a comedic manner. There are even Bollywood remakes of the entire franchise coming, with the first movie being filmed.
Getting into the Ring for a Third Time
The same year “First Blood” came out, 1982, also saw the release of the third installment of the Rocky series, “Rocky III.” Once again, Stallone wrote, directed, and acted in the film, and it was once again a rousing success. In this film, Rocky had become the champ, but he had also let himself get a little soft.
Enter a new, vicious boxer Clubber Lang (played by a young Mr. T) who takes on Rocky to try and grab the title from him. In the first fight, Clubber Lang wins, which drives Rocky to start training with his old adversary, Apollo Creed, in order to get back in shape. Mr. T was hired for the role after winning the award “America’s Best Bouncer,” and the film catapulted him into the limelight.
Not a Critical Darling
While many people enjoyed “Rocky III,” the critical response wasn’t as sparkling as with the previous two films. There was plenty of praise for the action sequences and the soundtrack, but many found the screenplay weaker than the previous entries, even saying that the film itself was a little unnecessary – there was no big change to the characters other than Rocky getting complacent in his success.
Still, the public ate it up – it grossed almost three hundred million dollars worldwide, surpassing both of its predecessors. It was the fourth-highest-grossing film at the domestic box office and the second-highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. Its theme song, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor became a hit single and received an Oscar nom for Best Original Song.