Friday, 15 May 2009

Sylvester Stallone's Rocky And First Blood.

And the 80s also introduced me to Sly Stallone. I will forever remember him as two of the most memorable characters in American film history, the underdog boxer Rocky "The Italian Stallion" Balboa and one man army John Rambo. Although Rocky, directed by John Guilbert Avildsen was released in 1976, it is the movie which I first know the action star, again courtesy of VHS rental service and fellow movie maniac uncles. Also starring in Rocky are Talia Shire as Adrian, Rocky's love and eventual wife, Burt Young as Adrian's brother Paulie, the late Burgess Meredith (November 16, 1908– September 9, 1997. He is also The Penquin in the 60s Batman series), as Rocky's trainer Mickey Goldmill, and Carl Weathers as the champion, Apollo Creed. The first movie is about the timeless tale of a debt collector with a heart of gold who is also a small time boxer in Philidelphia. When the opponent of undefeated world heavy weight champion Apollo Creed gotten injured prior to a scheduled bout on New Year's Day 1976 which also happened to be US Bicentennial, Apollo came up with the idea of re-scheduling the fight to one where an unknown boxer would get a chance of a lifetime to have a shot at the championship title. He searches for a suitable boxer as his opponent when he came across Rocky's nickname The Italian Stallion. Apollo decided Rocky would be his opponent because he likes his nickname ("The Italian Stallion versus Apollo Creed. Sounds like a goddamn monster movie!"). This he also mused would not only capture the profits from crowd attendance but also in line with the spirit of the American Dream. Rocky is surprised but got his support from Mickey, Adrian and Paulie, even Gazzo his boss whom he collects debt for. One memorable scene include Rocky tried to get into shape for the bout by punching the carcasses in an abattoir. Another include the now famous sequence of running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (said to have been based on the training regime practised by real life former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier who appeared in the movie as a cameo). Rocky had a difficult start during practise to break his usual routine and get into form but he persevered and succeed. Before the bout began, he told Adrian that he is not aiming for the title but just to go the distance ie lasting 15 rounds of which nobody has done before when facing a champion like Apollo (inspired by a bout involving Muhammad Ali against Chuck Wepner). More importantly, it will prove that he is just not another "bum in the neighbourhood". The result of the match ended with a split decision which means Apollo gets to keep his title whilst Rocky embraces Adrian jubilantly for able to last all 15 rounds. The final words both men told each other at the end of the 15th round are "... Ain't gonna be no rematch" ~ Apollo. "... Don't want one" ~Rocky. And the main theme song "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti would end up to be one of the most memorable training song ever.
From there, I follow through the first Rambo movie First Blood (1982 by Ted Kotcheff). Based on the novel by David Morrell, the story is about a Vietnam War veteran and former Green Beret, John Rambo. After facing difficulty adjusting to civilian life, Rambo ended up as a drifter, searching for former war team members. He reached Hope, Washington where he seek out Delmore Barry but was told by his widow that Barry has died from cancer, presumably due to Agent Orange. He then gave the woman their team photo and proceed to Hope. However once there the town sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) began to harass Rambo, probably due to his look. When Rambo disobey Teasle for not leaving the town, the sheriff charged him for vagrancy and took him into custody. At the station, Rambo is further subjected to harassment by the deputies. This triggered Rambo's memory of torture in the hands of the VC as POW during the war. His mind began to take a turn and Rambo started to think that he is still involved in combats. He escaped from the station in the nearby forest and Teasle began a manhunt. However, they are all no match to Rambo who defeated them all but did not kill any except for one who unfortunately fell from a helicopter. Even though this is not due to Rambo's direct action, Teasle has no choice but to call for assistance. Eventually the Washington State Patrol and 200 members of the Washington National Guard are called in to join the hunt. Also appearing at this point is Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), the former commanding officer of Rambo's old special forces team. Understanding Rambo's psyche during that time, Trautman recommended some time off for the manhunt and allow Rambo to settle down without any further casualties. This is rejected and eventually causes Rambo to rampage through the town, blowing up several buildings in the process. Finally, in the final confrontation within the sheriff's office, Rambo insisted to kill Teasle but Trautman managed to coax him to surrender. According to sources, the original novel has a much more darker, serious tone and Rambo would be the antagonist instead. He would also be suffering from severe post war trauma, going on a killing rampage whereby Teasle would tried to stop him. Rambo would eventually die from a gunshot in the head by Trautman.
Maybe due to nostalgia but I personally felt that these two movies represented the best of Sly Stallone. It is entertaining and pure action peppered with slight drama element. Of course I also rue the fact that these two movies indirectly started the trends of numerous sequels so popular in the 80s. And like all 80s movies, Rambo also gave a memorable soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith and that song "Its A Long Road" by Dan Hill.

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