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Don't Laugh This Time: 'Rambo' Gets Another Look

November 19, 1998|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Back in the mid-1980s, laughing at the "Rambo" movies wasn't just fun; it was a necessity.

The three Sylvester Stallone films represented everything that was wrong with Hollywood at the time. It was the dawn of a new era for commercial pictures: mindless scripts, plenty of explosions, phenomenal overseas box-office receipts.

Times have changed, though. Artisan's DVD special-edition release of the "Rambo" movies leaves an altogether different impression on any viewer who's willing to give these guiltlessly commercial blockbusters a fair chance.

Take, for instance, the second and most successful installment in the series: 1985's "Rambo: First Blood Part II." Directed with assured precision by veteran filmmaker George Pan Cosmatos, it is actually a superior action yarn compared to the inordinate numbers of trashy movies that followed it.

The special edition includes an audio commentary with Cosmatos, whose conversational style is almost as spartan as Sly's acting techniques. The director is still sportsman enough to give away his simple but effective recipe for a good action picture: lots of close-ups, constant use of parallel action and a commitment to authenticity.

By the time Cosmatos is done revealing and reminiscing, you are left with a renewed respect for a production that, in its creator's words, was "a long, hot summer filled with hurricanes and lots of problems."

Also included is a 25-minute documentary in which "Rambo" creator David Morrell and author Christopher Vogler analyze the mythological aspects of the saga, a trivia game with only 10 questions but fun sound effects and separate sections for cast biographies and production notes. Unfortunately, the latter are enhanced with a narration that will send you screaming to the "mute" button on your remote control.

The other two entries in the series have also been released by Artisan in equally lavish editions.

Laserdisc Releases

"Kiss Me Kate" (1953, Image): The delightful, colorful film version of the Cole Porter musical is released on a gorgeous remastered letterbox version. Includes the original theatrical trailer.

DVD Releases

"Quest for Camelot" (1998, Warner Bros.): The visuals are superb but everything else is a disaster in this misfired attempt to compete with Disney animation. Includes a cute animated menu, three very short documentaries and a Steve Perry music video.

*

Ernesto Lechner can be reached at LechnerE@aol.com

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