i noticed on tv that this week is rambo week

(like whitney, it turns out i’m defending popular culture too)

rambo first blood part ii (both the movie and the book)

everybody knows silverster stallone wrote the screenplay for rambo first blood, but did you know that the screenplay was based on the novel first blood by david morrell?  likewise, everybody knows silvester stallone (and james cameron) wrote the screenplay for the movie rambo first blood part ii, but did you know that david morrell wrote a novel based on that screenplay?

“the most dangerous man in the world—is back” from the dead

remember that a book isn’t limited to it’s numbered pages but includes both covers, the title page, publishing/copyright information and, in the case of rambo first blood part ii (hereafter referred to as rfb2), film credits for rfb2 (the movie) and an author’s note—before thanking numerous people assisting his “research on the project” and categorically stating that the weapons employed in rfb2 (the book and the movie) exist, morrell writes, “in my novel first blood, rambo died.  in the films, he lives.” now, thanks to rambo’s resurrection in film, the other rambo, the original rambo, the written rambo is reborn in rfb2 (the book).


it’s suprising how different the book and the movie of rfb2 are given that the book was based on the screenplay.  rather than being a word-simulation of movie-rambo, morrell gives new life to his own creation.  this rambo, book-rambo, has an already established literary style, a kind of mental interior or spiritual depth separate from the silent and impenetrable movie-rambo.

sex and rambo

the differences between the two rambos are most pronounced when it comes to sex.  in both the movies first blood and first blood part 2, sex is absent, or at least hidden.  this, though, seems obvious enough: rambo’s body is the most sexualized object in the movie.  and movie-rambo’s sexual energy is only discharged through the weapons he employs, most explicitly, near the end of the film, as rambo guns down dozens of computers.  the scene is shot in slow-motion with the visual emphasis on rambo’s sweaty chest and the bullets exploding from the barrel of his gun.  it signals back to the beginning of fbp2: rambo is only in this adventure, alive in this movie/book, because a computer, when fed various factors like service record and area familiarity, generated the name john rambo as the one needed for the mission.  even after all the death and mayhem and helicopter explosions, it’s this final scene that is arguably the money-shot of rbf2 (the movie).

book-rambo’s attitude about sex is something else entirely.  there’s an interesting exchange when rambo first meets co, his vietnamese contact, who also happens to be a woman.

“does [the fact that co is a woman] make a difference?” she asked.

he shook his head.  “in america, they’ve got something called the woman’s liberation movement.”

“sounds communist.”

but even in the next chapter, rambo still needs convincing that co’s womanhood isn’t an issue, “and indeed sexual attraction itself would not be an issue.”

didnt civilians understand that combat turned you away from sex?  nevemind rape, the thought of which [rambo] loathed.  combat turned you away from normal sex.  consenting sex.

so, does rambo have any sexual feelings left?

not that he was impotent.  not at all.  he sometimes had wetdreams.  on occassion, rarely, he masturbated.

it’s only afterbook-rambo spent pages working through his feelings towards sex that he is finally able to convince himself that it doesn’t make a difference that co is a woman.


the fact remains that the rambo that started this all, the rambo of first blood (the book), died.  his new life as a moving-image on film doesn’t change the (physical) fact that rambo died at the end of first blood (the book). only in the re-booking of rambo does his resurrection become real.  think of it like this: while book-rambo, or the word, is made flesh trough his identification with a bodied performance in movie-rambo, it’s only when this bodied performance of stallone as movie-rambo is reunited with the mental landscape, or spirit, of book-rambo that rambo is resurrected from his previous death.



Filed under Brian

5 responses to “i noticed on tv that this week is rambo week

  1. Rambo is another one of those popular movie franchises that’s just awesome. I liked this analysis a lot. The interaction between film and novel here is a crazy – unique? – form of adaptation.

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