I wrote about it when I looked at the early evolution of Lionsgate Home Video in 2014 but what I'd like to do here is take an extended look at the output of noted 80's movie factory Carolco Pictures. founded in 1976 as a financing entity, they existed as a studio, headed by producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar from 1982 to 1995 during which they put out a rather eclectic batch of films covering several genres.
They tended to attract some pretty big names such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and even bigger budgets, which eventually led to their downfall. With this series, I'd like to examine most if not all of their movies in some form or another (in other words, don't expect full reviews all the time) and provide a fun, entertaining history of a pretty cool relic of the 80's and 90's. Even better, this story has a happy ending as the company is looking to make a comeback with a remake of the Japanese horror flick Audition. That's a way off though, let's go back in time. Shall we?
In their early days they handled financing of low budget films for smaller companies like American International and Avco/Embassy, mostly ones from Lord Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment, two more companies I may have to look at in the future.
*Actually the film is an Anabasis Production as the original company name was that as is the second one but for all intents and purposes, we're sticking with Carolco from here on in.
First Blood is based on the novel by David Morrell and tells the story of Vietnam vet Rambo who is harassed by the local law in a small Kentucky town. He ends up declaring war on the town and after doing some serious damage, he is killed by his former commanding officer.
Obviously, quite a bit changed when the time came to make the movie. Rambo was given a first name (John); the location was now the Pacific Northwest and the ending is a bit more upbeat... Sort of.
As for the film itself? It's probably one of Stallone's best action movies if not the best. The script is solid enough as is the direction from Ted Kotcheff which helps cover some of the flaws in the script. Sly puts in a fantastic physical performance; Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy provide able support and the 93 minute running time flies by very quickly. Crenna and Dennehy warrant special mention here as while Crenna gets to chew the scenery as Rambo's CO, Dennehy has the tricky task of making a reasonably sympathetic antagonist which he does quite well. At the end of the day, he is just trying to keep his town safe and while he's definitely a jerk, he's a rather human one thanks to the casting.
Action scenes are quite good and the relocation to the forest makes the whole thing wonderfully atmospheric and draws you into the thing quite nicely.
The end result is one of the best action films of the decade, there is a very good reason I pout it pretty high on my Best of 1982 list. The second movie may have made Rambo an icon, but First Blood showed us the man inside. Not the most pleasant sight, yes, but that wasn't the intent. Hell, the novel was an even more frank allegory for Vietnam. This is actually fairly subtle!
The success of First Blood paved the way for the company to make more movies which they would do in grand style a few years later. But that is a tale for another day.
Coming Soon: Carolco 1985-1987