As a film fan who talks a lot to other film fans, I am always amused by the reactions I get when people outside of that clique ask me what the best action films of all time are and I invariably mention First Blood.
It’s easily the best of the Rambo pictures, the forgotten classic because it bears no resemblance to the sequels. In fact, as it doesn’t contain that famous word in the title, many have never seen it and some don’t even know that it forms part of the canon.
The book, by David Morrel, which I first read more than 30 years ago, is even more jarring to those who pick it up after having seen the movies.
In the sequels, Rambo is an all American hero, saving the world from Communists and eventually drug lords one massacre at a time.
The first “Rambo” is about how one man could have won the Vietnam War if only the politicians hadn’t been so dumb as to stop him.
The second (perversely titled Rambo 3) has him almost driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan single-handedly.
The third has him taking on an entire drug cartel.
They are fairly preposterous, but not bad Saturday afternoon popcorn and beer entertainment.
Rambo was an early work by James Cameron, and it shows.
First Blood has a completely different vibe.
First Blood is a story about a traumatised ex-Vietnam veteran (suffering from PTSD) who gets himself into a little trouble with a local police chief, who runs him out of town as an undesirable. But Rambo doesn’t take a friendly warning, and comes back.
After he’s arrested for vagrancy, he escapes from custody by beating the living daylights out of his captors and heads for the woods. In the movie, the police hunt him and he fights them off with exceptional, but non-lethal, brutality.
Turns out that John Rambo is a former Green Beret and knows how to handle himself.
The movie culminates with his bringing destruction to the streets of the town, before a friendly Green Beret officer talks him out of going up against the national guard.
The film paints him as broadly sympathetic, until near the end where he goes several degrees over the score.
Still, he ends the movie as a man who was wronged until he reached his breaking point.
That’s how the goons of Ibrox’s fan media see themselves tonight; men who were forced to defend themselves, inflicting injuries on others only because those others gave them no other option.
They are the victims, you see, reluctantly forced onto the field of battle.
When, in the movie, the Green Beret colonel, Trautman, shows up he speaks to Rambo on the radio, and he asks him how the Hell it all got started.
“They drew first blood,” Rambo says. “They drew first blood.”
Sounds familiar, right?
But Trautman isn’t a psychopath and he knows that what his former solider is doing is plain wrong, and he tells him that over and over again, especially at the end. What most people don’t know is that two endings were shot for the film; in the little known one, Rambo makes Trautman kill him partly because he doesn’t want to be a civilian nobody.
That’s actually closer to the tone of the book … and when I read the poor, poor pitiful me stuff emanating from Ibrox’s fan media at the moment, with them playing the victim card to the fullest, and maintaining that they have been pushed too far by a cruel world I call bullshit on it all.
Because their behaviour is actually that of the Rambo David Morrel wrote.
In Morrel’s book, it is Rambo who provokes the whole conflict by returning to town several times after being moved along. He knows that he’s picking his fight, and seems almost keen for it.
In the movie, Rambo kills only one person, and it’s an accident.
In the book, he kills every single one of his police pursuers, all but the chief of police Teasle, and understands fully that he has become a desensitised monster who enjoys the thrill of hunting them down and murdering them.
When he hits town he freely embraces the horror of what he’s done and wreaks havoc, killing national guardsmen, more police officers and even civilians.
When Trautman kills him in the book he does it because Rambo has no intention of stopping once the scent of blood is in his nostrils.
There is little to redeem the character.
I don’t know who Edgar and Dingwall and the rest of them think they are kidding with their “campaign” but it bears all the hallmarks of vengefulness and psychopathy, and we know that because it’s nothing that they haven’t done before and before and before and before.
They have waged war against the BBC and other outlets.
They have targeted named journalists like Angela Haggerty, Graham Spiers, Michael Stewart and Phil Mac Giolla Bhain.
They have become adept at using social media to intimidate and harass their perceived enemies.
Their tactics are familiar and their behaviour easily recognisable.
They do this for the same reason as Rambo rampages through the book; it’s instinctive, it’s second nature to them, and because they can.
Because, ultimately, it makes them feel powerful.
What’s more, they are shameless hypocritical bastards.
They are demanding resignations and sackings on the basis that the media should be judged by the standards they want to see upheld. But Edgar himself refuses to quit on the basis that thinks he did nothing all that wrong and Dingwall hasn’t even entertained the idea and never will.
Yet these two, and others like them, actually want to see blood on the walls at The Record and elsewhere, and they dare to invoke the word “fairness” as their justification.
These aren’t reluctant warriors, they are bloodthirsty bastards, well versed in the dark art of online harassment and the vilification of those they don’t like.
Even as they claim victim status, there is entire thread on Follow Follow right now targeting Angela Haggerty in the vilest language because she is campaigning against the grotesque spectacle of orange parades, something this country should have banned years ago.
If they were the reluctant battlers they think they are, they would have targeted the paper that targeted them, and left it at that. Instead, they’ve gone on a rampage taking shots at all and sundry.
They invoke the Everyone Anyone campaign of their club; who knew that’s what it meant?
In their eyes, it merely sums up their scattergun approach to this.
Nothing sums it up better than the words of Edgar, the arch goon himself, who in a self-righteous example of the ultimate in idiotic machismo, boasts openly about “burning down everything and owning the ashes.”
It’s plainly a lunatic thing to be proud of, egomaniacal and downright disturbed.
Michael Stewart was right to call attention to how deranged it is.
I am tired of these people, tired of waking up every morning this past week to find that they have a new target in their gun-sights, a new victim onto whom to pour their hatred. It sickens me that these Peepul are seen as heroes by so many of their own fans … but then John Rambo might be the most misunderstood character in the movies, with the cartoon version of the “trilogy” bearing no relationship to the one who drew first blood in 1982.
He himself bears no relationship to Morrel’s dark protagonist.
So it is here.
But certain people will cheer the bad guy anyway, and that’s been true as long as fiction itself.
That’s what the Ibrox fan perception is in this case; a work of fiction.
There are no heroes where they’re from.
None that they’d recognise.