Thu. Oct 22nd, 2020

Worst Picture/Best Picture Series: Rambo: First Blood Part II and Out of Africa (1985)

Rambo: First Blood Part II and Out of Africa were both released in 1985, two action packed motion pictures that blew audiences away. In one corner is the spiteful Sly Stallone, in the other is the murderous Meryl Streep. Two films about a voyage to a foreign land, these heroes use their strength and their wits to survive and live on.



RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II – “I love how far fetched it is. I love that Rambo can withstand hours of torture and then have enough energy to escape into the jungle and take on the whole Vietnemese and Russian army.” – Dan Grant –

OUT OF AFRICA – “Getting top billing over Robert Redford, Meryl Streep surely earns it with another engaging performance.” – James Harwood – Variety

We’ve got a new Bo visiting exotic lands this year. Stallone reprises his roles as the troubled Vietnam vet John Rambo. At the end of First Blood, Rambo was arrested after his fight against the American government because of their treatment of veterans (which of course can be resolved by a bloodbath in the forests of Washington state). Still in prison, Rambo is asked by Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) if he is willing to go on a mission into Vietnam. There are believed to be American soldiers still being held as POWs in Vietnam and they need Rambo to go in and take photographs for proof. Rambo agrees and the opening credits begin.

Meryl Streep reprises her role as a strong woman with a foreign accent. The second we first see her on screen, Streep, playing the real life Karen Blixen, has just shot a bird. Not even three minutes into the film and already Karen has fucked up a pheasant. Karen 1, Rambo 0. The unmarried yet wealthy Karen asks her friend Bror if he is willing to marry her and go on a mission to Africa to start a dairy farm. Hesitant at first because he wants to marry a virgin (if only Bo Derek had chosen Denmark instead of Spain), he agrees mainly for the money and the opening credits begin.

While Karen travels to Africa by train, Rambo travels to Vietnam by plane. At the base, he meets Murdock (Charles Napier) in charge of the operation. Murdoch offers him a drink from their Coca-Cola machine they have at the base, just a big “fuck you” to Mommie Dearest herself Miss Joan Crawford. Receiving orders, Rambo will meet an agent in the jungle where he lands and there they will try to locate the prisons and take photos. Most importantly, he must not engage the enemy. Similarly, when Karen first arrives in British East Africa (now Kenya), she meets her new husband Bror and is introduced to the natives at their plantation. She is given orders by Bror that no longer will it be a dairy farm but instead they will be growing coffee. Though pissed off, Karen reluctantly agrees.

It’s a bit daunting when Karen first arrive in Africa because we are introduced to a number of characters in such a short time. The DVD of Rambo: First Blood Part II is helpful because it has a feature “Survival Mode” in which you can view the film and when characters is introduced you can view their intelligence dossier. It also provides information on the military weapons and tactics, a layout of the prison camp, and a global satellite to show Rambo’s position and track his movements. If only Out of Africa’s DVD had a Survival Mode, it would be easier to know if the sketchy native with the injured leg has a criminal record or we could see where whether Bror is really going hunting for lions or if he’s hunting for women.

After a near fatal exit from the plane, Rambo successfully lands into enemy territory. Racing through the jungle, a snake jumps out and nearly attacks him, but our hero manages to grab it before being bitten. While killing a human is easy, Sly can’t harm his slithery friends so he lets it go. Maybe meeting up with Cobra Kai sensei Martin Kove gave him a soft spot for those reptiles. Shortly after, he makes contact with female agent Co.

Meanwhile, back in Africa, Karen tries getting adjusted to the new landscape. With an itchy trigger finger and no pheasants to kill, Karen tries to make do. While wandering around the country, she meets up with a British hunter, Denys, played by the very British Robert Redford. Luckily he showed up in time to help her with a lion encounter. Unfortunately she left her survival knife at home next to her typewriter otherwise she would have gored that lion king quicker than you can say ‘hakuna matata.’

Finally, after more than thirty minutes into the film, Rambo kills someone. Get with it Rambo, you have some catching up to do, Killer Karen’s in the lead. But after several more deaths, Rambo and Co locate the prison camps and notify the basecamp. It turns out that Murdock never really planned on saving the POWs, he was merely going to take those photographs and sweep them under the rug. I knew right away that Murdock was a shady character after one of his suspicious co-workers looked like the Village People member who danced along to “I Love You to Death” in the film. Ordered to leave immediately and return to base camp, Rambo won’t have any of it and decides to kill some people and rescue the soldiers.

After the lion encounter, Karen, Denys, and his friend have a moment alone together where they tell stories and sing with each other. Karen tells a story of a Chinaman and a woman named Shirley. I’m glad she told this story, because we’ll likely never see a film involving someone named Shirley nor will we see a film about someone from China. After babbling on for a while about Shirley and her Chinaman, Denys sings a song for her. He must have gotten some lessons from Barbra Streisand.

While sulking around Africa because it’s such a desolate place with no Charlies hiding behind the plains ready to pounce and shoot her to death, Karen is rather bored. She tries to spend her time by teaching the children how to read and write and trying to get her coffee to grow. Luckily, World War I erupts and Bror feels it’s his duty to help his allies in Africa to fight the enemy. After much deliberation between the two, Karen agrees that Bror can go, but soon she realizes that he and his fellow fighters need food and supplies. I can’t recall whether it was Rambo or Karen who said this, but fearing for her husband’s life, she felt she must journey into the wild and save him, “to survive war, you’ve gotta become war.” Into the voyage, the roars of the animals echo through the night near her campsite. Quickly grabbing her whip, she shows the fierce lions she’s one Dane you don’t wanna mess with. Unlike Rambo who needs explosive arrows to destroy his enemy, Karen charges at the beasts with her whip and puts them in their place.

As Karen is dealing with the beasts of the African wild, Rambo had to go and get caught by the Russians who somehow popped up in the middle of Vietnam and became the new enemy. I guess Stallone was having so much fun with Dolph Lundgren he decided he wanted some more comrades in that very same year. Or maybe Reagan had final say over the screenplay and wanted to throw in the Evil Empire just for kicks. Dangling him by his arms into a pit of mud, slashing his face with his very own knife, and shocking him with electric wires, the Russians demand that Rambo call the basecamp and tell them he’s okay. Of course, Rambo doesn’t give in, that is until one of the frail POW’s is threatened, then he agrees.

What else can you do when your husband is off somewhere in Africa fighting in a war? Why, go on a safari with the local hunter and fly in his airplane of course (this one not equipped with a George Kennedy hanging on the rear). Luckily, Denys didn’t turn out to be a sheik trying to kidnap Karen. But we all know how well Robert Redford can do accents, he could have easily pulled off Arabic. Karen and Denys spend a lot of time together, sleeping under the stars, sleeping in their tents, and sleeping in her bed. She tells him more stories and he plays her Mozart, because we haven’t heard enough of Wolfie already. Continuing their journey across the plains, a damn lion shows up again. Okay, first time around it had the upper hand because Karen didn’t have a weapon on her. The second time Karen had her whip and ripped it a new one. But this time around the diabolical Dane has had enough. Charging at her, Badass Blixen whips out her rifle and blasts away. I think it’s obvious who killed Mufasa in this tale.

Back in the hut with the Russians, Rambo radios in to the basecamp, about to give them his coordinates. As he nears toward the mic, the Russians are delighted that they have succeeded in breaking Rocky, er, I mean Rambo. He speaks into the radio and says “Murdock, I’m coming to get you”, then he kills a large chunk of the enemies in the room. Co rushes in, dressed as a cycling whore, and reteams with him. But unfortunately the head Soviet, Lt. Podovsky, escapes in time.

Rambo and Co try to find shelter, and just when things look clear, Co goes and gets shot by the enemy. This pushes him over the edge. Rambo puts on his bandana, ties Co’s bracelet around his neck, and gets out his explosive arrows. A stab to the head here, a blown up bad guy there, he goes all out and kills everyone in sight. And while Denys managed to get a plane, Rambo gets a chopper and gets the POWs on board ready to leave the jungle.

Rambo blew up so much of Vietnam with his arrows and rocket launchers, I think some of the fire made its way to Kenya, because when Karen returned home to her coffee farm, the farm had burned down in the middle of the night. And unfortunately, her explosive arrows burned along with the coffee beans, otherwise she would have gone full on Rambo and found the person responsible for the tragedy. Regrettably, she had to sell the farm and had lost most of her money. The final blow came when she gets word that Denys had died in a plane crash. Once again, I think Rambo may have misfired with his bazooka and accidentally taken down Denys instead of Podovsky. After burying him on a hill that he wished to be buried on if he died, Karen reads a poem at his funeral and says goodbye one last time before returning to Denmark. She later found out that the lions have taken a liking to Denys’s grave and it has become a resting ground for them. I think perhaps they were merely saying thank you to him. Because he died, Karen left Africa, so now the lions are free of Karen’s wrath towards them.

A few more eruptions from the chopper and some screams from the pilot seat, Rambo finally killed most of the Soviet Union and rescued the POWs. Landing at basecamp, the first thing Rambo does is whoop Martin Kove’s ass with the butt of his rifle. He then charges into Murdock’s office and destroys everything in sight with his machine gun, but luckily the Coca-Cola machine went unharmed. Rather than destroying Murdoch, he merely scares the shit out of him and threatens him. Kind of unfair that the sensei gets the majority of the beating while Murdock merely wets his pants. With a final congratulations from Col. Trautman, Rambo walks into the distance as a patriotic song plays over the end credits by Rambo’s brother Frank Stallone. Their mother must be so proud.

So what did 1985 bring us? We have two action packed films with two extremely different characters in two extremely different settings. But both of them had to use their instincts to stay alive and escape unscathed. Streep managed to get out of Africa alive and Stallone managed to get out of Vietnam alive. One can only imagine what it would be like if they had traded places. Could Stallone survive if he was sent into the plains and would Streep survive if she was sent into the woods? I guess we’ll never know. But contrary to what Rambo thinks, neither of them will ever be labeled expendable.

[author image=”” ]Jeff spends too much time watching movies, but when he’s not watching them, he helps make them by working in the grip and electric department. Some would say he chose this profession because of the thrill of being on set and helping create art, but the real reason is most G&E don’t need to wear pants. Along with being a film nerd, Jeff enjoys riding his bike everywhere around the Southern California and watching his friends perform improv.[/author]

%d bloggers like this: