Are you telling me that 200 of our men against Judge Paul Corupe is a no-win situation for us?
When the world's in trouble, there's only one hero who can come to the rescue!
What happens when you're surrounded by a mob of evil eye-patched cyborgs bent on world domination? Well, if you're Lionsgate, you simply fire off another round of the animated Rambo episodes on DVD, and hope for the best. Rambo, Vol. 3: S.A.V.A.G.E Island offers up another ten episodes of the least appropriate kiddie cartoon ever, a syndicated action-adventure series based on Sylvester Stallone's popular disenfranchised Vietnam vet.
Lasting one 65-episode season in 1986, Rambo dispensed with the film's pretenses of social commentary to do what cartoons in the '80s did best: sell a line of action figures. Drawing both from the character's role as an over-the-top icon of wartime machismo, and the popular G.I. Joe animated show, Rambo was recast here as the leader of The Force of Freedom, a peacekeeping unit under the command of Colonel Tautman. With his liberty-loving multicultural cohorts: Turbo Johnson, a mechanic and weapons specialist, master of disguise K.A.T., ex-footballer T.D. Jones, and ninja White Dragon, Rambo's tour of TV duty saw him battle the evil General Warhawk and his S.A.V.A.G.E. organization, including Gripper, Sgt. Havoc, biker Mad Dog, and a terrorist named Nomad.
Lionsgate's Rambo, Vol. 3: S.A.V.A.G.E. Island presents yet another 10 episodes of the show:
• S.A.V.A.G.E. Island
• S.A.V.A.G.E. Rustlers
• S.A.V.A.G.E. in Space
• Cult of the Cobra
• Death Merchant
• Subterranean Holdup
• Swamp Monster
• Warhawk's Fortress
• First Strike
• Target: Supertanker
This third volume of Rambo highlights one of the main problems with this DVD series—instead of releasing all 65 installments of Rambo as a box set, Lionsgate has instead given us multiple volumes of the show with out-of-sequence episodes. As a result, when "To Be Continued" flashes on the screen at the end of "First Strike," you can forget about catching the remaining four episodes of this five-part story arc—unless, of course, you run out and buy all the other volumes. Nice job, Lionsgate.
By sheer randomness, this set does focus a little more on the much maligned Force of Freedom than other volumes, but make no mistake—Rambo is the only real character worthy of attention here. The other heroes are almost as undefined as their evil counterparts, as blindly devoted to some general concept of peace as Warhawk is to evil. But of course, this Rambo isn't allowed to be anywhere near as violent as his silver screen counterpart, and he's much more likely to knock baddies out by swatting them with a rocket launcher than in actually shooting the damn thing. As in the G.I. Joe cartoon, The Force of Freedom expends more ammo in the name of good than both World Wars combined without anyone actually getting hurt. Every gun blast is a warning shot, and every firebomb results in little more than dusty uniforms. It's not surprising that death and disaster is downplayed in a kid's show, but it also removes all possibilities for suspense—we know that Warhawk will do something bad, Rambo will arrive and some vehicles will blow up, and the bad guys will miraculously get away after being soundly defeated.
The choppy animation style is pretty typical for a 1980s weekday cartoon, with simplistic but generally well-rendered drawings. Action is handled relatively well, and cash-saving shortcuts are kept to a minimum—except for a recurring sequence of Rambo suiting up with a red headband to kick serious Warhawk ass. In a nice nod to the films, they've even given our guerilla hero a Stallone-like Brooklyn twang in his voice.
As with other volumes of the show, the episodes presented here look okay, with only minor dirt, scratches, and other source artifacts. Much like the picture quality, the sound is unremarkable but reliable. As a mono TV soundtrack from the 1980s, there are no dynamics to speak of and the music and dialogue occasionally seem a little flat, but Lionsgate has at least presented them clearly, with minimal distortion. There are no extras included on the disc, but with 10 episodes, there isn't much room for anything else.
It's pretty easy to be cynical about the crass commercialism of cartoons in the 1980s, but Rambo really takes the ammunition-strewn cake. Take away the mundane and often silly plots, and you'll see that the only reason this show existed was to market miniature plastic warfare to kids. Since those toys no longer reside on department store shelves, there's no real reason for modern audiences to care about this run-of-the-mill effort. Nostalgic fans who caught the show's original run might disagree, but this blast from the past is—for the most part—a dud.
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