First Blood has an unflattering reputation, mainly due to its increasingly outlandish sequels. The original picture does get loonier as it goes along, yet for a while it’s actually a mournful and sobering action-movie treatment of postwar stress. Sylvester Stallone created his second iconic character in six years in John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran harassed by fascist cops in the Pacific Northwest. Like Rocky Balboa, Rambo is a macho man who has the demeanor of a wounded animal. As the movie opens, Rambo is a drifter nursing his physical and psychological wounds from Vietnam while trying to connect with his old war buddies. While passing through the small town of Hope, Brian Dennehy’s tough-guy sheriff tries to “politely” escort him out. Rambo refuses to leave, the sheriff’s deputies rough him up and before you know it war has broken out between them in the surrounding wilderness. There are reasons First Blood struck such a chord in the popular culture. It gets into the mind of a soldier who can’t find his place after returning home from an unpopular war. It works as a revenge fantasy for anyone who’s ever been pulled over by a power-tripping cop. It’s a playground for backyard survivalists, who love to imagine what it would take to escape a manhunt in the wilderness with nothing but a knife. There isn’t a hint of camp, in fact, until Richard Crenna shows up as Rambo’s superior from Vietnam. (“God didn’t make Rambo. I did.”) Not long after Crenna arrives on the scene, the weapons get bigger and the picture devolves into the usual sort of explosions. From that point, the fate of the franchise had been set.