The 80’s was the time of the birth of the mindless action movie. The popularity of this type of film has waned somewhat in recent years, but at the time such movies were all the rage. Perhaps the mother of all mindless action flicks came from 80’s film darling Sylvester Stallone, with the ashamedly-fun Rambo series. The first film in this series, First Blood, has recently been released on UMD for Sony’s PSP entertainment system.
This is a fitting decision, as the PSP has begun something of a renaissanc… in the over-the-top action flicks of the 80’s. Such films are a perfect match for the PSP, as viewers will most likely be watching these movies on the go. Films with lots of action and an easy to follow plot allow viewers to watch a film spread out over three or four different occasions, yet still be entertained.
There are many films from my childhood available on this format, but with the possible exception of Disney’s Tron, this one may have the most nostalgic value for audiences in the PSP’s target market. It was not a great film at the time, it’s not a great film now, but for pure campy, empty-minded fun, this may just be the way to go.
There is an odd audio track on this disc. This is the first time in quite a while that I have come across a well known film that does not have either a Dolby or a DTS track. The track is in stereo, but it is a generic stereo mix. The results are mediocre. The good news is that sounds accurately travel with their sources from one ear to the other in the headphones. The bad news is, the sounds move a little too much. For instance, when a car crosses the screen, it starts all in one ear, then briefly shows up in both ears, and finishes up solely in the other ear. While you want the sounds to travel, you don’t want them to spend so much time in one ear or the other, considering the fact that so many people will be watching this film with the aid of headphones.
Why headphones? Quite simply, the PSP speakers are just not powerful enough to accurately reproduce a movie soundtrack in anything other than a completely quiet environment. This is not a problem with this disc, but a problem with the PSP itself.
Another annoying problem with this generic soundtrack is that some of the dialog sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom. It is not a constant problem, but there are times that the same character’s dialog will go from a normal recording, to one filled with echo, back to a normal dialog sound. I would assume that these echoes are a result of the ADR done after the shoot, but it is still something that should have been addressed during the audio mastering process.
I am always a proponent of films being seen in their original aspect ratio. UMD movies, however, I look at a bit differently. The copy of Spider Man 2 that came with the PSP’s sold in the United States is a perfect match, as its original aspect ratio is the same as the PSP’s 16:9 screen. Some films, however, have an original aspect ratio that is wider than this screen, which was the case on the Kill Bill films. While it is nice that the studio was true to the filmmakers original vision, it also makes the screen even smaller than it already is. I have to think that the filmmakers original vision did not include having audiences watch their film on a 4.3-inch screen, either.
Having said all that, this film looks to be presented in its original 2.35:1 format. I appreciate that the film is in the correct format, but it makes the screen appear quite small. Besides that, this is a pretty clean transfer. The colors seem a tad dull, but that is to be expected on a film of this age. It looks like this disc uses the same video presentation that was remastered for the simultaneous DVD release. There are no problems with dust, dirt or grain, which I was a little surprised to find. Besides a few minor problems with jaggies due to the films compression onto a UMD, this is a pretty nice visual offering.
While the UMD format has may advantages, such as its portable size and DVD-quality picture, one of its main drawbacks is its relatively small data storage space. As a result, the likelihood of finding extras on these discs are slim to none. Imagine my surprise to actually find a couple of extras on this disc! First up is an alternate ending that has not been available until this simultaneous release on DVD and UMD. While this is a finished scene, it is presented in a full-screen, non-anamorphic format. I don’t know what the reason for this was, but the result is a scene that is about a fourth of the size of the PSP’s screen.
I was quite surprised to find a feature length commentary by Sylvester Stallone show up here as the disc’s second extra. If extras are rare on UMD, commentary tracks are extra-rare. Not only that, but this is a really entertaining track. I was shocked to find that Stallone remembers as many details as he does. I am not a Stallone fan, but I actually enjoyed listening to him reminiscing on this film a great deal.
Action flicks were made for the UMD format, and First Blood is a classic. Is it a great film? No, and it never has been. However, it is a camp classic, and the addition of a quality commentary track and an alternate ending makes this a disc that may easily surpass its sales expectations.
Special Features List
- Alternate Ending