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During the weeks running up to today’s release of “The Expendables,” Lionsgate has flooded the market with Blu-ray editions of its brawny stars’ past glories. The centerpiece of this well-oiled onslaught is “Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set,” which includes all the enhanced interrogations, decapitations and exploding helicopters of all four Rambo films. But even though Rambo kills 83 people in the fourth movie alone, this so-called complete set would be rendered an example of false advertising if it did not contain the Greatest Deleted Scene Ever.
From the moment that this big bundle of Stallone arrived on my front stoop, I had to immediately pop in Disc 1 of the “Rambo” set to make sure that this Holy Grail of extra features was there. I waded through several trailers and busybody intros, then found it almost hidden in a reel of other, far-lesser deleted scenes. Simply titled “Saigon Bar Flashback” on a disc that I scored at Target for seven bucks a few years ago, this deleted scene lays waste to all other cinematic outtakes like a shirtless Rambo squeezing limitless rounds out of an M-60 machine gun sans tripod.
The sequence begins with Rambo roasting a pig and then cutting off a hunk of meat with that famous knife of his. I know it’s hard to believe that it gets better than this, but stick with me here. As Rambo chomps down on a charred piece of pork, a Lucky Lager logo flickers on the screen with the sound of an electric crackle, followed by a heavy pentatonic riff that sounds like Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” played backward. A split second later, the magical Lucky Lager logo transports us to a Saigon whorehouse where hussies are rocking out by the jukebox and drunken GIs give us a big thumbs up in between gulps of some godawful Asian brew that’s likely cut with formaldehyde.
As the camera pans over the drunken revelry, it’s apparent that we are seeing things through Stallone-o-Vision. For a few seconds, you are Medal of Honor recipient John Rambo. Your gaze fixes on the hottest woman in the bar. It’s Miao Yin from “Big Trouble in Little China” (Suzee Pai) with her eyes of creamy jade. But your moment of being one with the Rambo is short-lived. The camera cuts to Rambo with a Fu Manchu mustache slow dancing with Miao Yin in front of a neon Schlitz sign. Neon beer signs are gateways to other, better worlds here, so we are then transported to Yin’s bamboo boudoir. A harmonized guitar solo joins the pounding drums and monster riffage. Soon Yin’s nipples are revealed, providing closure to anyone who watched “Big Trouble in Little China” countless times on cable in the late 1980s. Rambo’s nipples are also revealed. Rambo is shirtless — his most deadly state of undress. But instead of drenching half of the Asian continent in stage blood, this time Rambo opts to make love, not war.
Before we can hear Sly the Guy’s grunts of ecstasy, we find ourselves back in the present, or at least the early 1980s. Rambo’s Fu Manchu is gone, replaced by some Don Johnson-esque stubble. As Rambo is moved to tears by the thought of the glorious facial hair that was once his, we, the mere viewer, have no other choice but to go back and watch the scene four or five more times.
Also featured in the Rambo Blu-ray set are strange documentaries that combine your standard making-of feature with historical background on the real global conflicts that supplied these movies with their bloody source material. Disc 4 comes with a look at Burma’s closed dictatorship to go along with the most recent Rambo film. Disc 3 contains something called “Afghanistan: Land in Crisis,” where John Powers of the L.A. Weekly points out that “Rambo III” may be the only film about Islamic jihad shot in Israel. NYU professor Ella Shohat adds that it was “quite hilarious” to hear Hebrew-accented actors playing the mujahedeen. Also worth a look and listen is the Stallone commentary track that accompanies “First Blood,” where Sly tells us about breaking his lower rib, his desire to kill a wild boar with his bare hands, and drinking Campari with bitter unemployed loggers.
Bob Calhoun is a California freelance writer who specializes in rock 'n' roll, martial arts and Hollywood stuntmen.More Bob Calhoun.