ROCKS 21A: Rambo - The Force Of Freedom pilot

Discussion in 'Other Cartoons & Collectables' started by LiamABC, Jun 30, 2019.

  1. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    WELCOME EVERYBODY TO THE FIRST DISCUSSION IN THE TWENTY-FIRST STRAND OF "R.O.C.K.S." - REWATCHING OLD CLASSIC KIDS SHOWS! A big thanks to everyone that are joining us through all of this.

    The next few weeks we're covering one of the biggest shows from the 80s, Rambo: The Force Of Freedom

    We're back on the usual format for this show, starting with the establishing storyline then picking individual high points.

    The individual parts are called
    - First Strike
    - The Angel Of Destruction
    - Battlefield Bronx
    - Raise The Yamato
    - The Taking Of Tierra Libre

    Just a friendly reminder to everyone that, whilst fans are obviously welcome to passionately discuss and give their views on these episodes, please remember to keep things on a friendly footing and respect your fellow posters.
    Also, please do not post where or how to find the full episode online. And do not post asking others to PM it to you. You are however allowed to watch the show in whatever manner you want.
  2. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    Being a huge Stallone and "Rambo" fan, I was thrilled when I first learned that there was a cartoon based on the character. I got hooked on the cartoon and used to watch the few episodes that my dad had recorded for me over and over and over again. So much so that I used to know every dialogue, every musical cue from each of those dozen or so episodes. I'm really happy and grateful to @LiamABC and @Mark M for including "Rambo: The Force of Freedom" in the ROCKS discussion. It gave me an excuse to revisit this childhood favorite. :)

    I'd first like to start off by talking about the series in general. I think this was probably among the first cartoons to be based on an R-rated movie series. Quite a bold and unconventional move for that time. The only other cartoon that I can think of that was similarly based on an R-rated movie series was "Robocop". Naturally, I'm sure a lot of the parents' associations would have gotten a shock when they first learned about this cartoon. But I think the makers did a great job of adapting the movie into a child-friendly show.

    The PTSD suffering Vietnam vet from the movie was turned into a righteous and honorable hero who fights for and protects the innocent. It was interesting to note that despite the show featuring a LOT of deadly weapons, not a single person dies in the entire series, which I think was kinda the norm back then. Even though there is a lot of shooting, no one gets hit. Usually the heroes engage in wrestling-like fights where the bad guy is flung out of action. Not that dissimilar to "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe".

    Rambo and Colonel Trautman are based on their movie counterparts, but everyone else is a new creation. Turbo is the grease monkey of the group who creates all the various vehicles and gadgets, very much like Panthro or Man-at-Arms. Kat is the master of disguises and more entrusted with recon and espionage type missions. She's like the MCU's Black Widow. I remember reading somewhere that she was based on Co Bao from "Rambo 2". Obviously she died in the movie so they couldn't have used the same character. I like the designs of the villains, especially General Warhawk with his silver-tinted glasses and his right and left hand (bumbling) men, Gripper and Havoc. The two are depicted as having a lot of brawns and very little brain and as the series continued they got even more sillier, a fate shared by Bebop and Rocksteady from TMNT. Somehow I always got the feeling that Havoc was maybe slightly inspired by Schwarzenegger who was Stallone's main rival back then.

    There are quite a few familiar and well known voice actors on the show like Alan Oppenheimer, Peter Cullen. Michael Ansara and Frank Welker. I think Neil Ross did a great voice for Rambo. And of course the late James Avery (uncle Phil and voice of Shredder) provided the voice of Turbo. The animation is decent. It does get a bit choppy and out of proportions at times, but that is to be expected from a non-Disney 80s cartoon series.

    But the absolutely best thing about the show in my humble opinion is the use of musical cues from the Rambo movies. I think Jerry Goldsmith's fantastic music is what really elevates the show and ties with firmly with the movie. The moment you hear the music and Rambo "getting ready" for battle (even though he usually is already wearing his bandana and has his lace tied and has his trusty knife, it is still fun to see him do it all over again! ;) ) you know there's some serious action coming.

    Coming to the 5 part pilot, it is filled with a lot of action in various locations and vehicles. There are some nice homages to the movies, like when Rambo hides himself behind a wall of mud etc. The pacing is good and it doesn't get too crazy or too slow. The characters and their traits are introduced quite satisfactorily as are the vehicles that will be used in the series. All in all I think the first 5 parts set up the series nicely, preparing the audience for a lot more of action and fighting between the Force of Freedom and SAVAGE (cartoon villainous organizations really had the best acronyms!) in future episodes
    Mark M and LiamABC like this.
  3. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    I saw the pilot the other night. I'd never seen this show before, hadn't even heard of it until you mentioned it, probably on the Movie Club discussion of First Blood. I don't know if it was ever shown here.

    It struck me as a cross between He-Man and G. I. Joe - the latter for the military angle, the former for the indestructible hero who never really seems to be in any danger. It's hard (for me at least) to gasp at the situations he's in because it's established pretty quickly that he's a one-man task force with a solution for everything. At the same time I can see why this would appeal to boys in the 80s, he's the hero they would all want to be like.

    The "getting himself battle ready" stock footage sequence that is also used to start the opening titles . . . it's his "by the power of Greyskull" moment and comes with the same visual question marks. Sometimes he's already kitted out when he says it, just like Adam/He-Man transforms at locations other than the castle. Also Rambo could have done with a catchphrase here after he'd finished (re-?) tying on his bandana.

    It was interesting that they chose to use solid animation more than lasers, unlike the majority of shows out at the time. For this show it did work, given it's origins. And they did make clear as well that war is not a good thing, fighting is not something to be entered into lightly no matter how exciting it may seem to the kids watching it.

    The voice cast were reassuringly familiar, and I recognised Neil Ross and Peter Cullen right away. I'm not sure who I first thought was providing Trautman's voice but I wasn't expecting to see it was Alan Oppenheimer, although when I did see his name it did fit.

    This opening storyline though did feel a bit dragged out over five parts. Maybe that's because they made the hero a bit too invincible, I'm not sure. We'll have to see how the individual episodes play out next week.
    Mark M and Wilycub like this.
  4. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    I agree that the makers did go a little bit overboard by giving Rambo almost superhuman strength. But then again, that was kinda the norm for animated action heroes at that time. Same thing was done to Lion-O, He-Man. Mr. T in their respective cartoon series. (Mr. T once lifted a full grown alligator by its tail, swung it around a few times before throwing it away!) :laugh

    You make a very good point that although this show did feature a lot of gun fights and military angles, their main message and intent was to show that war is a bad thing and not to promote it.
    LiamABC likes this.
  5. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Forgot to add something about the "Rambo kitting himself out" sequence. It reminds me of something else from the same year that was only used once.

    In "Defenders Of The Earth", the first episode in the 5-part Prince Kro-Tan storyline, "The Prince Makes His Move", the scene starts with equivalent close-ups of several of the heroes putting the finishing touches on their own apparel.
  6. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    I must say I really enjoyed this 5 part pilot for Rambo: The Force of Freedom.

    I am really glad @Wilycub suggested this series for R.O.C.K.S. as I have wanted to properly watch this show for a long time. I seen a couple episodes a couple years ago.

    Growing up I knew of Rambo as I had a knock off solid unarticulated figure and another figure from the X-Changers X-Force toyline obviously based on Rambo. I really wish the series had been broadcast here in the 80's as I would definitely have watched it. :D
    In the mid 90's I knew of an official Rambo toyline as my friend had action figure but I did not know it was from the cartoon series.
    In October 2002 I got a book called Tomarts Action Figure Encyclopaedia (recommended reading ;) ) and I was quite surprised to see the Rambo figures and discover they were from a cartoon series based on the films...two movies at the time.
    If I had ever seen the toys in the shops here growing up no doubt I would have gotten some of them. From the research I have done and the times I got to play with my friends Rambo they were very well built sturdy figures. They were large 6" scale figures and came with a lot of accessories. This is pretty cool compared to G.I. joe as they were only 3.75" and a bit too small to be used with some of the large figures at the time.

    The first episode kind of reminds me of M.A.S.K. when Rambo and his friend are just going about their regular days fishing and racing cars when the General calls them to action and they abandon what they are doing to go off on the mission. I believe this is done in some of the stand alone episodes after the pilot.

    I love how there is so many nods to Rambo 1 and 2 with his jeans/sleeveless top outfit then his combat trousers and red head band. I wish they had kept Rambo in the former outfit more then just put him in his combat look when he was actually going into battle. It would have made more sense when they used the intro sequence footage of him getting his battle gear on. Same with the scenes of him covered in mud and capturing a motorcycle and using it for his escape etc.

    Turbo seems a good character but I hope he gets a bit more involved in the missions and the combat.

    Kat is also a cool characters. It was interesting she is the first character show and beating a few of the villains. She definitely reminds me of Scarlett from G.I. Joe.

    Trautman is pretty good. I hope he gets involved more on some missions.

    General Warhawk and his soldiers are well designed. Warhawk is very ruthless. Even when the president surrendered he still opened fire because the president didn't say please.

    The voice cast and animation is also very good. I like Rambo's voice in the cartoon but it's a bit odd when it doesn't sound like Rambo in the movies.

    One really great thing that ties the cartoon to the movie is the music. It is excellent.

    I enjoyed all 5 episodes. I really liked part one and two. Three was also very good. I thought four dragged a little bit but picked up towards the end. Five was also very good. It has definitely made me want to watch more of the series. :D
    Wilycub likes this.
  7. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    I'm really glad you enjoyed the series @Mark M :) I too got to know about the Rambo toys much later, otherwise I would have definitely tried to get my hands on them! The figures are decent enough, but I thought the vehicles were really good. The six-wheeled jeep in particular and the helicopter too. I'm not really sure exactly how many figures they made. I'll have to check that out.

    Totally agree with you there! I very much liked his jeans/white top look and it would have been better (and made more sense if he was in that outfit until when going into battle. Then the intro sequence would have made much more sense. Most of the times he already is in "combat mode" when the intro sequence plays, making it redundant.

    The funny thing about Kat is that in the intro she is described as "a master of disguises", but as far as I can remember, in all the episodes that I have seen (apart from the pilot), she rarely, if ever, uses that ability. At least Turbo's engineering and mechanical skills are regularly highlighted. I can understand that it would have become monotonous and boring if they had showed her changing disguises in every episode. That is why I think perhaps they should have used a different epithet for her.
    Mark M likes this.
  8. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    This is the Rambo figure my friend had. I really liked it as it was so close to the First Blood outfit. The full line looked great. The S.A.V.A.G.E Headquarters looks awesome. You could use that with A-team or nearly any figures. :D
    The made about 10 heroes and 10 villains. A couple not seen in theses pictures. One really cool thing about this toyline compared to a lot of other cartoon toylines is they made the female character. :)
    An interesting thing about the Rambo toyline was it action feature back packs they came with. They were self powered and didn't need batteries etc. Colleco would use this technology again or their excellent Starcom toyline.
    One thing I would say I don't like about the toyline is the heads of the figures are made out of rubber much like MOTU and some other toylines. I always preferred the solid plastic heads as they did not wear as much as the soft rubber heads.
    shortfuse and Wilycub like this.
  9. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    That Rambo figure is awesome!!! I remember seeing the figures for the first time in an Argos catalog. IN it they only showed two figures, Rambo and Warhawk and then their vehicles.

    Yeah, I don't like the rubber heads myself. I don't know why many old toys used to do that. Was it cheaper? Or easier to make/fit rubber heads. I have an intact Mr. T action figure but the head is missing. Another problem with rubber heads is they can be removed very easily, sometimes even while playing or storing improperly, so difficult to find them intact and in good condition.
    Mark M likes this.
  10. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    I believe rubber heads were cheaper. Multiple toylines used rubber heads. MOTU, Defenders of the earth, A-team, Blackstar,Galaxy Rangers and Rambo to name a few. Thankfully for MOTU over time Mattel phased out the rubber heads and made them solid plastic.
    Even the first TMNT figures had soft rubber heads upon release but were very quickly changed to plastic.
    Wilycub likes this.
  11. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Wow, that's quite a lot of accessories for one character toy!
    Wilycub likes this.
  12. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    Well after all, he is Rambo, the one man army, so he carries the arsenal of the entire army! ;):laugh
  13. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    That was one of the big appeals of the toyline, all the figures came with lots of accessories.
  14. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    It also makes sense since in the cartoon we see Rambo (and the other characters) using a variety of weaponry. Knives, daggers, swords, pistols, machine guns, bazooka etc etc. And also it's advantageous for the kids who (being kids) always have a tendency to lose/misplace the smaller accessories. At least this way they have many spares. :)

    I remember the original Playmates TMNT figures also had a lot of accessories, even though they never used that many items in the show.
    shortfuse, Mark M and LiamABC like this.
  15. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    I remember those! All the weapons stuck together on a plastic frame, for ease of manufacturing/packaging I guess, and it listed what the weapons were on the back. "Fist daggers" was the term for those two short bladed things, and I think the thing with the hook was called a kama. And of course the famous shuriken (the throwing stars, which did get used in the comics as I recall).

    I even remember how they'd describe the weapons for some of the characters, alliterating and matching their personalities:

    The Master Machinery of Leonardo
    The Mocking Munitions of Raphael
    The Wise Weapons of Splinter
    The Evil Equipment of Shredder

    And I think it might have been the Party Paraphernalia of Michelangelo but can't be sure. I got Donatello and Michelangelo in Portugal I think. I remember Donatello had two staffs to bring him in line with the others for number of weapons. And Splinter's cane concealed a sword.
    Wilycub and Mark M like this.
  16. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    It never made sense to me in cartoons and films, the hero going into the battle with only one or two weapons. They should be carrying multiple weapons.
    I can see by some characters not needing many accessories but ninja, soldiers etc should come with plenty of weapons.
    There was a toyline from several years back called G.I. Joe Sigma Six which was quite like Rambo: The Force of Freedom. The figures were quite large at 8" and super posable and most came with loads of weapons and some type of gimmick backpack or weapon. A really interesting feature was the top and bottom of the package became a foot locker so you could place the foam insert holding the weapons inside to store all the weapons.
    [​IMG] upload_2019-7-7_13-13-14.jpeg
    This Mezco Punisher figure definitely has plenty of accessories.
    shortfuse and Wilycub like this.

Share This Page