Four Things You Didn’t Know About Rambo

Rambo First Blood BLADE magazine
The June 1983 issue of BLADE magazine featured a scene from the "First Blood" movie, at the time a new release. Click to download the issue.

“First Blood” is a Dueling Term

David Morrell, author of the novel First Blood, based the book’s title on an old dueling term.

“I thought of it as a kind of duel between the characters, and there’s a dueling term about drawing first blood,” he explained. “In some duels the person who drew first blood would be the victor, so there was a kind of irony here of who drew first blood and who was going to win in this harrowing conflict.”

Rambo is More Canadian than American

Though set in Kentucky in the novel First Blood, the movie’s locale was supposedly in the American Pacific Northwest. Actual filming was done in British Columbia. (image via

Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Morrell today is an American citizen.

The setting he chose for the novel, First Blood, was a wilderness area in Kentucky called the Grand Canyon of the East. However, Carolco, the production company that made the First Blood movie, wanted to do the flick in British Columbia, partly for financial reasons.

Meanwhile, for the purposes of the film, the locale would be identified as the American Pacific Northwest.

“It’s ironic that a Canadian created one of the most recognizable American icons,” Morrell noted. “It’s doubly ironic that the movie adaptation of First Blood was filmed in Canada’s British Columbia, even though my novel is set in Kentucky.”

Uncle Sam Makes an Appearance

Rambo Uncle Sam
The First Blood character of Col. Sam Troutman, played by Richard Crenna in the movie, was inspired by an American icon. Can you guess which one? (image via

Morrell gave Col. Sam Troutman, played by Richard Crenna, the name Sam because he represents Uncle Sam. As Morrell noted, “I saw him as the system that had created Rambo.”

You Only Got Half the Story

cover of rambo book first blood
The original cover for “First Blood.”

Originally, First Blood was about 600 pages long. Morrell didn’t like it and so went back and started reading it again. He found a chapter he didn’t like and deleted it. He read the book again and found it moved faster as a result of the deletion.

“I had digressions for one of the deputies, and the man who flew the helicopter and so many different viewpoints in it that I began cutting this chapter and that chapter and found that all I had to do was have the alternating sections between Rambo and the police chief,” he said. “So I probably lost about 300 pages doing this. It was like sculpting, knocking bits of granite off to create a statue. I had written and written so much that I learned that by cutting back I got an intensity that I hadn’t expected. So it was a big lesson for me.”

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