Film: First Blood (Rambo)
Director: Ted Ketchoff
Performers: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna, John McLiam, unknown dogs
Breed featured: Doberman Pinscher
Production information: Anabasis N.V. / Eljaco, 1982 (USA)
In the first installment of the Rambo franchise, a local tracker, “Orval the dog man” and his pack of Dobermans are enlisted to help the small-town police force flush John Rambo out of the woods. The old man is only too eager to lead this chase.
The dogs are supposed to be the ultimate weapon, more powerful than the entire police force combined. Of course, this isn’t saying much…
And this is before the cops learn that the “drifter” they’ve been antagonizing is actually a highly trained Green Beret and a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Needless to say, the dogs didn’t stand a chance against Rambo.
No on-screen violence towards dogs is actually depicted (we do hear them yelp and fall silent), so I would suggest that the dogs are just knocked unconscious. Internet consensus does not agree with me. However, killing the dogs doesn’t seem to fit with Rambo’s character in this particular storyline. While Rambo eventually becomes synonymous with a kind of macho, imperialistic, American brand of violence, he is very carefully portrayed in First Blood as maintaining a certain amount of restraint and even moral deliberation. He could have killed any one of his pursuers, but he doesn’t; he just hurts them very badly, enough to make them remember who they’re dealing with.
The dogs, however, would never be able to process the connection. Does it makes sense for Rambo’s character to kill the dogs because he isn’t able to offer them a fair alternative? Or is it precisely because of their animality that he dispatches them so quickly — so that they would no longer suffer the fate of being misused and mistreated, just like him?