Sly x 3 = Winning, Yo! 'Stallone: 3-Film Collector's Set'

First Blood (1982)

Movie combo packs can be bottom barrel dreck on double-sided discs or, well, they could be something like this: First Blood, Cop Land, and Lock Up.

Lock Up

Director: Ted Kotcheff; James Mangold; John Flynn
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland
Distributor: Lionsgate
Studio: StudioCanal
Release date: 2012-08-14

I’m not sure what it is about Sylvester Stallone and/or is fans that make distributors think we want to buy not only all his movies, but every one of them multiple times in the same format with new packaging. I mean, I’ve got at least four Sly-related items on display in my room and even I don’t need six copies of Rambo: First Blood Part II. I do need five, though.

A quick summary of what’s already available:

Sylvester Stallone: 4 Film Favorites - DVD – 2007

- includes Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, The Specialist, and Over the Top

Sylvester Stallone Triple Feature - DVD – 2009

- includes Avenging Angelo, Eye See You, Shade

Triple Feature - Blu-ray – 2012

- includes Assassins, Cobra, The Specialist

Sylvester Stallone Selection - DVD – 2001

- includes Driven, Demolition Man, and Cobra

Now, to add onto the heap, we have Stallone: 3-Film Collector’s Set, another collection of the man, the myth, the legend’s work thrown together in cheap packaging and released just in time for the theatrical debut of his latest film. This time it’s to help the box office of The Expendables 2 - or as it’s more commonly known, The Sequel to the Greatest Movie Ever Made.

Reader: What is?

Me: The Expendables 2.

R: You think The Expendables is the greatest movie ever made?

M: Uh…yes. Doy.

R: Did you just say “doy?”

M: Regrettable choice of words aside, is it really just myself and a few wise best buds who think Sylvester Stallone’s action-star-muscle-movie is the best piece of pop entertainment ever put to the silver screen?

R: Well, RottenTomatoes certainly isn’t backing you.

M: What is it? 95 percent? Thanks a lot Armond White. Why not just rate movies on a scale of “Hate” to “Only Kind of Hated”?

R: Uh….

M: Oh no. 90 percent? Did Owen Gleiberman review it? He probably couldn’t keep up.R: *stares blankly at me*

R: 89 percent?!?!

M: Try 40.

R: 40 PERCENT?!!? Whaaaaaaaaaat?! Well, you’re all just wrong. Simple as that. I’m right. You’re wrong.

M: OK, buddy. Whatever gets you to sleep at night.

R: Mickey Rourke did win Best Supporting Actor, though, right? I didn’t just dream that did I?

Cop Land (1997)

Anyway, this compilation of classics includes Sly’s second franchise-starter, First Blood (here listed by it’s more common, if incorrect, title -- Rambo: First Blood), his late-career Oscar-grab Cop Land, and one of his forgettable late '80s/early '90s – who can remember? -- action romps, Lock Up. Odds are if you’re at all interested in any of these films – and who isn’t? – you already own every one of these films in one format or another, so you can decide for yourself if you want backup copies. If not, go buy this right now!

You won’t be able to tell from the all-but-useless back cover of the Blu-ray, but each one of these discs is the very same one packaged separately and sold for a much higher price. The First Blood Blu-ray comes with deleted scenes, an advanced trivia track, a “Drawing First Blood” featurette, and two audio commentary tracks – one from Stallone and one from novelist David Morrell. This edition was released in early 2007, and hasn’t been altered since then.

The copy of Cop Land is at least a little more recent. Released last November (and reviewed on PopMatters at that time as well), the collector’s edition of the 1997 film is also the director’s cut. Totaling an extra 12 minutes, the extended edition of Cop Land isn’t egregiously lengthy, as many extended cuts are nowadays, but it should be noted somewhere on the package that you’re not getting the movie you saw in theaters. You’re not getting the movie you saw on DVD, either, even if you are getting the same bonus features.

Finally, there’s Lock Up, the least known of the group and the least great. It’s got Sly, so you know it’s at least “OK”. The epitome of manhood’s conflictions that is First Blood also mark it as a film that needs no more criticism. It is a standalone triumph that was, like the Rocky franchise, turned into a one-trick pony in its mantastic, blockbuster sequels. I’ve also said all that I need to already regarding Cop Land. It will never be seen or probably even remembered as one of Sly’s masterpieces, but I’ll keep its torch burning as long as possible – give it a chance. It won’t disappoint.

Lock Up (1989)

Thanks to a memorable football game in the mud and some hammy supporting performances from the evil Donald Sutherland and the goofy Tom Sizemore, Lock Up outdoes it’s equally dimwitted title-brother from 2012, Lockout. It’s not trying to win Oscars – a statement that cannot be said in all honesty regarding the other two films in this collection – and it revels in its macho late 80s roots.

The original Blu-ray edition of Lock Up was released in July 2010 and also hasn’t been doctored in the last two years. It comes with a making-of featurette, a profile on Sly, and behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast. All three films together form an impressive collection for any actor. Yet, we’ve seen these combo packs before and know you either really have to like all three movies, really have to love Sylvester Stallone, or really find a great deal to make the purchase of all three at once worthwhile.

Given that all of these discs are identical to previously released editions, you can look at Stallone: 3-Film Collector’s Set one of two ways:

A) It’s just a cheap marketing ploy to draw attention to The Greatest Sequel Ever Made and earn Lionsgate a few measly bucks from extra Blu-ray sales.

B) It’s kind of nice that they’re throwing all three of these movies together for the low, low MSRP of $24.99. That means you can probably buy it for less than $20! Three Stallone movies for under $20?! What a deal!

Choose your own ending. I got it for free.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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