Rambo: Pretenders to the Throne

The runaway success of the "Rambo" trilogy inspired dozens of rip-offs. With the Philippines a cheap and ideal stand-in for Vietnam, scores of 'film makers' tried to cash in on the popularity of a one-man killing machine.

Plenty of Italian efforts surfaced headed by the appallingly trashy "Strike Commando" 'starring' Reb Brown. As in "Rambo II", our hero is betrayed by his superiors, tortured by the Vietcong only to escape and take revenge.

Clearly believing that he could add an ingredient missing from the Rambo franchise, director Wilfred Milan brought-out "Ultimax Force". Not one but four commandos set out to rescue POWs each blessed with Ninja Warrior instincts as well as the standard US Army training.

The most famous of the Rambo clones was the highly successful "Missing in Action" series starring Chuck Norris. The plot line with the hero rescuing POWs for "Missing in Action" may sound similar to "Rambo II" but "MIA" was released in 1984, a full year earlier. As it stood, "Missing In Action" became Cannon Films most profitable film ever (not a hard task).

It's surprising that there were not more sequels to "Missing in Action" with the first only surfacing as a result of being made back-to-back with the original film. It wasn't until 1988 that the cheesy but enjoyable "MIA III" surfaced with the deeply troubled Cannon Group desperate for a hit. As it turns out it wasn't. But as an example of a "Rambo" clone it was probably the best produced for the limited money it was made for.

The failure of "Rambo III" in 1988 to be the smash hit hoped for signalled the end of the short-lived but amusing rip-off genre that built up around the Rambo series.