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Rambo: The Force of Freedom

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Episode Review
DVD Releases
History of Rambo
Quick Facts
Voice Cast

History of Rambo: The Force of Freedom"Rambo: The Force of Freedom" has been more popularly called just, "Rambo".  It ran as a five-part mini-series for one week in April of 1986, and was quickly renewed for the Fall season as a weekday cartoon.  For some reason or another, the show wasn't a huge ratings grab and it just stopped.  Since that time, however, this cartoon series has garnered a pretty faithful cult following.  Audiences that missed the show back in 1986 have discovered it and realize that "Rambo: The Force of Freedom" is pretty cool.

    I like what they did with this cartoon series.  It's a shame it didn't last longer.  The Rambo movies, of which two had been made before this series, were very violent.  This cartoon series was toned down.  Who in the world would think Rambo could be a good kiddie cartoon show?  But they did it!

    Rambo was given a good supporting cast.  General Trautman is still here, but now Rambo is joined by weapons expert Turbo, a brawny black man with the brains to match, and K.A.T., a vivacious Asian mistress of disguise.

    They turned Rambo from an action movie character to a superhero.  He didn't have superpowers, but he could do just about anything physical you can imagine and he always knew how to use weapons.  What really made cartoon Rambo like a superhero is the fact that he had an arch-nemesis and regular villains to fight.  In the movies he killed 'em dead, leaving little possibility for a second appearance.  General Warhawk was the baddie here, the terrorist leader of S.A.V.A.G.E. with a colorful cast of henchmen.

    The theme music is very similar to the movies, with a narrative worked in.  Cool!  They didn't try to fudge it up or make it sound hokey.  What I did find hokey, however, is Rambo's voice.  It's a good voice, but not suitable for a rough-and-tumble character like Rambo.  No disrespect to Neil Ross, because I've enjoyed his voicework over the years, but his Rambo sounds corny.  That voice would be better for a character like Captain America or Superman.  They should have been a bit truer to Rambo's voice from the movies, making him sound a bit slurred.

    The animation is pretty dang good.  Rambo looks like Rambo.  The characters are well-realized.  There's a lot of action and explosions, but no one gets killed.  It's an interesting premise.

    This series pushed a line of action figures.  And the action figures are pretty dang awesome.  Especially Turbo.  He's got all kinds of cool accessories.  But this cartoon series, unlike most, was not just in it for a quick buck.  They didn't really push the cartoons as being toy commercials like most did.  That element was still there, but to a smaller degree.  They really wanted this to be a long-running cartoon series like He-Man, Transformers, or G.I. Joe.  It's a pity it wasn't.

    Rambo, the cartoon, is comparable to the G.I. Joe cartoon.  It has a semi-military feel to it, and is loaded with action and interesting characters.  I like this a bit better than G.I. Joe.  Rambo is far more physical than anyone in the G.I. Joe cast, and the stories are a bit more intriguing to follow.  I'm not putting down Joe, but Rambo is more simple and fun.  A perfect cartoon diversion for action fans!

Quick Facts:
  • The toyline for "Rambo: The Force of Freedom" lasted longer than the series itself.
  • This was the first R-rated film property to be given a children's cartoon treatment.
  • The prospect of a Rambo cartoon was seen as controversial at the time, considering the violence of the films.  Joe Ruby, however, felt that once people saw the Ruby-Spears vision of Rambo, it would put everyone's mind at ease.  Michael Chain, the show's main story wizard, had been an award-winning children's show writer for years.  In each episode of the Rambo cartoon, a life lesson or other moral was to be learned.
  • Despite the excellent quality of the cartoon, the series just couldn't shake the violent legacy of the live-action films.  It did run for 65 episodes, but it wasn't picked up for a second season.
  • The show's child psychology advisors didn't feel children would grasp the concept of David Morrell's Rambo character.  They strongly advised the show's creators to not mention Vietnam, POWs, or Rambo's experiences in the films.  Ruby-Spears took their advice.
  • This cartoon series shares no relationship to the movies other than the characters of Rambo and Trautman.
  • K.A.T. is a reworking of the ill-fated Co-Bao character from "Rambo: First Blood Part II" (1985).  Like Co-Bao, she has a crush on Rambo.
  • K.A.T.'s real name is Katherine Anne Taylor.
  • Turbo's real name is Edward Hayes.
  • Unlike the Rambo films, Trautman's role in the cartoon series is small.  Trautman is basically Rambo's commanding officer, and that's it.  Rambo's main companions are Turbo and K.A.T. in this series.
  • S.A.V.A.G.E. is short for Secret Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy, and Global Extortion.
  • Rambo is rarely called by his first name in this series, even by Trautman.
  • Rarely seen members of the Force of Freedom include: Chief, T.D. "Touchdown" Jones, and White Dragon.
  • Chief is an Indian ally of Rambo.
  • T.D. "Touchdown" Jones is a former football player and ally of Rambo.
  • White Dragon is the heroic twin brother of evil Black Dragon, and an ally of Rambo.  Both Dragons were voiced by Robert Ito.
  • Mad Dog was first called Spike in the episode "Battlefield Bronx", but renamed to Mad Dog in all subsequent appearances.


Studio: Ruby-Spears
Seasons: One Season, 65 Episodes (1986)

Episode No.
Original Airdate

First Strike
April 14
The Angel of Destruction
April 15
Battlefield Bronx
April 16
Raise the Yamato
April 17
The Taking of Tierra Libre
April 18
Subterranean Holdup
September 15
Trouble in Tibet
September 16
S.A.V.A.G.E. Island
September 17
General Warhawk's Curse
September 18
Deadly Keep
September 19
Beneath the Streets
September 22
Cult of the Cobra
September 23
Raid on Las Vegas
September 24
The Lost City of Acra
September 25
Guns Over the Suez
September 26
Exercise in Terror
October 6
The Doomsday Machine
October 7
Disaster in Delgado
October 8
Fire in the Sky
October 9
Enter the Black Dragon
October 10
Reign of the Boy King
October 13
Rambo & the White Rhino
October 14
Pirate Peril
October 15
Mephisto's Magic
October 16
The Halley Microbe
October 17
Death Merchant
October 20
Return of the Count
October 21
Night of the Voodoo Moon
October 22
Lagoon of Death
October 23
Snow Kill
October 24
Terror Beneath the Sea
October 27
Swamp Monster
October 28
Freedom Dancer
October 29
Texas Inferno
October 30
The Iron Mask
October 31
Children for Peace
November 3
S.A.V.A.G.E. Rustlers
November 4
Mind Control
November 5
Vote of Terror
November 6
Target: Supertanker
November 7
Enter the White Dragon
November 10
Skyjacked Gold
November 11
Attack on El Dorado
November 12
The Ninja Dog
November 13
When S.A.V.A.G.E. Stole Santa
November 14
November 17
November 18
Warhawk's Fortress
November 19
The Konichi
November 20
Robot Raid
November 21
Alphas, Arms & Ambush Part 1
November 24
Alphas, Arms & Ambush Part 2
November 25
November 26
November 27
Blind Luck
November 28
Turbo's Dilemma
December 1
December 2
Just Say No
December 8
Monster Island
December 9
Quarterback Sneak
December 10
Sepulcher of Power
December 11
The Twin Within
December 12
S.A.V.A.G.E. Space
December 15
Change of Face
December 17
Horror of the Highlands
December 18

Episode Review:

Voice Cast:

Neil Ross as John Rambo
James Avery as Turbo
Mona Marshall as Kat
Alan Oppenheimer as Col. Sam Trautman
Michael Ansara as General Warhawk
Peter Cullen as Sgt. Havoc
Lennie Weinrib as Gripper
Frank Welker as Mad Dog
Ed Gilbert as Nomad
Robert Ito as Black Dragon

Additional Voices:
Michael Bell
Dale Ishimoto
Russi Taylor

DVD Releases: Lions Gate released the complete "Rambo" cartoon series on a series of 6 DVDs in late 2005.  All the cartoons are here, but they're presented out-of-order from original airdate! Besides that, these are good quality releases.  I like the fact there is about 5 hours (300 minutes) of cartoons on each disc.  You get quite a bit for your money, especially since these are not "high dollar" releases.  The picture and sound quality is quite excellent.  There are no extras, which would have been nice.  You're straight up just getting the cartoons, and that's it.

Rambo Volume 1: A World of Trouble
    11 Episodes: Attack on El Dorado, Battlefield Bronx, Disaster in Delgado, Guns Over Suez, Lagoon of Death, The Lost City of Acra, Monster Island, Raid on Las Vegas, Texas Inferno, Trouble in Tibet, Beneath the Streets.

Rambo Volume 2: Enter the Dragon
    11 Episodes: Enter the Black Dragon, Enter the White Dragon, Fire in the Sky, Iron Mask, Konichi, Masquerade, Mephisto's Magic, Night of the Voodoo Moon, Ninja Dog, Pirate Peril, Raise the Yamato.

Rambo Volume 3: S.A.V.A.G.E. Island
    11 Episodes: S.A.V.A.G.E. Island, Cult of the Cobra, Death Merchant, Swamp Monster, Warhawk's Fortress, First Strike, S.A.V.A.G.E. Rustlers, S.A.V.A.G.E. Space, Subterranean Holdup, Target: Supertanker.

Rambo Volume 4: Up in Arms
    11 Episodes: Alphas, Arms & Ambush Part 1, Alphas, Arms & Ambush Part 2, The Doomsday Machine, Exercise in Terror, Horror in the Highlands, Deadly Keep, Terror Beneath the Sea, Turbo's Dilemma, Crash, Vote of Terror, The Angel of Destruction.

Rambo Volume 5: Snow Raid
    11 Episodes:
Snow Kill, When S.A.V.A.G.E. Stole Santa, Rambo & the White Rhino, Children for Peace, Reign of the Boy King, Return of the Count, Robot Raid, Sepulcher of Power, Skyjacked Gold, Supertrooper, The Halley Microbe.

Rambo Volume 6: Face of Freedom
    10 Episodes: Blind Luck, Blockbuster, Change of Face, Freedom Dancer, General Warhawk's Curse, Just Say No, Mind Control, Mirage, Quarterback Sneak, Twin Within.

Toys:  Coleco made a line of toys for "Rambo: The Force of Freedom" from 1985-1986.  The toys were still sold in stores for about two years after the line stopped production.  There were many figures and vehicles made.  The toys were actually very well done.  The figures were big enough to handle and looked interesting (6").  It should also be noted that the figures came with good accessories and weren't just added to make it look like you were getting more.  Another nod to the line is that it is one of the first to make a female action figure.  In 1985, there weren't many action figures of women ever done; K.A.T. is an excellent figure, especially for the time.  Three different Rambo figures were made; he was the only character to receive multiple figures (naturally).

Force of Freedom Figures
  • Rambo
  • Fire Power Rambo
  • Muscle Power Rambo
  • Turbo
  • K.A.T.
  • Col. Trautman

Other Force of Freedom Figures
  • Chief
  • T.D. Jackson
  • White Dragon

Force of Freedom Vehicles
  • Defender 6x6
  • Skyfire Assault Copter
  • Skywolf Assault Jet

S.A.V.A.G.E. Figures
  • General Warhawk
  • Sgt. Havoc
  • Nomad
  • Gripper
  • Black Dragon
  • Mad Dog
  • Snakebite
  • Dr. Hyde
  • X-Ray

S.A.V.A.G.E. Vehicles
  • S.A.V.A.G.E. Strike Cycle

S.A.V.A.G.E. Playsets
  • S.A.V.A.G.E. Strike Headquarters