RAMBO: THE FORCE OF FREEDOM “WHEN S.A.V.A.G.E. STOLE SANTA”
Original Air Date: November 19, 1986
The story of how Rambo invented Christmas…
The character John Rambo was created by author David Morrell. In the 1972 novel, First Blood, Rambo is a drifter arrested for vagrancy, then suffers from a violent war flashback of being incarcerated and wages war on a small Kentucky town. Even though Rambo dies at the end of the book, the 1982 movie adaptation starring (and c0-written by) Sylvester Stallone lets him live to fight another day.
And fight Rambo does! Together with the the theatrical sequels, the Rambo film franchise has grossed almost 1 billion dollars worldwide. Toys and video games followed, but in 1986, Rambo became the first R-Rated franchise to receive a daily cartoon aimed at children…
Hoooo boy! I knew this would offer something entertainingly stupid, and the Rambo Xmas Special delivers one billion percent. However, I honestly assumed the dumbest thing on display would be Rambo running around the North Pole with his shirt off, but this rare, 80s hunk of 80s schlock delivered so very much more. It makes the similarly abbreviated special G.I. Joe C.O.B.R.A. Claus look like something written by Aaron Sorkin.
Dis gun’ be good…
My recent humiliating trials in hunting down a Wii U got me bitching about supply meeting demand. Nintendo built a ceaseless marketing campaign for its new console, then went on to deliver 5 to 10 units per store, including pre-orders! Asinine…. The Rambo animated series is on the opposite end of the supply and demand coin.
Yuletide warmth from the intro
Nobody asked for an children’s cartoon featuring the star of three hyper-violent R-rated movies, but the folks at Ruby-Spears not only went ahead and made one anyway, their single-season venture received SIXTY-FIVE wholly unnecessary episodes.
I don’t know what disability the animators are making fun of here, but I am thoroughly offended
Each episode basically aired only once before the series was pulled, but of course that also meant that desperate need for war time storylines forced the writers into the completely inappropriate well of Christmas. (For further evidence of the series’ lack of planning, “When S.A.V.A.G.E. Stole Santa” aired on November fucking 19th!)
Children reenact Rambo’s experience in Vietnam
And luckily for viewers today, eager for a hacky slice of Stallon-inspired pap, the episode is wildly idiotic, completely worth watching from dumbass beginning to fuck-stupid end. I won’t pretend to be familiar with the series, but the writers probably could have provided a little insight on the canon, as the episode opens with some established military faction planning something. Whatever, there’s snow and berets. Christmas, militia, I get it.
There in a sec…
Then we cut to… you guessed, that old Holiday staple: An orphanage! And one so moronically located- in the middle of Antarctica apparently- with no visible roads to civilization, nor any adult super vision. It’s enough to make you wanna vote Republican just to cut aid to idiotic government organizations who’d zone a branch of child services way the fuck out here.
This was not the greatest idea of the season…
Here we meet… aw fuck, I don’t remember. Let’s call him Billy! There’s an 95% chance I would’ve been right without ever seeing the special anyway. Billy has either succumbed to the “Holiday Blues” and/or the “My Parents Are Dead and I’m Trapped in a Remote Tundra Woes,” and he basically takes it out on Xmas and calls all the other children idiots. To further drive home the point that all his peers are morons for believing in Santa, Billy does the smart thing and leaves alone in the middle of torrential snowstorm…
And here’s where things start to get weird. Billy passes by a place that looks like Santa’s village. He peers into a window, sees a bearded dude in a familiar get up stuffing a sack with toys, and still humbugs the notion that Santa exists. Huh? Okay let’s say that that orphanage is actually a remote science lab that clones nothing but multi-racial 9-year-olds and this is his first Christmas. He’s clearly aware of the myth, wouldn’t seeing something like this 100% support, and even validate the existence of Santa? Wait, the more important question is probably “Who the fuck is that old guy!” More on that in a second…
Because a shirt would only slow Rambo down!
Of course Billy gets lost in the snowstorm, but thankfully, the military consultant on the show (seriously, check the credits) saw fit to arm the boy with a flashlight and knowledge of Morse Code. Oh, who could ever be expected to understand such a language…
YES! Rambo watches over us all!
John Rambo, out on a sleeveless Christmas Eve patrol, spots the tyke and pulls him to safety. And that’s assuming your definition of safety includes clinging to the rail of a speeding helicopter at high altitudes and a wind chill of “OH SHIT!”
Everything seems legal here
Rambo does what he does best… He fucking wins. John Rambo has been bestowed with two simple super powers: To constantly triumph and to never die. So it’s certainly interesting to see how that plays out when giving a child a lift to a strange old man’s house. Wait, who is the fuck is this guy?!
Turns out Rambo knows this guy on a first name basis, calling him “Chris.” I FUCKING LOVE THIS. Of course it could be evidence of more mind-meltingly shitty writing, but let’s be honest, Rambo is basically an immortal, mythical creature. It makes all the sense in the world that he’d know Santa. And probably the Easter Bunny, Mohammad, and a Chupacabra or two.
This guy dresses, acts, talks, and sure as shit looks like Santa, and the title of the episode would seem to reaffirm that. Turns out “Chris” was given a new lease on life by none other than John Rambo. His previous life included engineering weapons of mass destruction, although now, thanks to fucking Rambo, he devotes himself to making toys and distributing them every Christmas. WITH RAMBO! How’s that for alternate fiction?!
Decking the halls, Rambo style
And the rest of the world seems to be familiar with Santa’s scientifically destructive past, because they want to kidnap him and force him to imagineer a bunch of death rockets. For what purpose, the audience is never clued in on. But just assume they’re Cobra – it works!
The most used weapon in the entire production? A wooden sword
They come for Santa, but Rambo thwarts them. How? By doing absolutely nothing you’d ever associate with Rambo!
This is a kiddie cartoon, so Rambo can only dispose of baddies in the most nonviolent means possible. He basically shoves them into things, which fall down or explode, in a way that would even have Bugs Bunny calling him a pussy. Rambo does in fact briefly hold his iconic bow and arrow, but he uses it only once… To whack away a live grenade?
Imagine Hawkeye inside the Matrix…
His moves are primarily defensive. He mostly distracts his enemies so that they can drive off a cliff or incapacitate themselves. Despite being confronted with live ammunition, Rambo never throws a punch, slings an arrow, or fires a bullet.
What follows are some of the most hilariously stupid action sequences for the rest of the episode. Rambo almost never says anything, but the bad guys run the fuck away and/or slip on banana peels that take them directly to jail.
The action is too idiotic to describe here, but the stupidity doesn’t let up for a mind-numbingly insulting second. But once Rambo commandeers a fucking reindeer sleigh to go after “Chris,” you’d be 100% correct in assuming you’re pretty much watching the greatest Christmas special of all time.
Rambo puts a minor dent in whatever the fuck this militia’s plan might be, and because it’s Christmas, they fly away and charitably assure the audience they’ll be back in later episodes. Hooray, who like orphans?!
Awaiting the new Jesus
Billy, Rambo, and Santa return to the orphanage (I’m so happy I just got to write that!), where evidently the life threatening tale of arms race espionage and Tom Clancy-esque intrigue has taught lil’ Billy the True Meaning of Christmas.
Kings of Kristmas
Another Xmas miracle! And as was required in the 80s, the episode closes with the entire cast laughing at an utterly terrible joke.
I’ll give it a little Christ credit since during the 80s, Rambo, Chuck Norris, and Ronald Reagan where the closest equivalent we had to The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. These were good times, kids. Wish we could go back to the days when freedom and justified ass-kicking were our spiritual stand-ins for salvation.
I STILL DON’T KNOW! Was this actually Santa Claus, or some disgraced military engineer so traumatized by his past deeds he’s devoted himself to toy manufacturing and annual breaking/entering?! Whatever, those red pajamas go a long way. This episode is in dire need of director commentary!
I dunno, I had a blast with this thing. The brazen notion that Rambo essentially created Santa Claus and delivers toys with him every year stands as a testament to how big both Rambo and Stallone stood in the zeitgeist during the mid-80s. That’s truly something worth being reminded of; a close second to the importance of family, and Jesus and such. I’d easily recommend it to the nostalgic, although it’s hard to put it up there with the unironically good Christmas stuff. Can I get away with three balls?!
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the Site!)
“When S.A.V.A.G.E. Stole Santa” is available on Volume 3 DVD of Rambo: The Animated Series. For more murderous, Cold War fun, check out the Rambo Movie Collection on Blu-ray and DVD. And if you’d like to ward off any and all potential burglars, pick up a Rambo action figure and put the Fear of God Almighty in them!
MUCH BETTER CHRISTMAS SPECIALS!
YESTERDAY’S XMAS SPECIAL
CARE BEARS NUTCRACKER SUITE
LAST YEAR’S DEC. 24TH XMAS SPECIAL
G.I. JOE’S “COBRA C.L.A.W.S ARE COMING TO TOWN”
2010’s DEC. 24TH XMAS SPECIAL
THE SIMPSONS “SIMPSONS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE”
2009’S DEC. 24TH XMAS SPECIAL
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS