Rambo Knives in Court


Hollywood in a nutshell: Actor who played heroes but was a Stolen Valor case disarms actor who played heroes but was a Vietnam draft dodger.

There is probably no character less beloved in SF that Sylvester Stallone’s inarticulate, raging PTSD case, John Rambo. In the 1980s, when Stallone and Rambo were ascendant in the popular culture, “Rambo” was a slang term for a newbie acting like a bozo full of false motivation. Having your lane grader call out “Hey, Rambo,” to you in Phase I of the SFQC was, at best, an indicator that you were on the bubble, and at worst, an omen of imminent dismissal. Any oversized, gaudy and chintzy sheath knife was called a “Rambo Knife,” and considered a marker  of acute or chronic newbitude. This was a disease cured only by experience and a gradual assimilation into the culture, as the unwritten laws (like “do not carry a Rambo Knife,” for one glaring example).

Rambo KnifeThe gradation among many knives was subtle and changed over time. A Gerber Mark II was OK, especially if it was an old and weathered one. But a Fairbairn-Sykes knife was not OK, even if your great-uncle Nigel had carried it on the Lofoten Islands raid. A Randall 14 was big and shiny, but given its build quality and place in SF history, was a marker of excellent judgment; a nice, subdued K-Bar or Glock knife was a marker of a keen sense of value and practicality; a Rambo Knife was a marker of too little wit to see the difference between promotion and product.

The Rambo Knife was, indeed, the absolute nadir of the knifemaker’s art, as far as SF soldiers were concerned, except during the brief and laughable production run of the made-for-Hollywood Buckmaster. The SEALs had something to do with that.

So it’s a surprise to use to see the horrible knives are not only still in production (proving once again Barnum’s Law), but have two separate entities fighting over the rights to them:

A judge won’t cut down a lawsuit over replica knives from the Rambo films. The dispute is between Hollywood Collectibles, the licensor, and Master Cutlery, the manufacturer. The licensing deal expired two years ago, but the Rambo knives are allegedly still being produced. Almost like the films.

It’s the last item on this catchall legal report at the Hollywood Reporter.

The lawsuit is available in Scribd at the link, or as a .pdf here (227004096-Rambo-Knives.pdf). There are several amusing things in the suit, even after you’ve run out of the laughs generated by the very idea of teams of lawyers fighting over bad knives from bad movies.

For example, the plaintiff, a licensing outfit and sports-memorabilis called “Hollywood Collectibles,” is located roughly 3000 miles from Hollywood. (Movie magic, that). The defendant is called “Master Cutlery.” “Master?” They’re joking, right? They make Rambo Knives for Christ’s sake. Not just with the fake signature of Sylvester Stallone, who is at least a real person (in a limited edition of — hoot! — 10,000), but also a machete with the fake signature of John J. Rambo , who is a fake person created by novelist David Morell (whose fake signature is not available, alas for completists). The fake Rambo machets also has a fake signature burned into the sheath, and they are also making only 10,000 of these. (They seem to retail for a $20-30 premium over the ones without the fake signature. People pay over $100 for one of these cheesy things).

If your taste in tasteless doesn’t run to Rambo, and your worry more about the undead than the unauthentic, Master (heh) Cutlery can also find you a Genuine Walking Dead Fake Samurai Sword. No signature, though. (Walkers can’t read).

If you haven’t gone all the way round the bend yet, consider that the John Rambo signature machete comes complete with Certificate of Authenticity for this fake person’s fake signature.

And part of the complaint was dismissed because the owners of the rights, a company named NuImage and Lion’s Gate Films, only sold Hollywood-3000-miles-from-Home a nonexclusive right. But in the end, the court left enough claims stand that the suit continues — in Florida.

8 thoughts on “Rambo Knives in Court

  1. Aesop

    Let’s be fair: Dennehy rarely played heroes (his character is clearly the problem in Rambo, not the solution), he mainly plays heavy-handed douches, but he plays them damned well. He’s been publicly tagged repeatedly for telling whoppers about his mythical “Vietnam war service”, and unaccountably keeps doing it from time to time despite having come clean that he made it up, but he did, in fact, serve four honorable peacetime years in the Marines ending with a discharge in ’63. Which still puts him head and shoulders over the almost unbroken string of Hollywood loudmouths who never served anywhere at all, unless we count time served in the county lock-up, or serving mochalottafrappacrappacinos at the local Bean & Bonehead while waiting to be discovered.

    And let’s face it, coming up in the ’70s and ’80s, if Dennehy had actually served in combat in Vietnam, he’d never have been hired for his first (or any subsequent) job in Hollywood, which would have been a bigger pity.

    We just wish he’d ixnay with the Walter Mitty fantasies, which at this point in his life probably owe as much to the onset of senility as to alcohol. We figure he got what he deserved in both Rambo and the end of Silverado anyways.

    As to the lawsuit, pray, let it go onwards. When both parties eventually spend all possible profits on legal counsel, the end result will be the total erasure of any profits from those crapy knives for either party, dulce et decorum est.

    1. Hognose Post author

      It was entirely cultural, I think. But if you carried an F-S you were the butt of humor. Don’t ask me how I learned that.

      1. Bill K

        At the risk of being banned for life, I wonder how knives that have not been around for forever get reputations as good or bad. As an example, I have a Rapala fishing fillet knife from the 1960s which does an admirable job in filleting walleye & bass, takes and holds a decent edge, and has lasted for at least 16 trips to the Boundary Waters between Minnesota & Canada. Now I know that I can trust that particular knife, because I’ve used it for decades. There may well be better, but there’s nothing wrong with that make & model in my book.

        But when my son the Marine wanted a walkabout knife and I went to a variety of stores, I honestly could not tell the difference between Gerber this and Buck that. Sure, they had a variety of styles, but without actually using them in the field, it appeared to me that everybody was making a Me-Too version of everyone else’s. I began to suspect that, given the information available to the consumer, men buying knives are as vain as women buying high heels. If they had told me that this knife had been made out of martensitic stainless steel and was hardened, whereas that knife was made out of austenitic steel and would not hold an edge as well, they’d have given me some basis for making a choice, but as it was, I felt like a country bumpkin trying to guess what was in fashion in Paris this week.

        It would not impress me to buy something just because it’s cool, even if it’s cool with everyone in SF, if they can’t explain why…

        1. Hognose Post author

          I began to suspect that, given the information available to the consumer, men buying knives are as vain as women buying high heels.

          Ding ding ding! We have a winner. You know, I’m partial to Randalls, but a lot of guys carried a $29 Kabar or Camillus USMC knife. I also sometimes used a Glock knife (it’s like a baby Kabar with a plastic handle and sheath. Like a Glock pistol, it’s practical but homely).

          It would not impress me to buy something just because it’s cool, even if it’s cool with everyone in SF, if they can’t explain why…

          The durability, strength and build quality of a Randall is evident if you examine it closely. I think Bo and his son sold a lot of knives based on the fit and finish of the knife, and the quality of their silver soldering, for example.

          But you know, unless you need (and can carry!) the heavier weight of the Model 14, the Kabar or Glock gets the job done.

  2. Jotten Tittle

    Vultures fighting over the scraps of a dead carcass.

    The original Rambo knife was made by (the late) Jimmy Lile. What Stallone’s people really were after was a Randall Smithsonian Bowie with the Model 18’s hollow handle and serrated spine. But Bo Randall refused to let them jump line, and they couldn’t wait the two years+ of Randall’s waiting list, so Lile got the job by default (I guess if you already have a two year backlog of orders, you don’t need any extra publicity).

    That’s the story I got direct from Jimmy Lile himself shortly after the movie was released. He also told me he’d made several copies for the movie’s prop department (eight, IIRC) and some additional serial numbered “commemoratives” (40, again IIRC) that he was selling in conjunction with the movie’s release for something like $1000 each. After which the floodgates opened and he started making MUCH less expensive copies by the bushel basket.

    But there were two questions I could never pin Lile down on. #1. Why eight? Were they losing them or breaking them or what? #2. Was there really a compass in the knife’s buttcap?

    Anyway, Lile died and his widow sold the company but it still operates as Lile Knives, LLC. They’ve had a number of ‘knifesmiths’ since then and it currently is Vaughn Neeley’s turn in the barrel (as in the Emerson-Neeley Timberline). The company still is churning out the Rambo knives, only now they reckon having Neeley’s name stamped on them somehow makes them worth more than $2000 a copy (!!!).

    But Bo is dead too, and Randall’s waiting list now is nearer five years, so it doesn’t appear his refusal to make special allowances for a Hollyweird star over his longsuffering client base has done the business any harm.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Not an expert in Hollywood, but I do know they always want extras for any prop. They also have the prop department make expendable or sacrificial versions for use in stunts. I’m sure the Lile knife was a good knife. Not an expert in knives, just came up in Group with Randalls.

  3. medic09

    I had a friend bring me a Gerber Mk II from the US in ’79. It was affordable, well made, light, and fairly unobtrusive when attached to a combat vest. Somehow my youngest daughter ended up with it. I later switched to a Gerber Blackie Collins River knife, which I carry in my flight suit to this day. The River knife can do what the fighting knife did, but is a bit more versatile for downed aircraft situations. I would have been happy with it when I was a soldier. I never had the privilege of using the pricier knives like Randalls. (For every day carry on my belt I still have the same Buck model 110 Hunter I bought as a teenager around 1974.) I heartily agree with the comparison to high heels. Dive watches are another tool that fit that simile/comparison.

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