Hope welcomes people from around the world when Rambo: First Blood 40th anniversary celebrations take place over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. One of the people coming to town is Dietmar Pohl, who was so inspired seeing the survival knife from First Blood that he made a career out of it.
Check out three more stories in the Hope Standard’s Rambo special section, which you can find on pages B1 to 8 of the Sept. 30, 2022 e-Edition.
Dietmar Pohl was 16-years-old when he saw Rambo: First Blood, and from the moment he saw Sylvester Stallone holding his survival knife, he knew what he wanted to do. The teenager left the theatre on that day in 1982, and went home shaking with excitement.
The next day he went down to the basement, and using a round metal file, carved out the same sawback notches he’d just seen on the back of Rambo’s knife.
And so it began, the first steps on a journey that would see him become a world-renowned knife designer, eventually creating his own company called Pohl Force Movie Knives. In 2019 he would be asked to design the knife for Rambo: Last Blood and he would work face to face with Stallone.
Now 52 years old, he’s coming from Germany to Hope, the home of Rambo: First Blood.
“Just thinking about it makes the hairs on my arm stand up,” he said. “No other movie set is so important to the Rambo movie franchise like Hope. Nobody would go to Mexico to see something from Rambo 2. Nobody would go to Israel or the Nevada desert to see parts of Rambo 3, or the fourth part that was made in Thailand. Hope was different and coming there for the 40th anniversary, it’s really something.”
While Rambo: First Blood fully ignited Pohl’s love of knives, the spark came from his brother, who was a German paratrooper. From a young age, he was drawn to knives and other things military.
The knife that so inspired Pohl was designed by a guy named Jimmy Lile, an Arkansas knifesmith described by Pohl and many others as a legend. Lile actually created 13 knives for First Blood, and in 1993 Pohl obtained knife No. 12.
“It was so unusual for its time, and looking back 40 years, Jimmy Lile was way ahead of his time,” he said. “All the materials he was using, the special features he put into the knife like the sawback, the screwdriver, the hollow handle, the nylon cord that you could probably use for fishing — it was an early multi-tool. Even nowadays it is a perfect design.”
Pohl’s passion for knives was clear talking about the knife, and he remembers the moment he first got to hold and examine his newly-acquired treasure.
“It came with the original sheathe and the sharpening stone too. They all had a left-handed sheathe because Sylvester Stallone is left-handed. It’s hard to describe how I felt. When I opened the box and saw that knife it was like, ‘Wow. This is the Holy Grail.’ This is something that for a Rambo fan, there’s not much above it.”
When Pohl was asked to create the knife for Rambo: Last Blood, he found inspiration in the Lile design. He was given three weeks for the project, and created two versions, the MK-9 and MK-10.
The MK-9 in particular carried the spirit of the First Blood knife, from the materials to the colours to the sandblasting that made the blade a dull non-reflective grey.
“We presented the knife for the first time to Sylvester Stallone in Bulgaria, and I was happy when he understood what I was doing and thinking about how to bridge the knife used in First Blood to the knife that he would use in Last Blood,” Pohl said. “When I came into the movie industry some years before, I normally talked to the prop master or director. But for Rambo, it was different because the movie star was so deeply involved in a movie prop.”
Pohl saw his knife for the first time on a movie poster.
“That’s the first time in the movie franchise that he’s holding a knife in the movie poster, and that’s my knife,” Pohl said. “So that’s pretty cool right?”
Pohl will be appearing Saturday, Oct. 8 at Kerfuffle Creations on Wallace Street, from noon to 3 p.m.