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MGM Studios DVD presents
"I can't beat him. But that don't bother me. The only thing I want to do is to go the distance, that's all. Because if that bell rings and I'm still standing, then I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I wasn't just another bum from the neighborhood."
DVD ReviewLong before the countless sequels, parodies, and the death of Sylvester Stallone's career there was Rocky. Released without fanfare in November of 1976, Rocky quickly became a runaway success and audiences everywhere were reminded that even an ordinary man can do the impossible. That is not to say that this film broke new ground—in fact, it has many similarities to Kazan's On The Waterfront—but for numerous filmgoers this didn't matter, Rocky had simply become a reason to love movies again.
Rocky Balboa (Stallone) spends his days simply trying to stay afloat, working as a collector for a South Philly loan shark and his nights—and every other minute—training to be a boxer. The only problem is that Rocky is a virtual unknown, a pugilist that will take any fight with a purse. Mickey (Meredith), the manager at the local boxing club is disgusted with Rocky because he could have been great, but threw it all aside to live the life he is currently living. When his focus isn't on boxing or his job, Rocky's mind is fixed on Adrian (Shire). Much like everything else that he dreams of, wooing Adrian is a pipe dream. But soon Rocky's life takes an unexpected turn when the Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed (Weathers), is forced to pick an opponent for an upcoming bout. Creed ultimately decides to give a local Philadelphia fighter a shot, and Rocky catches his attention. Rocky is suddenly face to face with not only a chance to win the title, but to also do what no one thinks he can do, got the distance with Apollo.
Perhaps the best thing about Rocky is that it doesn't try to surprise the viewer. There are no plot twists or complications; this film is about a hero and while this is enough for most movies to become corny, Rocky works. It is as much about love as it is about boxing and as much about heroism as it is about learning your potential. This is a rare picture where you care about the characters, something that has become nearly extinct in Hollywood as of late.
Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky over a three day span, and while shopping the script all over Hollywood, met with rejection at nearly every turn. He eventually found it a home at United Artists, who bought it for a small fee and agreed to let Stallone star, something that everyone else had refused. With Rocky, Stallone became a household name and an international star, all thanks to the little picture that could. To this day, Rocky shows Stallone at his best, and is undoubtedly his best film. Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Burt Young each turn in very good supporting roles.
Rocky was nominated for nine Academy Awards® in 1976 and walked away with four including Best Director and Best Picture of the year. Many view Rocky as one of a handful of Best Picture winners that never deserved the award, and I am inclined to agree. To say that Rocky is better than both Taxi Driver and Network is absurd; but if you can find a more uplifting and touching film than Rocky, I am all ears.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: When Rocky was originally released among the first wave of titles from Warner Bros. and MGM Home Video in March of 1997, it featured a nonanamorphic transfer that was displeasing, to put it nicely. So it is was with great excitement that I put in the newly remastered 25th anniversary edition of the film into my DVD player. I was met with more of a whimper than a bang though, I am afraid to say. The 1.85:1 transfer on this special edition certainly looks better than the original, but that isn't saying much. The film HAS been given a new anamorphic transfer, which takes away a lot of the problems; the down side is that there is a large amount of edge enhancement that becomes distracting, and the transfer has a very soft look to it from time to time. But hey, it does look much better than the previous release.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: One aspect of the previous release that seems to have been carried over to the new version is the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. While Rocky has never been a reference disc when it comes to audio, the sound on this DVD is pleasing for a twenty-five-year-old film. Dialogue is easy to understand and clear for the most part and the surround speakers never come alive, but are used for ambient sound, especially during the climactic fight scene. Bill Conti's score sounds crisp and clean, creating a nice soundstage across the front three speakers. Also included is the original 1.0 mono mix, so for you film purists out there, this is your chance to relive Rocky as it was originally heard. French 5.1 and Spanish mono tracks are also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French and Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V ">
2 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director John G. Avildsen; stars Talia Shire, Carl Weathers and Burt Young; Garrett Brown, and producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler
Extras Review: MGM seems to have gotten Rocky things right the second time around with a nice selection of features on this new special edition DVD. Perhaps the two most important extras are the new commentaries by the cast and crew. The first is an audio track with director John G. Avildsen; stars Talia Shire, Carl Weathers and Burt Young; Garrett Brown and producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. While the participants are not recorded together, the track moves along at a nice pace with each of the participants speaking about their experiences on the set and sharing thoughts on their contributions to the film.
The second is a video commentary by creator and actor Sylvester Stallone. Running nearly a half hour in length, the clip features Stallone talking about his troubles, not only in getting the film made, but also the personal story that he was trying to tell in the film. While it would have been nice to hear a feature-length track by Stallone, this video commentary will do just nicely.
Behind the Scenes with Director John Avildsen is a twelve-minute look at the creation of the fight scene that closes the film, with an introduction by Avildsen. Two tributes to Burgess Meredith and cinematographer James Crabe feature interviews with friends, cast and crew members as they pay homage to two men who helped make Rocky a classic.
A trailer for each of the Rocky films, as well as two television spots, are also included.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsRocky is a film that has not only cemented its place in pop culture history, but in film history as well. And if there was a definitive way to celebrate the film, this twenty-fifth anniversary special edition is it. The video transfer certainly isn't the best it can be and the same could be said for the audio mix. But the extra features are what make this disc a recommendation, so go buy it and enjoy. You could do a lot worse. Recommended.
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