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John G. Avildsen
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina
Writing Credits:
Sylvester Stallone

His whole life was a million-to-one shot.

Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time. Working in a meat factory in Philadelphia for a pittance, he also earns extra cash as a debt collector. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a "nobody" to become a "somebody". The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.

Box Office:
$1.1 million.
Domestic Gross
$117.235 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 12/5/2006


Available As Part of “The Rocky Anthology”


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Rocky (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2007)

Here's an age that has become increasingly hard to recall: the era in which Sylvester Stallone was a respected talent. I don't know which route is more common, but some actors follow one of two paths. On one hand, a few performers start out as popular but poorly-regarded among the critical community, and they later earn respect; Jim Carrey falls into that category. On the other hand, there’s the Stallone way. Although Rocky was far from his first film, it was the one that brought him fame and success, as it earned an Oscar for Best Picture in addition to nominations for Stallone himself in the acting and writing categories.

But it's mostly been downhill since then for old Sly, at least as far as critical acclaim goes. Through the Eighties, he became a huge star but got farther and farther from the sense of realism and honesty that pervaded his earlier work. He clearly believed the hype, especially after the enormous success of Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985. After that hit, we experienced atrocities such as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and the arm-wrestling epic Over the Top. Stallone attempted to regain some of his lost reputation with the more serious and gritty Copland in 1997, but it didn't work; everyone still seemed to view him as a big, dopey galoot.

Was Rocky an aberration, a one-shot deal that spent whatever creative abilities Stallone ever possessed and forever doomed him to be a hack, or did success simply corrupt Stallone and spoil what could have been a nice run of good work? I guess we'll never know, but at least we have the original Rocky to look at as a fine film. I'm not quite sure it deserved to win Best Picture against some tough competition in 1976. It topped All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network and Taxi Driver. When you combine the continued resonance of both Watergate and Vietnam with the jingoistic glory that surrounded the Bicentennial, it's not surprising that Rocky, the only "feel-good" picture in the bunch, would take home the prize. The fact that the film's success - Rocky also was the biggest moneymaker for 1976 - paralleled the story's "underdog" theme certainly helped as well.

Did Rocky deserve to beat some of the classics against which it competed? Probably not, but that shouldn't diminish the fact it's still a fine and entertaining film. Unfortunately, the combination of some dreadful sequels and Stallone's generally-poor reputation have diminished this movie's legacy, but if it's inspected on its own, Rocky offers a strong experience.

Stallone himself offers a gently sweet and affecting performance as Rocky, a not-too-successful fighter who gets an improbable shot at the big-time. While I wasn't sure I completely bought Sly during Rocky's moments of rage, he made the character endearingly modest and simple without creating a moronic joke. Rocky retained his dignity and seemed surprisingly real.

Also effective was Talia Shire's turn as Rocky's sweetheart Adrian. Oddly, I found her more believable as an intensely shy wallflower than when she grows as a person due to Rocky's affection. One unusual aspect of Rocky is that it actually makes some attractive people seem unappealing. Most movies take good-looking folks and try to make them look ugly, but it rarely works; it almost always appears obvious that underneath some bad style choices exists a hottie. That's not the case here. Both Stallone and Shire look pretty grotty at times in their roles, and this sense of realism helps the film.

Though the plot seems improbable, the film presents it believably and I easily buy into Rocky's story. The movie progresses at a nice pace which keeps the viewer involved and interested, though I think it moves a little too quickly at times. For example, Adrian's transformation from skank to babe happens too rapidly and effortlessly. One minute she's hiding in a corner, and the next she's all dolled up and ready to go!

I also thought the climactic fight flew by too fast. We don't get enough of a feel for what an epic battle this thing was supposed to be, as the montage treatment loses the sense of desperation and weariness it should portray. It's still a fairly rousing climax for the film, but I thought it could have been paced better.

Speaking of the fight, I could never figure out one thing in regard to it: the match is billed as occurring on a big day for the US, and it seems likely this should be July 4. In fact, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) once refers to the bout as taking place on the nation's biggest birthday. However, the fight actually happens on January 1, 1976. My guess is that they wanted to have it take place on July 4 but production issues caused them to change it to New Year’s Day. In any case, it seemed very confusing since every aspect of discussion about the bout clearly leads one to believe it'll take place on Independence Day.

That oddity excepted, Rocky remains a very good film. The story of the underdog who makes good is as old as time itself, but it continues to maintain appeal and this movie shows how that can happen. I won't argue that Rocky deserved its Best Picture victory over some strong competitors, but I think it's a nice piece of work nonetheless.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Rocky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the film showed its age at times, it usually seemed pretty good and it provided a generally satisfactory picture.

Sharpness almost always looked nicely crisp and precise; only a few isolated scenes displayed much evidence of softness. One improvement found on the new transfer: the modest moiré effects I’d seen previously now have disappeared, probably thanks to the increased resolution of the anamorphic image. I noticed a little edge enhancement, however.

Print flaws appeared at varying points throughout the film, but they seemed fairly minor for the most part. Light grain showed up at times, and a few specks came along as well. I noticed an odd jitter in the background during a street scene at about 1:12:38; this problem occurred on the old transfer as well, so it appeared to be due to problems with the original source.

Colors were generally subdued - this is a gritty character drama, after all, and Philly isn't Miami - but what I saw looked well-saturated and solidly accurate; Apollo's costume at the start of the fight came across especially nicely. Black levels appeared very deep and dark, and shadow detail also was appropriately thick without any signs of murkiness; both of those seemed especially important since so much of Rocky takes place in low-light situations. The picture on this DVD won't win any prizes, but for a low-budget drama from 1976, it looked pretty good.

In addition to the same Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack from prior DVDs, this version of Rocky included a DTS 5.1 mix. Should you expect to hear any differences between the two? Nope. I thought the pair were identical.

This remix of the original monaural audio expanded the image in a modest but pleasing manner. Most of the sound remained anchored to the center channel, but a few effects spread nicely to the sides as well. Probably the "showiest" instance happened early in the film when Rocky walked past some street singers and their voices panned from the center to the right. Other than that, it's just music - which boasted some very nice stereo separation - and ambiance on the sides. The surrounds also included these factors. The effects popped up from the rear mainly during the final fight scene, but the music drifted back there quite frequently, which added a lot to the impact of the score.

Quality seemed decent but unexceptional. Dialogue appeared vaguely flat for the most part, but it remained consistently intelligible and clear. The one poor instance that involved speech occurred at about the 74-minute mark, when Rocky and Paulie talk in the meat locker; the dialogue sounded really rough and edgy during that scene. This wasn't an issue at other times, though. Effects were clean though thin, and the music sounded pleasantly crisp and distinct; the score largely lacked much low-end but it seemed adequately reproduced. The 5.1 mixes stayed appropriately modest and worked nicely for the film.

This Rocky release skimped on extras. We got trailers for the film as well as the Rocky Legends videogame. That’s all she wrote!

Rocky continues to hold up well after 30 years. The movie marks the creative high point of Sylvester Stallone’s career, and it offers a moving and inspirational look at a bum made good. The DVD provides decent picture and audio mediocre but omits significant extras. This is an acceptable DVD but not a memorable one.

Note that this particular disc currently appears only as part of “The Rocky Anthology”. That five-DVD set includes this flick and its four initial sequels. Note that I believe this disc – and all the others – are identical to versions released in February 2005. I didn’t see those so I’m not positive, but that’s what I’ve been led to believe.

To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of ROCKY

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