Rocky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film showed its age and budgetary restrictions.
Sharpness was decidedly inconsistent. Occasional shots – like those at the pet store – looked great, as they displayed excellent clarity and definition. Plenty of others could be rather iffy and soft, though. Most of the movie offered decent delineation, however, given the source restrictions. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent.
Print flaws appeared at varying points throughout the film, but they seemed fairly minor for the most part. Grain was the most prominent distraction, as some parts of the flick – like the opening fight - were intensely grainy. Occasional specks came along as well.
Colors were generally subdued - this is a gritty character drama, after all, and Philly isn't Miami – and they could be erratic as well. Most of the hues looked fine, but skin tones could be messy. At times Rocky and the others looked nearly purple! These elements were satisfactory most of the time, however.
Black levels appeared fairly deep and dark, and shadow detail also was appropriately thick without any signs of murkiness. That was a pleasant surprise. Much of Rocky took place in dank settings, so I feared the film would often become impenetrable. The low-light shots were reasonably vivid. This was an erratic transfer, but I thought it deserved a “B-“ given its age and gritty setting.
This DTS-HD MA 5.1 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.
I’d like to compare the picture and audio of this Blu-ray to the DVD, but a problem develops: MGM put out approximately 753 DVD editions of Rocky, so it becomes tough to figure out which one to use as comparison. Overall, I’d say that the Blu-ray provides the best visuals, but not by a lot. In fact, the elevated resolution of the format makes issues like grain and softness stand out more than in the past.
Audio is a wash. The old 5.1 remix lacked much range or vivacity, and that trend remains true for the lossless DTS-HD track. If any auditory improvements appear, they escape me.
I must say I don’t get the impression that anyone put much work into the Blu-ray transfer. I’d guess that it replicates the same presentation used for the late 2006 DVD edition, so I don’t think anything extra was done to bring it up to snuff for high-def. Granted, Rocky comes with too many inherent restrictions to ever dazzle, but I think more could be done with it. The Blu-ray offers a minor upgrade over the DVD and that’s about it.
This Rocky release skimps on extras. We got trailers for the film as well as Flyboys, Windtalkers, The Usual Suspects and Bulletproof Monk. There’s a Collector’s Edition DVD with many supplements, but the Blu-ray fails to include them.
Rocky continues to hold up well after 33 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 Blu-ray provides decent picture and audio but omits significant extras. This release serves the film in an acceptable way but doesn’t really impress.
Note that this particular Blu-ray appears on its own as well as part of “The Undisputed Collection”. That seven-disc set includes this flick and its five sequels as well as a “Bonus Disc”. Rocky and 2006’s Rocky Balboa can be purchased individually, but as of late 2009, the second through fifth movies only appear as part of “The Undisputed Collection”.
To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of ROCKY