(John Avildsen - 1976)
Also available in Rocky - The Undisputed Collection with Rocky I - V and Rocky Balboa
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: United Artists (USA) / MGM Home Entertainment (USA)
Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 23,135,745,780 bytes
Feature Size: 21,625,233,408 bytes
Video Bitrate: 18.32 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release Date: January 9, 2007
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Transfer: MPEG-2 Video 1080p / 23.976 fps
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3468 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3468
kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
English, French, Spanish and none
• Theatrical Trailers
How many movies become the inspiration for a statue, let alone a fictional character that stands proudly in front of a major city's art museum! (I'm thinking Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens.) When Rocky burst onto screens over the Christmas holiday season of 1976, the buzz was not so much about the movie, but about its writer and star, the barely recognized, Sylvester Stallone. Stallone had worked in small parts for a few years (famously, looking back, as a subway thug in Woody Allen's Bananas), then shared top billing with Perry King and Henry Winkler as one of the well-received Lords of Flatbush in 1974, and supporting roles in the much lesser Death Race 2000 and Capone (as Frank Nitti).
The idea for Rocky must have been kicking around in Stallone's mind since he was old enough to walk, having grown up in New York's Hell's Kitchen, a neighborhood not unlike that of Rocky Balboa's Philadelphia. He tried selling his screenplay to this studio and that for years before it was finally made, and with sufficient backing and production to make it the winner it was. (Roger Ebert simply fell all over himself in his review HERE (incorrectly dated, "January 1, 1976"). And despite Ebert's, and my own expectations, Sylvester Stallone was never again to find his way into my heart; and after Rambo, his fate as just another action hero, though very much a star, was sealed. Stallone gave the performance of his career for his movie, for which he was nominated by the Academy for both his acting and writing. He was never again so honored.
But Rocky lives on, not only for the original movie, but for the string of financially successful sequels it spawned. The first three were supported by some terrific acting talent: Talia Shire (who, unexplicably to me, lost her Oscar bid to Beatrice Straight for her single scene in Network) as Rocky's initially reluctant girlfriend; Burt Young, as her abusive brother and don'twannabe human being; Burgess Meredith, as Rocky's trainer, a role bordering on cliché, but in Meredith's hands, a soul; and not least, Carl Weathers, as the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Apollo Creed, the man without whom there would have been no Rocky Balboa.
The director, John Avildsen, was hardly a household name either, though he had a couple of important credits prior to Rocky – among them, Save the Tiger, which earned for Jack Lemmon his only Best Actor Oscar, and Avildsen's debut fillm, Joe, a pretty good film about America in the sixties, with a terrific performance by Peter Boyle. Interestingly, Avildsen was not picked to direct any of the Rocky sequels until Rocky V, about which, the less said (though he should be happy with his work for The Karate Kid and Neighbors.)
The Score Card
The Movie : 9
Rocky is the ultimate boxing film cliché, but it has so much heart and so much pain that it rises above its origins – but that's the idea, isn’t it. The setting is the backstreets of Philadelphia. Rocky breaks thumbs for a local low-level gangster while working out at the local gym. Despite his circumstances, he struggles with self-respect. He gets his chance to redeem everything when, as a publicity stunt, Apollo Creed, the heavyweight champion, offers him a chance to go a few rounds in an exhibition match - an offer which, to everyone's surprise, Rocky takes seriously.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The score of 7 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.
Whatever your nits and picks, the image for the Blu-ray edition represents a useful upgrade from previous DVDs, including the 2-disc Collector's Edition released just a month earlier. The blacks in the BD are both the good and bad news: they're black, all right, but so is much of the almost black, resulting in a movie that moves more in the dark than in the shadows, and more black than I remember it in the theatre. Perhaps my memory is wrong. That said, the image (except for the opening several minutes, which are fuzzy) is acceptably sharp (and, when there's enough light, especially so.) The color is a little on the red side, contrasty, and oversaturated (especially in the final fight, though free of major defects.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio & Music : 7/8
For those who haven't yet made the jump to surround, it is of special importance that you take advantage of the original mono audio track - not for purist sake, but because the mixdown from 5.1, though comparatively open, leaves out a not inconsiderable amount of crowd noise, and announcer and fighter dialog. It's strange that a movie with as much as it seemed to have going for it and as much money as it had behind it, would be recorded in mono. True, except for the music and the crowd noise at the fight, there isn’t much need, but stereo had been around for two decades by this time, so I remain puzzled. So, in this context, let us not forget Bill Conti's absolutely perfect score, which hits just the right note of triumph under the horizontal title scroll, though thickly recorded.
Empathy : 8
Once the movie got under way, the picture quality was pretty good. I had the most problem with its being oversaturated. The audio was unspectacular, but I got about what I expected and so wasn't disappointed.
Operations : 7
The menu, though simple, takes a moment to sort out to navigate through the chapters. The non-expanding thumbnails offers chapter titles.
Extras : 1
A few theatrical trailers in SD is something of an embarrassment. None of the Supplements from the SD Collector's Edition are to be found here.