Click here 4 stars
Talia Shire, Sylvester Stallone The

The surprising movie
that touched millions of hearts
and made a star of Sly Stallone
gets good treatment on DVD


Reviewed by John Orr

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

Considering all the shlock to which Sylvester Stallone's name has been attached over the decades, it's all to easy to forget what a wonderful film he wrote and starred in 25 years ago: "Rocky."

MGM has just released a nice special edition DVD of the film, which came as a surprise to almost everyone way back in 1976.

The DVD includes something that might help people who weren't around at the time understand why the film came as such a surprise: Its theatrical trailer, which is as big a load of cheese as has ever hit the big screen. In it, Stallone, who was virtually unknown at the time, was touted as The Next Big Thing in the corniest way possible.

It was terrible, and it's hard to imagine that it encouraged anyone to actually go to the movie.

Who knew?

Sylvester Stallone When the film itself finally arrived, it turned out to be -- no kidding -- a great film, with a wonderful script by Stallone himself, fine direction by John G. Avildsen and excellent supporting performances.

Entire audiences stood up at the end of the film, adrenalin running, screaming for the unlikely nice guy fighting for something better than he'd ever even dreamt of before.

Word of mouth took over and the film became a huge success. It was made on a very modest budget and harvested box-office dollars like Iowans harvest corn.

Sly Stallone The plot, boiled down: Rocky, a nice guy who's not too bright and who loves boxing, who breaks legs (in a nice way, hopefully) for a loan shark, lives a modest life in Philadelphia. He likes a shy, dowdy young woman -- Adrian -- who works in a pet shop. Her annoying brother, Paulie, works in a meat-packing plant. Apollo Creed, the world champion, offers Rocky a shot at the title when another boxer has to drop out of the scheduled fight. Rocky stops smoking and gets into shape in just a few weeks, with the help of the crustiest manager in the history of boxing.

Then there is one hell of a fight.

Rocky is a believable, likeable guy; the romance with Adrian is wonderful; and all the little subplots not only offer a touching look at life on the hard side of street, they help tell a deeply human story of striving against the odds.

DVD notes

In addition to what is mentioned in the review:

It's a good, wide-screen transfer that makes the most of James Crabe's excellent cinematography.

In addition to the trailer, Stallone's remembrances and various trailers, there are tributes to Burgess Meredith and James Crabe, a behind-the-scenes featurette with director John G. Avildsen, and commentaries by Avildsen, Stallone and others associated with the film. There is also a modest "booklet."

Stallone's script was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost out to the great Paddy Chayefsky, who won for "Network." Stallone was nominated as best actor, losing out to Peter Finch (again, "Network").

But "Rocky" won the Best Picture Oscar, beating some great movies, including "All the President's Men," "Network," "Bound for Glory" and "Taxi Driver."

Director Avildsen and editors Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad also took home Oscar statuettes.

Other nominations went to:

-- Talia Shire (Adrian) for best actress; she was beaten by Faye Dunaway ("Network"). Shire was WONDERFUL in this film, and helped Stallone create the sexiest, most romantic moment he ever had in any of his movies.

-- Burgess Meredith (as Mickey the manager) for best supporting actor; he lost to Jason Robards ("All the President's Men"). Meredith has an amazing scene with Stallone, when he's trying to get hired as manager, which is maybe the finest few minutes of powerful acting ever seen in any Stallone film. Stunning stuff.

-- Burt Young (as Paulie) for best supporting actor. Best role of his career.

-- Sound, losing to "All the President's Men."

-- Song ("Gonna Fly Now"); lost to "Evergreen" from "A Star is Born."

Sly Stallone, Carl WeathersCarl Weathers is excellent as Apollo Creed, the champ. Creed is a publicity hound who is also a dead-serious athlete, and Weathers and Stallone really make their fight look good.

The DVD is a treat, and includes the more mature Stallone remembering the tough times he was going through at the time -- he had to sell his dog, Butkus, because he couldn't afford to feed him. He was offered a lot of money for the script, but held out until he not only got a good price for the script, but got to star in the film as well.

It was the beginning of a career that was to make him a lot of money, even if he never did make another movie as good as "Rocky."

By the way, when he sold the script, he got his dog back, and gave him a role in the movie.


In the unlikely event you could find a good print of "Rocky" at a theater, it would be a treat. But, good luck finding such a thing. Better to get a DVD and watch it at home.

DVD at Amazon.
VHS at Amazon.

See cast, credit and other details about "Rocky" at Internet Movie Data Base.