His whole life was a million to one shot...
Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Extra tracks, Widescreen
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 7
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
DVD Release Date: November 3, 2009
Run Time: 532 minutes
Since this is a boxed set and contains six movies each one will get it’s own star rating
Rocky- The Undisputed Collection on Bluray
Undisputed is a pretty bold name considering this box set almost gets KO’d in the first round!
Rocky eventually became a Hollywood joke to some. Just look at Airplane II- They spoof the Rocky movies with a poster of Rocky XXXVIII in one scene. Part of this joking and poking fun of the franchise is Stallone’s fault, but he is man enough to admit to that.
People do forget though that Rocky started out as a major contender and even won an Academy award for best picture back in 1976.
What sets Rocky apart from the rest of the franchise is the character development. Most people seem to only remember the fight at the end, but the majority of the movie was all about the characters. That’s why Rocky worked so well, people cared about the characters and what was happening to them.
Even the bad guy wasn’t truly a bad person. Apollo Creed was clearly modeled after Muhammad Ali. Ali was a showman, same as was Apollo. There never really was any animosity between Apollo and Rocky in the first film, just two boxers fighting. Granted Apollo had no respect for Rocky’s fighting ability, but that doesn’t make him a ‘bad guy’.
An interesting foot note is that in the original screenplay there were some truly nasty characters that would qualify as bad people… and Rocky was probably the worse of them all! The original story showed a very different Rocky, one that actually did break bones when collecting for Gazzo. Even Micky was worse than Apollo by a long shot. The original Micky was a racist bigot who didn’t care who knew his views. Overall the original draft was much darker than what made it to the screen.
What makes Rocky work is a combination great acting, a good story, excellent character development, and then an adrenaline filled ending. It would have been a cheap empty ending if Stallone had written it that Rocky wins. The way it ended was perfect and the Academy agreed.
Rocky is one of those movies that I have a lot of nostalgia for because I remember my brother taking me to see it at our local drive-in. It was 1976 and I was 12. Just going to the drive-in was a treat, but this movie is one of my fond childhood memories. I don’t even remember what the other movie at the drive-in was. Rocky won me over at a very early age.
There is nothing out of line as far as language or adult situations. The fight is brutal though. Some domestic violence is also depicted.
Rocky II often gets overlooked however it still has the feel of the first movie. At least a good chunk of it remains true to the original. The main problem with Rocky II is for the most part it is just a rehash of the first movie. People really wanted to see Rocky win, so they threw the second entry in the franchise together to give them what they wanted. As far as character development though there isn’t much going on that we haven’t seen in the first movie. In fact Rocky actually seems to be a bit of a buffoon in Rocky II whereas in Rocky he was more of a likable low rent loser type that was given a shot at the title.
Still Rocky II feels more like the original than any other in the series. The main problem with this entry is there simply isn’t really anywhere for it to go. Everyone knows Rocky will win this time, otherwise what would the purpose be of making a sequel exactly like the first.
In this outing Stallone tries to expand on the characters but in some ways he ends up tarnishing things, but not too bad at least. As mentioned Rocky comes across as a bit too naive at times and using a chicken to train someone for the heavy weight rematch of the century seemed just silly.
Rocky II was stuffed with a lot of bloat to pump up the running time. The movie starts with the last couple of rounds of the fight from the first movie, and is then followed up with the opening credits over the scenes of the ambulance ride to the hospital which lasts several minutes. Then scattered throughout the first half hour was Rocky buying junk, interacting with neighborhood kids and other nice, but needless scenes. All in all a good 20 minutes or so could be trimmed from Rocky II without altering the story or impacting the movie at all.
Rocky III is when the franchise became a sell out. Character development all but stopped from here on out. For the first time in the franchise a true ‘bad guy’ was introduced. There really were no redeeming qualities Clubber had… he was just pure meanness and everything that is bad. Also there was no back story, no background, no nothing. Clubber just appeared and subsequently vanished.
Even though Rocky III may be when the franchise officially went Hollywood and sold out, it is still undeniably the best guilty pleasure of the entire franchise. Anyone that watches it instantly wants to start working out. This is one of those rare movies that even after seeing it over and over- you still feel pumped up and energized at the end.
Rocky III departed from the original format in several ways. First and foremost a true villain is introduced. Apollo was guilty of being cocky and arrogant at best, but he's no villian. Even in Rocky II it is totally understandable that Apollo is upset because of what his fans were saying. He didn’t necessarily hate Rocky, rather Apollo was more upset with himself for taking things too lightly the first time… something he wouldn’t do the second time around. There is even a line in Rocky II where Apollo’s manager tells him “You do realize if we do this you’re setting yourself up as the bad guy?” So it’s just an act and part of the persona. In fact Apollo and Rocky even become friends in this outing.
Clubber though is truly despicable and even starts to talk trash to Rocky at his retirement announcement and then starts making sexual comments about Adrian to get Rocky spun up and to fight him. Clubber even hits a fan on his way to the ring.
The other departure is that Rocky III gives us two fights instead of one. Plus the training montage is ramped up and takes up much more screen time than the previous movies.
Add to this that Rocky suddenly has become sophisticated and now has no trouble reading or doing commercials, something of which he could do neither in Rocky II. I suppose this could be explained from Rocky II where Rocky learns to read by reading books to Adrian while she’s in a coma in the hospital. Still… he seems to have come a long long way from where he was in Rocky.
Even though everyone agrees Rocky III is a Hollywood sellout it still works. It’s not perfect but it pumps more adrenaline and gusto than just about all the other movies put together. Rocky III is guilty pleasure at its best!
If Rocky III is the sellout, then Rocky IV is when it became a parody of itself and almost a cartoon. By now Stallone was the biggest action star on the planet. He had forgotten his roots and what things were like when he wrote Rocky while living in that cramped run down apartment he lived in. Gone was the grit and grime that made Rocky feel so real in the first movie.
Rocky IV came in at 91 minutes… the shortest running of the franchise. If you were to take out the workout montages and the flashback sequences Rocky IV would be barely half that long. Some have said it should have been named Rocky IV the Music Video because it was more montage and sound track than anything.
Also we get another super villain with no real background. Drago just shows up and also happens to be Russian… a common foe of Stallone’s characters at that time. They even introduce a talking robot in this one! By now simply running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Library isn’t good enough- Rocky literally has to run up the side of a mountain in this one to symbolize he is ready to defeat the mountain size Russian. Rocky also seems to have lost all of his fighting skills that Apollo taught him. In this one he’s back to being a toe to toe bruiser, however he’s fighting a guy that would have popped Clubber Lang like a soap bubble hitting a cactus! If anything he needed to out box Drago because there was no way he could out punch him. Well… that is if this were a real fight.
Again we have two fights, but to ‘shake things up’ Rocky doesn’t do all the fighting. Apollo steps back into the ring to fight Drago first in an exhibition fight, and man what an exhibition it is!
Each movie had to try and out do the previous ones, and what’s better to outdo things than to open the first fight with a full on Vegas show complete with dancing showgirls and with The GodFather of Soul himself… James Brown.
The training montage grows to take up over half the movie, which means there is no room for any character development at all. If it weren’t for the excellent development in the first movie we’d have nothing to go on at all.
The workouts even become silly. Drago is actually working out and sparring with other boxers… and even taking steroids. Rocky on the other hand is running around in snow, chopping down trees, moving rocks, pulling Paulie around like a sled dog… all of which is somehow supposed to condition and train him to fight someone the likes of Drago. By now the chicken chasing scene in Rocky II looks almost normal!
So Rocky wins in Rocky IV the musical. Go figure.
By now Stallone was starting to step back and do some self reflection. He openly admits that the 80’s and early 90’s were his sellout years and said if he could go back he would have done things a lot different. At one time Hollywood was looking at Stallone as the next Brando, De Niro, or Pacino. So ironically in retrospect Stallone really ‘coulda been a contender’ and remembered as one of Hollywood’s great actors instead of a one dimensional action star.
Rocky V may be thought of by most as the worse entry in the entire franchise, but don’t blame everything on Stallone. He wanted to bring the character back to its roots, and in a lot of ways he succeeded.
In an interview Stallone said he actually planned on Rocky dying in Rocky V. It was partly to send a message about how brutal a sport boxing is and also to bring closure to the character. He didn’t say how, but I assume it would have been from a fight. He pitched his idea and the studio shot him down. First they said they didn’t want a movie being released at Christmas time that was downbeat like killing Rocky off would be. Second they said they didn’t want to kill off one of their best liked franchise characters. The street fight at the end sounds like it was a result of that discussion with the studio and Stallone has said he never liked it and always regretted how Rocky V turned out… especially when it was supposed to be the final chapter.
So don’t totally blame Stallone for Rocky V. He wanted a different ending and the street fight was something pushed on him.
One thing he did succeed at was taking Rock back to his roots. The scene where Rocky finds the chest with his old coat and hat is incredible. Fourteen years had passed from Rocky to Rocky V, yet when Stallone put the hat and coat back on he looked exactly the same as he did in the first movie. Other than that… Rocky V was a complete disaster.
Below are two images, the one to the left is from Rocky in 1976, and the one to the right is from Rocky V in 1990
Boxing scenes, domestic situations.
Which brings us to Rocky Balboa. Yes it is obviously an attempt by Stallone to relive his glory days, but I really do think he wanted to do right by the franchise and have Rocky go out on a good note rather than how Rocky V ended and how much people hated it.
The premise of Rocky Balboa was totally preposterous but somehow and on some level it actually worked. One of the reasons was because Stallone brought back character development, albeit not as well as he did in Rocky, but at least he tried.
The fight itself was a laughable concept. Without giving things away, there is something that happens during the fight that somewhat levels the playing field and makes things at least plausible… well Hollywood plausible let’s say. Stallone said as far as he’s concerned the only two movies a person needs to see to get a glimpse of Rocky’s life is Rocky and Rocky Balboa. He really doesn’t think much of the other entries and shrugs them off as a time when he was all about the money.
With all that said, now I’ll explain why this was almost a KO in the first… and not in the Champ’s favor. Quite simply this is not up to what I expect from Bluray standards at all. I have the DVD box set as well as I have these PVR’d from cable HD. Normally I complain about how cable HD isn’t really high def and how it doesn’t come close to Blurays. In this case I have to say the cable broadcast is better, although it was only in 2 channel stereo.
The Undisputed Collection in BD really doesn’t look much better picture quality wise than my Standard Def box set. In some scenes the BD versions actually look worse in my opinion. The one thing I will give it a plus on is that my box set has Rocky II in 4:3 letterbox, which I absolutely hate that format. The Undisputed Collection is all in 16:9 with 5.1 sound. The newer movies do look better than Rocky, however I feel Rocky is the one that should have gotten the royal treatment and look the best.
Other than that, there really isn’t much to praise about this boxed set. I already had Rocky Balboa on Bluray- I bought that as soon as it came out. I have to double check, but even the special features aren’t that special. They are all on the regular DVD or the original Rocky Balboa release. I believe the one new item is some interactive game they threw on.
The price was good but not great. Right now you can get these on Standard def and I’ve seen them in the $5 bin. So $49.99 for the Bluray set when it is the same quality as the SDVD set is not such a great deal.
The 5.1 DTS soundtrack is crisp and clean. There really isn’t a lot of bass and there definitely aren’t any explosions or machine guns but there is lots of great music, which sounds fantastic.
Feeling Strong Now! Game
Three Rounds with Legendary Trainer Lou Duva
Interview with a Legend - Bert Sugar: Author/Commentator and Historian
In the Ring: Three-Part Making-Of Documentary
Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown
Make Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore
Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti
The Ring of Truth
Behind the Scenes with John Avildsen
Tribute to Burgess Meredith
Tribute to James Crabe
Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (1976)
Stallone Meets Rocky
Rocky Anthology Trailers: Rocky Theatrical Trailer, Rocky Teaser Trailer, Rocky II Theatrical Trailer, Rocky III Theatrical Trailer, Rocky IV Theatrical Trailer, Rocky V Theatrical Trailer, Rocky Balboa Theatrical Trailer
Rocky TV Spots
It’s probably pretty clear that I am disappointed. To me there is no reason why they couldn’t have cleaned up the film a little. I’m not talking about a full Lowery remaster transfer… even if they would have used the film that was in the best condition and at least cleaned it with solution it would have been better. It really looks like all they did was to take the DVD and put it on a Bluray disc. I have no idea why it is 22GB in size because the PQ doesn’t look any better than the 4.2GB SD version.
Maybe someday there will be a remastered version, that is if MGM can survive the financial problems it’s having right now.
(All images are actually from the BD of each movie)