ROCKY: HEAVYWEIGHT COLLECTION Blu-ray Review
Rocky is one of the greatest boxing films ever made and is the film that catapulted Sylvester Stallone into the limelight. This is the second time the Rocky films have been put together into a collection, but the first time it’s featured a remastered version of Rocky. The set contains over three hours of bonus features including a new featurette “8mm Home Movies of Rocky” narrated by Director John Avildsen. Keep reading for mini-reviews of each of the films. Beware the reviews contain spoilers if you haven’t watched the films.
Rocky Blu-ray Remastered:
This remastered version is well worth the price for this collectors set. Not only is the film the best of franchise, it features stunning video and audio clarity. It won Best Picture, Director, and Editing in 1976 for a reason. It is the quintessential story of an underdog club fighter who lucks into a chance at a fight agains the world heavyweight champion, wonderfully played by Carl Weathers. Stallone not only starred int he film, he wrote it as well. There are so many memorable moments in the film directed by John Avildsen. From the epic training sequences with Mickey (Burgess Meredith) to the final boxing match, this move is a must-watch for boxing fans. Aside from the amazing boxing sequences we are treated to a heartwarming love story between Rocky and Adrian (Talia Shire). Burt Young delivered an Oscar-nominated performance as Adrian’s hot-tempered brother.
What makes the film a strong sequel is that there is not a long gap between story of the first film and this one, Filmed only three years after the first film, Rocky II takes the story to the next level, following Rocky after his bout with Apollo Creed and the expected rematch that is the focal point of the sequel. After being pummeled in the ring Rocky’s doctor advises against any future fights, but with not many chances of work he signs on for a rematch that could change his and Adrian’s life forever. The authenticity of the characters and strong fight scenes make this a worthy sequel.
The third installment follows Rocky through his natural progression in his career as world heavyweight champion. Rocky dispatches all of his opponents with ease until he is challenged by Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Lang is a beast in the ring and is a threat to Rocky’s title. Mickey’s health has gone down hill and he passes away the night he Rocky is defeated by Lang. The recently retired Apollo Creed steps in to to help train Rocky for his rematch with Lang. The boxing scenes are good as usual in Rocky III, but Lang is a bit cartoonish. The storyline continues to please outside of the ring with Rocky’s relationship with his brother-in-law Pauly becoming strained. Rocky builds a strong friendship with Creed during this film, and it’s cool to see two adversaries coming together to fight Lang. Rocky III also supplies us with the great 80’s hit, “Eye of the Tiger” which I love to this day.
Four films is one too many in my mind, and as expected Rocky IV is an overly-cheesy film that plays upon the timely cold war relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Apollo Creed comes out of retirement to fight the machine-like Drago (Dolphy Lundgren). Creed is killed during the match and Rocky steps up to face-off against Drago in a memorable match. The majority of the film is set in Russia, and features some memorable training sequences. While Rocky uses old-school training techniques as usual, the Russian’s provide state-of-the-art facilities to Drago. The fight sequence at the end is memorable yet quite silly because of the message of unity between the U.S. and Russia. It almost feels as if the boxing match is the reason behind the demise of the cold war.
This is when Stallone should have said enough’s enough and opted out of making the fifth installment. Rocky’s boxing career is over and he’s had to file for bankruptcy and move from his mansion back to his old neighborhood in Philadelphia. He takes on a new fighter Tommy ‘Machine’ Gunn (real-life boxer Tommy Morrison) as his protege to help train him for the ring. Tommy is swayed by the glitz an glamor and betrays Rocky, which leads to the two fighting one another. One thing the Rocky films have going for them is the consistency of the cast. So many sequels often have a new star come in to take over a supporting role. I can’t stand it when this happens because it breaks up the feel of the film. Rocky V has the least amount of spark to it, and the final fight sequence leaves a lot to be desired.
I wish this has been the fifth installment of the franchise, and that they had skipped over Rocky V. The story tries to re-capture the feel of the first film by following an aging boxer whose family life has deteriorated after Adrian (Talia Shire) has passed away. Rocky is wallowing in despair and financial ruin. Much like the first film, Rocky gets a chance at redemption with an exhibition fight against champion Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), which is quite the ludicrous pairing. It would have been better seeing Rocky fight another over-the-hill fighter instead of someone much younger and energetic. Stallone wrote and directed this final chapter in the Rocky franchise, which should have ended with Rocky IV.
Rocky: Heavyweight Collection Special Features:
- 8mm Home Movies of Rocky (1975) — Narrated by Director John G. Avildsen and Production Manager Lloyd Kaufman
- In the Ring: Three-Part Making-of Documentary
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: Makeup, Music, Directing and Camera Work
- Boxing Featurettes: Three Rounds with Legendary Trainer Lou Duva, The Opponents and The Ring of Truth
- Tributes: Burgess Meredith, James Crabe
- Interview with a Legend: Bert Sugar
- Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone
- Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (1976)
- Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots and More!
The Rocky: Heavyweight Collection is a must-own boxing saga for fans of underdog stories. You can buy it today on Amazon.