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If you don’t know the story of Rocky, it goes as follows. Rocky Balboa is fighter. He frequents the local boxing club to work out and in fact is often a contender for the meagre purses that are offered as the prize for winning a fight. In his spare time, he’s also working the streets for a loan shark and is trying to win the heart and hand of Adrian (Talia Shire), a pet-store clerk.

Rocky: Special Edition
In the meantime, heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), sponsors the opportunity of a lifetime. Creed puts up an offer to have one boxer fight him for the world title. Rocky of course, evaluates his abilities, begins a training regime and accepts the challenge for the world title.

“Rocky”, in my opinion, is the film in which all sports films after it try to be. Some succeed and some fail, but what “Rocky” has that the numerous films that have come after it don’t, is heart. Written by Sylvester Stallone, the characters are real people, in real situations, and you can’t help but feel apart of the challenges that face each character.

Stallone gives a fantastic performance as the poor man from Philadelphia, with a dream to be a prizefighter. This is indeed Stallone’s best film. It’s sad that he was cornered into being an action star of the 80’s and wasn’t offered quality roles after this, excluding of course the other Rocky films. Talia Shire shows her wide range as an actress. She can play the sister in a Mafia family (The Godfather) and then turn around a few years later and play the role of the meek pet storeowner who isn’t exactly sure where she is going in life. There is a sense of loneliness and despair in her character, and Rocky is able to pull Adrian out of that loneliness and find his soul mate. The film also showcases marvellous performances by Burt Young, who portrays Adrian’s rough-on-the-edges brother Pauly and Burgess Meredith, the seasoned boxing trainer Mickey.

Video
This 25th anniversary of “Rocky” has been presented in original 1.85 aspect ratio, and is anamorphically enhanced. The picture as a whole looks great; however, there are several noticeable spots of graininess and scratches on the film. MGM did not exactly do a fantastic job in transferring this classic film to DVD, yet overall I am happy with it. There are much older, classic films that have been given much better treatment.

Rocky: Special Edition
Audio
The audio levels sound great, not necessarily fantastic as I had expected with a new 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, but satisfying. I was hoping for a rousing, almost “live” sound during the fighting scenes, and it wasn’t much like that. In fact, they were surprisingly weak. I suppose the quality can be attributed to an older soundtrack yet, once again, I will point out that there are several films older then “Rocky” that have a stellar audio tracks.

Extras
MGM has presented a knock out disc with the numerous extras featured.

First off, there is an excellent audio commentary from director John Avildsen, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, and Garrett Brown. All of these individuals had something to with the film, either in front or behind the camera. The discussion that ensues is full of stories about the road to production, and of the humorous antics that occurred on set. This is great!

Next up is a video commentary by Sylvester Stallone, which doesn’t run the entire length of the film (in fact its only about 30 minutes) but it is an interesting piece that allows Stallone to reflect on the film, the cast, and the Hollywood experience as a whole. My only disappointment is that Stallone wasn’t around to do a commentary for the whole film.

MGM has also included a short featurette, “A Tribute to Burgess Meredith” which features Stallone, Weathers, Young, and Lee Grant. This was a very touching featurette, although, it should have been a bit longer. I would have liked to have seen something more of his long career in Hollywood.

Next up, a “Behind the Scenes” featurette introduced by director John Avildsen. This piece is interesting as we are given insight into how footage of make-up test shots was shot, and the fight choreography between Rocky and Apollo Creed. Avildsen also hosts a short piece on James Crabe, cinematographer on the film.

Finally, the extras close out with theatrical trailers for all five Rocky movies, and three television spots.

Rocky: Special Edition
Overall
A great film deserves a great DVD special edition, and MGM has certainly climbed into the ring with this one! A classic film has been preserved well on the DVD format, although the video transfer and the audio track were a bit disappointing. I can say that it won’t stop me from recommending this film. As far as extra features go, any Rocky fan will be knocked out!


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