Like my recent film review for "Superman", I'm going to go quickly to the DVD part of the review after speaking a little bit about the film. Simply, like many other classics, everyone knows about the story. Sylvester Stallone stars in his debut film as Rocky, a thug who turns his life around and becomes a professional boxer. Stallone wrote the screenplay and, despite some pretty high offers for his work, he turned them down because he could only see himself in the role, as he discusses in greater detail during the 28 minute interview included on this DVD.
Stallone has taken an unfortunate set of turns down the action hero road during the past 10 years ("Get Carter", "Judge Dredd", the list goes on). The only performance of his that was really more than one-dimensional was for his rescue worker in director Rob Cohen's "Daylight". Hopefully, Stallone's return to writing & acting with his next picture "Driven" (opening a couple days after this review and also, re-uniting him with "Cliffhanger" director Renny Harlin) will be a "Rocky" on the racetrack.
VIDEO: I haven't been particularly stunned by anything that MGM has released in recent memory, and although they have attempted some improvements for this 1.85:1 anamorphic edition of "Rocky", it still comes up rather short overall. Sharpness and detail aren't bad at all, although some of the dimly lit scenes are murky and undefined.
What occasionally becomes an irritant are the print flaws that appear every so often throughout the film. Although print flaws aren't a heavy problem throughout the film, when they do appear there's often enough to be quite noticable. I would think some restoration would be done on the film, but oh well. A couple of very minor instances of edge enhancement appear, but the print flaws are really the main problem here.
Colors seemed fine - this certainly isn't a film that presents a wide range of colors, but I didn't notice anything problematic, either. Overall, I guess I'm satisfied, but I'm not pleased or impressed by MGM's work.
SOUND: "Rocky" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 for this release, although it seemed to rarely expand far beyond mono. Surrounds come into play during a couple of the film's more intense sequences, but otherwise, they're completely silent. The score sounds fairly good in terms of audio quality, but with the film's low-budget origins, the rest of the film doesn't present particularly remarkable audio quality. Dialogue sounds rather edgy, but never harsh or uncomfortable to listen to.
MENUS:: Combined with the thrilling score, there's a great animated main menu that really gets the viewer into the movie.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director John G. Avildsen, Irwin Winkler, Garrett Brown, Robert Chartoff, Carl Weathers, and Talia Shire. None of the participants have been recorded together, but they all do bring a great deal to the table. As the film was low-budget, the group is able to offer some interesting and entertaining stories about how the cast and crew were able to be creative in trying to make scenes work with what money they had - and how some scenes actually turned out for the better after being creative with the little resources the film had. There's a good deal of insight and occasional humor - it's a track well worth a listen.
Video Commentary: Better yet is this video commentary from actor Sylvester Stallone, who is funnier and more animated than I think I've ever seen him as he calls the story of making "Rocky" from the very begining of sitting down to write it to the production of the low-budget film itself. Stallone gives the complete story and seems like he's having a great time reliving those moments.
Behind The Scenes Featurettes: This is a behind-the-scenes featurette with Jon Avildsen, who goes through several minutes of 8mm footage that was shot to plan out some of the film's fight scenes before they went off to do the final shoot for these scenes. There are also two featurettes that are tributes to two contributors who have passed - actor Burgess Meredith and cinematographer James Crabe.
Trailers/Ads: Teaser/Trailer for "Rocky" and trailers for the sequels.
Final Thoughts: Some might say I'm being too picky with MGM's titles, but they simply have yet to impress me like the outstanding efforts that many other studios have provided for titles both new and old lately. They've put together some great supplements, it's just unfortunate that they couldn't put that same amount of effort into the presentation of the film itself. Still, a great film and, well, if this is the best edition of it we're going to get right now, I can recommend it.
The Film *** 1/2
Video 79/C+ = (316/400 possible points)
Audio: 77/C = (308/400 possible points)
Extras: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
Menus: 89/B+ = (178/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: *** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B