Rocky Anthology Review

The Rocky Anthology is a dream for fans, as it comprehensively includes all five films of the saga. Some might argue that the four sequels cheapened what was a fantastic original film, but whether you agree with this notion or not, you cannot disagree with the fact that the series has proved to be tremendously popular.

ROCKY (1976)




The R2 version of Rocky is almost identical to the R1 version, so click here for the review. The only difference is that the R2 version sadly does not include the original mono mix alongside the new 5.1 mix. However, this is only a minor fault. The picture on the R2 is slightly better and colours are more vibrant. Subtitles and other audio languages also differ.

Subtitles : English, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Polish, Greek, Hungarian, Hebrew, Turkish, English Hard of Hearing.

Audio: English Dolby 5.1




ROCKY II (1979)




Would the original Rocky have been regarded as a true masterpiece if no sequels were produced? It certainly is true that the number of Rocky sequels have ensured that the series has a closer association with Sylvester Stallone's other, more mindlessly action-orientated Rambo series. Whilst it is mostly uncontested that Rocky is still seen as a classic, it's more of a question of asking whether sequels such as this necessary? Even so, Rocky II follows from the exact moment where Rocky finishes - the fight with Apollo Creed. En route to the hospital, the two clash after the fight and talk of a rematch is banded around both camps. Rocky isn't interested in a rematch however, he's more interested in pursuing his love with Adrian and starting a family. Apollo has other plans, and after losing credibility and facing allegations of a fixed fight, he wants to prove that he can be a true heavyweight champion. A campaign of propaganda ensues, and Rocky is begrudgingly forced to fight Apollo again, against Adrian's wishes and against orders of his doctor, who fears that another fight could end Rocky's eyesight.

Writing the screenplays to the films weren't enough for Stallone, so with Rocky II he takes his turn at directing too. The film is essentially a remake of the first film. The glorious training montage of the first is restored with addition of a legion of the kids in the second, and Bill Conti's music score has changed little since Rocky. The problem with Rocky II is that it places more emphasis on the fight as opposed to the romantic elements. This seems to be the opposite agenda to the first film, and Rocky II quickly forces itself to be a by-the-numbers sequel. It's still very enjoyable, and behind Rocky III is the best of the sequels, but unfortunately it imitates rather than improves over the original.




Picture
R2 consumers should count their blessings that Rocky II is anamorphic 1.85:1, as the R1 version isn't, both as stand-alone and in the box set. The picture is nice, the colours are striking and there are relatively few blemishes and scratches. Rocky II is also not as bleak and gloomy as the original, even if that was the original's intention, and therefore this transfer is more vibrant.

Sound
Presented in a Dolby 2.0 surround mix, the sound recording is essentially presented in a slightly-more-than-mono mix, although compared to TV and video versions the sound exhibits greater clarity and definition than previous efforts. As with all of the Rocky films, sound quality is only noticeably greater than before on the scenes with music on the soundtrack.




Extras

Original Trailer: A sole trailer is provided, and aim's to capitalise on the rematch elements of the first film.

SUBTITLES: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, English and German Hard of Hearing

AUDIO TRACKS: English 2.0, German 2.0, French Mono, Italian Mono, Spanish Mono

Director: Sylvester Stallone


FILM: 7
VIDEO: 8
SOUND: 6
EXTRAS: 1
OVERALL: 5





ROCKY III (1982)






As mentioned previously, Rocky III is the best of the sequels and poses some interesting themes, such as how a champion fighter maintains his grip on reality, after becoming a wealthy celebrity who no longer has to fight for a living. Rocky is now super rich and super famous, and decides that as he now has a loving family and can easily support them, why fight any longer? Announcing his retirement, Rocky is insulted by an angry, brutal title contender named Clubber Lang (Mr. T in his first role) who claims that Rocky is too scared to face him. Faced with hurt pride, Rocky aims to restore his status as the greatest champion by defeating Lang, and this time with the help of newly found friend Apollo Creed.




The plot synopsis suggests the film borders upon cliché, and you'd be right to think that, but Rocky III as sequels go is highly entertaining and suggests that maybe Stallone can find a style of his own. The training and fight sequences are very intense (and very unrealistic) and pack a powerful punch, but what really gives the film a nice warm feel is the cinematography by veteran Bill Butler, who manages to make Rocky III feel and look different to the two previous and similar efforts. Mr. T is his usual B.A. Barracus self, and there's even a nice cameo from Hulk Hogan. The survivor song 'Eye Of The Tiger' has now become world famous and was even nominated for an Oscar. What is remarkable looking back at Rocky III is just how much the film epitomises the nineteen eighties. When Rocky trains, there are blatant product placement close-ups on his Nike boots (American Express is also well represented in the film). You could even argue that a gay subtext (exemplary in films such as Commando or Top Gun) is also evident in the celebratory scenes with Rocky and Apollo on the beach. Not that either of them are gay or that Stallone deliberately intended this, but just that so many eighties texts contain extremely subtle homosexual references and conventions that became part of eighties mainstream; these conventions seem to have even infiltrated Rocky III, most probably unbeknownst to the filmmakers. That said, Rocky III is an entertaining boys-own action film that is exciting and high octane throughout.




Picture
Just like the R1 version, Rocky III is anamorphic, and the R2 version just wins out as the picture seems brighter and contains less blemishes. Never before in fact, has Rocky III looked as good, especially the exterior shots which seem bright and recent, compared to 1982 when the film was made. In fact, the only factors that do date the film are such things as fashion and cinematic tendencies contained in the film. Presented in widescreen 1.85:1.

Sound
Presented in a Dolby 5.1 mix, the sounds are somewhat dated but use more of the stereo facility compared to Rocky II. The boxing scenes are more atmospheric than previous films of the series and you experience more of a 'ringside' feel. Bill Conti's score contains some extremely eerie elements that seem more suited to the stereo mix as opposed to the mono VHS versions.




Extras

Trailer: Only a trailer, and don't watch it if you've never seen the film as it reveals many vital plot points.

SUBTITLES: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, English and German Hard of Hearing

AUDIO TRACKS: English 5.1, German Mono, French Mono, Italian Mono, Spanish Mono

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Director: Sylvester Stallone


FILM: 7
VIDEO: 8
SOUND: 7
EXTRAS: 1
OVERALL: 5





ROCKY IV (1985)





Stallone should have quit while he was ahead after Rocky III. Instead however, Rocky IV reduced the series to a tacky, dated attempt at morality in the face of the death of the Cold War. After hype surrounds a formidable Russian boxer named Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), Apollo Creed decides he can show Drago a thing or two about boxing and challenges him to a fight. The fight doesn't exactly go to plan, and Rocky must take on the superman in the heart of Russia on Christmas Day, in order to restore respect for Apollo and for capitalist America. The film opens with boxing gloves decorated in both nations' flags clashing like bombs, and when Rocky And Drago fight they are both wearing shorts decorated in their country's flags, suggesting Stallone's approach to the subject is hardly subtle.

Rocky IV was a big box office hit but represents all that is wrong with eighties films. The blatant Cold War propaganda, in tandem with Rocky's pledge for greater relations between the countries at the film's conclusion, have ensured a naïve film with little interest other than as an analytical text on the subject of 1980's Cold war propaganda in films. Stallone's former wife, Brigette Nielsen, appears in a minor role as Drago's co-manager/love interest, and James Brown even has a musical number of his best eighties song 'Living In America'; the title of that song says it all about the film. Incidentally, the credits are mildly amusing, as rather than print JAMES BROWN AS HIMSELF, it instead prints The Godfather Of Soul - JAMES BROWN. The first three Rocky films would have constituted an excellent trilogy, but the fourth ruins all of the mystique and literally becomes Rambo in a boxing ring. The sequels are so far removed from the original Rocky that it's surprising most of the characters have remained.

Picture
The R1 version of Rocky IV is not anamorphic, which scores points for us Region 2 consumers automatically considering the Region 2 version is anamorphic 1.85:1. The picture is slightly dated and dull looking, and certainly doesn't appear to be as good a shape as the previous films, but it certainly is the best transfer of Rocky IV on the market. Unfortunately, in the same vein as MGM's Annie Hall, the Subtitles on many key scenes are not automatically shown for the film, such as Drago's Russian translation. You can only see what he is saying in English if you switch Subtitles to on, which annoyingly means you have to switch them off again when he finishes speaking. This is a terrible error on MGM's part, but not enough to not warrant buying the box set. Also, this only occurs on some players, so check the hardware section in the forums for latest news regarding what players have the Subtitles.

Sound
Presented in a Dolby 5.1 mix, Rocky IV has the best sound recording of the series and this is due to the high octane eighties soundtrack and also due to the better recorded boxing scenes, where many screams and shouts from the crowd can be singled out.




Extras

Trailer: Only a trailer, and just like Rocky III don't watch it if you've never seen the film as it reveals many vital plot points.

SUBTITLES: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, English and German Hard of Hearing

AUDIO TRACKS: English 5.1, German Stereo, French Stereo, Italian Stereo, Spanish Surround

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Director: Sylvester Stallone


FILM: 3
VIDEO: 7
SOUND: 8
EXTRAS: 1
OVERALL: 3





ROCKY V (1990)





And if you thought Rocky IV was bad you haven't seen anything compared to Rocky V. Attempting to bring the series full circle, even down to the re-hiring of original Rocky director John G. Avildsen, Rocky V ironically should have ruined Stallone's career, just like the original started it. Given Stallone's fondness for the original, you can almost sense his desire to return to the wise-cracking street bum of Rocky, considering how rich and successful the character had become. In Rocky V, due to Paulie's shabby business dealings, Rocky has lost all of his fortune and is forced to return to his modest home in Philadelphia. Soon, Rocky's path is intertwined with young Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), an angry and hostile young boxer who is anxious for Rocky to turn him into a star. Rocky eventually agrees, and soon enough Tommy becomes a boxing star and is lured away by a cut-throat boxing promoter named The Duke (An obvious parody of Don King). The Duke convinces Tommy that he'll never be a star until he defeats someone of class, and after Tommy falls out with Rocky he challenges him to a fight, in what could seriously damage Rocky's health and threaten his life. At the same time as all this, Rocky has to deal with the growing alienation between him and his son (played by Stallone's own son) and find a way to return himself to his wealthy lifestyle.

Rocky V is so out of touch with the possibilities of cinema and with the breathtaking perfection of the original that it is completely obsolete. If the film angers you blame the director John G. Avildsen. His vision of Rocky isn't along the same formula as the other sequels, and by simply attempting to return to the charm of the original he has provided a cliché-ridden, predictable waste of time. The boxing scenes, with obligatory booing crowds and snarls from the boxers, give nothing more than the feeling of watching a WWF wrestling match. If you like the first three, avoid the last two sequels and you're image of the Rocky saga will not have been tainted like the unfortunate souls who have had to suffer Rocky IV and Rocky V.

Picture
Presented in Anamorphic 1.85:1, the picture is relatively blemish free but slightly gloomy looking. By viewing the picture you can date it to the early nineties, as it contains that distinctive early look in its efforts to break away from the eighties. The cinematography on original Philadelphia locations is rather splendid, but the night-time scenes appear extremely staged and the lighting is overbearingly fake.

Sound
Presented in a Dolby 2.0 surround mix, Rocky V isn't as good a sound recording as Rocky IV, probably due to the feeling that a lower budget was spent on the film and that it isn't 5.1. The sound is still the best recording of Rocky V available.



Extras

Trailer: Only a trailer, and even that doesn't make the film seem appealing.

SUBTITLES: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, English and German Hard of Hearing

AUDIO TRACKS: English 2.0 Surround, German Surround, French Surround, Italian Surround, Spanish Surround

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Director: John G. Avildsen


FILM: 1
VIDEO: 6
SOUND: 6
EXTRAS: 1
OVERALL: 1





Box Set Packaging: The packaging is quite aesthetically pleasing, with a nice white and sepia out slide-on box, which covers up a fold-out cardboard casing which contains all five discs, themselves each containing a picture of Rocky from the respective films. A booklet, typical of MGM releases, is also included contains some interesting anecdotes about the series.




Conclusion


It's a shame that, other than the comprehensive package of the original film, there are no extras other than trailers for the four sequels. You'd at least expect a fifteen minute 'making-of' or other small extras, but unfortunately none are provided. The first three films do credit to the saga, and yet the last two don't deserve the name of Rocky. The box set, however, is still a nice package and will take pride of place in your collection if you are a fan. Its relatively cheap RRP in various retailers might also help to sway you too.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
3 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

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