Rocky


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Details At A Glance

General
Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1978 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 114:16 Minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director John G. Avildsen
Studio
Distributor

Fox
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Burgess Meredith
Carl Weathers
Talia Shire
Burt Young
Case Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Bill Conti
 
Video
Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Miscellaneous
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    According to what I have read, Sylvester Stallone turned down a couple of offers from major studios in order to make this film the way he intended, and the results really speak for themselves. The original Rocky is an excellent drama about the determination and will of one man, and it still stands up today as being one of the few highlights of mainstream American film-making. As for the sequels, Rocky II was an interesting continuation of the original story, and Rocky V was a very powerful story of a champion losing everything he fought so hard for. The other two films are just another case of Hollywood sequel-craziness, but some stories are just too powerful to go down without a fight, and the original Rocky is certainly one of them. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is another bum living in a bad neighbourhood, carving out a living doing odd jobs and fighting the occasional boxing match with other poor strongmen from the area. Most of his day consists of visiting Adrian (Talia Shire) at the local pet store and shaking down people who owe the local mob boss money. It's not exactly what you'd call a good living, but it's enough for him to get by.

    Meanwhile, world heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is in a bit of a bind because the opponent he was about to fight had to cancel due to injury. Naturally, he is not happy at the prospect of having to postpone the match, and none of the high-ranked boxers he seeks to replace that opponent with are available. His manager is unable to come up with any ideas on how to fill the void, so Apollo comes up with the idea of granting a low-ranked boxer a shot at the title. Soon, a match is arranged between Balboa and Creed, and the film goes through the different paths the two follow up until their heavily publicized bout. To tell you much more about the film would spoil it for you if you haven't seen the film already, but suffice it to say that this film is definitely worthy of the two hours you'll spend watching it.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Okay, so we're dealing with a twenty-year-old film from the vaults of someone other than Columbia here, so how well does it stack up against other transfers of this class? Not all that well, to be quite frank. This transfer is presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Most of the flaws that are apparent in this transfer, however, aren't really the fault of the transfer itself, and there is little that enhancement could do for this film. It would have been much better for the transfer if MGM had gone back to the original negatives and brought out a newer, cleaner print for exhibition or transfer. The sharpness of this transfer varies in accordance with the distance of objects from the camera. Close-up shots are very sharp, but all of the backgrounds are indistinct and slightly blurred, but this is a problem with the original photography and the film stock rather than any fault of the limited vertical resolution of the transfer. Shadow detail is rather lacking, with the blacks mostly being pure black, but there doesn't appear to be any low-level noise.

    The colour saturation of this film is very muted and dull, but this is reflective of the way in which the film was shot, as well as the way colours were balanced in films with real-life subject matter during the late 1970s. MPEG artefacts did not appear at any point in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts picked up the slack, big-time, with every possible culprit you can think of adding some shimmer to the image. Fence posts, alarm clocks, car chrome, illuminated signposts, all of them shimmered whenever the camera moved, and almost as often when it didn't. While this transfer is nowhere near as bad as films like The Thing for showing some aliasing when you least wanted it, there is enough of it to make for a less-than-optimal viewing experience. Some telecine wobble becomes apparent at 69:45, with the entire picture shaking up and down as if the camera were being operated by a crack-addled duck. Finally, film artefacts are also a significant problem with this transfer, with all sorts of black and white marks showing up in the picture every so often, and the occasional scratch on the negative for good measure.

Audio

    Well, what can you say about a film that contains one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of specially-made music? There is only one soundtrack included on this DVD: the original English dialogue, mixed into a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This is an improvement over the original theatrical exhibition, would would have doubtlessly have been in mono, even though the mix is somewhat limited in scope by 5.1 standards. The Rocky theme benefits the most from the 5.1 remix, with the refrain of the whole song pounding out like a John Williams theme, and giving a perfect encapsulation of what the film is about. The dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand, within the limits of everyone's tendency to mumble or speak as though they have a pen stuck between their teeth, not to mention the techniques that were used to record it in the first place. Audio sync was slightly problematic, not with the dialogue, but with some poorly dubbed-in sounds such as Rocky punching the sides of meat.

    The score music in this film is mostly provided by Bill Conti, and it is a surprisingly moving effort for a film that is basically about the lead-up to a boxing match. In addition to the powerful Rocky theme, some whimsical and reflective themes are used to convey the emotion of a particular moment in the film. Although these pieces of music don't have a great deal of impact overall, the overall film score is very appropriate for the general theme of the film. It is easy to see why the Rocky theme is listed as one of the ten most recognizable pieces of film scoring ever committed to the big screen.

    As I mentioned, the surround presence is somewhat limited by the source material, with the rears only being called upon to support such ambient sounds as the spectators, and of course the music. When they were used, the rears were well integrated into the soundtrack, giving such moment as the title fight a somewhat immersive and life-like quality that they probably never have had before. It succeeded amply in drawing me into the film in a way that no other presentation of this film has ever done. The subwoofer was occasionally used to put some bottom end on some sequences, but it had very little to do due to the limitations of the source material.

Extras

    There are very little in the way of extras on this disc, which is probably just as well when you consider that what is on the disc must have played hell on the compression.

Menu

    The menu basically contains a still from the film, without any enhancements of any kind. The menu is not 16x9 enhanced, either.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, without 16x9 enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. It looks as if it had been stored in soft mud for the last twenty years.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     There is really no compelling reason to prefer one version of this disc over another, especially given that neither version has what this film would sorely need: a digitally-remastered print, commentary by Sylvester Stallone (who also wrote and choreographed the film), and 16x9 enhancement. Our version, however, is packaged properly and doesn't suffer from the malady of having the same film encoded onto different sides of the disc.

Summary

    Rocky is a surprisingly good story about one man's determination to make the most out of the one chance he is given, presented on a rather average DVD.

    The video quality could have done with a back-to-the-source remastering, but it is streets ahead of any VHS presentation.

    The audio quality carries its limitations from the original source material, but it is still quite good considering that factor.

    A poorly-preserved theatrical trailer keeps this DVD streets ahead of most Warner Brothers releases for extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall
© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
May 3, 2000. 
Review Equipment
   
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer