When you look back on this film you might find it hard to believe that it received 10 Oscar nominations in 1976. To top it off it won Best Picture that year. Agreed it is not a classically great film, but everything has to be put into perspective though. The United States were just coming out of Vietnam and that mess, so as a country and a people they really needed a hero to cheer for and Rocky Balboa fit the bill perfectly. Americans have always loved the guy-next-door who triumphs over astounding odds to succeed type stories.
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone – Rocky Balboa, Rambo) is a down-and-out Philadelphia club fighter who works for a local gangster named Gazzo (Joe Spinell – Married to the Mob, Brubaker) collecting his debts. He is going nowhere in life…or so it seems. Rocky’s best friend Paulie (Burt Young – Tansamerica, The Pope of Greenwich Village) takes care of his painfully shy sister, Adrian (Talia Shire – The Godfather, I Heart Huckabees), who Rocky has taken a shine to. His persistence begins to win her over.
Suddenly the Italian Stallion, Rocky’s nickname, is given the opportunity to fight the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers – Happy Gilmore, Action Jackson). This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that he cannot turn down no matter the odds stacked against him. Paulie tries to get involved and get a cut of the action acting as Rocky’s manager. He is jealous of the attention that Rocky is getting and eventually it comes between the friends. Adrian and Rocky move in together. Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith – Grumpier Old Men, Rocky II), the 76-year-old gym owner where Rocky trains, becomes his trainer/manager. He pushes Rocky hard in training. This fight is just supposed to be a publicity stunt for Creed with him fighting a local underdog, but Rocky does not realize this and begins to train like he never has before in his life. Creed goes into the match not expecting much and finds out quickly that Rocky will challenge him. Rocky is there to prove himself worthy of being in the same ring as the world heavyweight champion.
The lessons of the film of not letting life defeat you were welcomed with open arms by the American public. This was a lesson that they needed to be reminded of. The story is loosely based on the story of an unknown boxer who challenged Muhammad Ali to a fight and lasted all 15 rounds. The film ends up not being a boxing film, but a film about a boxer. There is a great difference and this is the reason for its wide appeal. People saw it as a film where they could cheer on the underdog and in that underdog they saw themselves.
This unknown actor named Sylvester Stallone came out of nowhere to write and act in the film that won over Americans. Everything that came later in his career can be attributed to the success of this film. Most people nowadays believe that Mr. Stallone has made nothing but garbage films in his career. Well, Rocky was the exception. He showed himself capable of doing more than an action role. None of the actors in this film ever went on to do something great afterwards. Except maybe, Talia Shire with the Godfather films. Director John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid, Lean On Me) never had the same success with any of his future films, but with Rocky he demonstrated that he had the ability to tell a good story.
-Three-part In the Ring making-of documentary
-Steadycam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown
-Make Up: The Art and Form with Michael Westmore
-Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti
-The Ring of Truth
-Behind the Scenes with director John Avildsen
-Tribute to Burgess Meredith
-Tribute to James Crabe