From the horn fanfare created by Bill Conti to the fantastic steadicam work (a revolutionary reveal at the time), to an open, honest performance from Sylvester Stallone, 1976’s Rocky remains an iconic film, and the first ‘sports’ film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Stallone wrote the film and was heavily involved in its making, not only starring in it but working to make sure that it was the best it could be it’s a gritty, dirty look at a coulda been pugilist, Rocky Balboa (Stallone), who is scrimping out a living as a low-level thug for a low-level crime boss.
He has a thing for Adrian (Talia Shire) who works in the local pet store, and whose brother, Paulie (Burt Young) is a drunk, and a bit of a frenemy.
The local gym, run by Mickey (Burgess Meredith), is less than happy to have him as a member because Mickey hates that Rocky has squandered his potential, but fate is about to take a hand.
It seems that Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is in town, and his originally scheduled boxing match has fallen through, so he cooks up the idea that he’ll offer an underdog a chance at the heavyweight title, and he likes the sound of Rocky.
Rocky isn’t sure he can even fight Apollo, but Paulie shows up at his side to try and promote him, and make some money, Mickey changes his tune and offers to help train him, and the only constant through it all, is the developing love story between Rocky and Adrian.
Yes, there are some things of concern when Adrian goes to Rocky’s apartment for the first time, things that would make most modern-day viewers a little uncomfortable, but the rest of the story works.
Watching with an aware eye, you can tell that the shoot was constrained by its budget, but every bit of it is on the screen, all of it leading to the final showdown between Rocky and Apollo with Balboa simply wanting to go the distance, so he can stand proud.
I did have some issues with the way the finale was shot. It was very obvious from the way things were shot that not only were the punches not connecting, you can see them miss on screen, while the actors continue to pretend they take the hit. Still, suspension of disbelief.
Rocky walked away with Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editor, but had also been nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Music.
The film stands up and brings to life a dirty-looking Philidelphia that reeks of the 70s, and Stallone is fantastic as the underdog who became an icon for a generation and spawned a number of sequels, and a spin-off series. I guess I better lace up the gloves because I think I’ll be taking a look at all of them.
Gonna fly now!