Rocky: Collector's Edition John G. Avildsen

It’s odd to consider ultimate boxing flick Rocky a "little film” but back in the early ’70s, Sylvester Stallone was a no-name actor/writer struggling to get his screenplay read. When it did get picked up, he then struggled to convince producers to let him play the lead. The determination of Stallone is demonstrated in spades via the character of Rocky Balboa, a good-hearted amateur boxer on the road to nowhere. As Stallone says in his commentary, it is Rocky’s "unbelievable need to survive” that keeps him going in and out of the ring. And so goes the story of a true underdog — not only that of the punching bag, lovable bruiser but of the film itself. Unfortunately, five sequels have tarnished this original’s reputation, but one refresher viewing eradicates any bad thoughts. Where the later films were more concerned with giving our hero increasingly more menacing and impossible foes to vanquish, and staging unrelenting fight scenes, there’s a reason why Rocky won the Oscar in 1977 for Best Picture. Shot in 28 days for under a million dollars ("a budget for one small turkey,” as Burt Young explains in a featurette), Rocky isn’t as much a fight picture as it is a love story, and it’s a great one. Observing the shy but self-assured Balboa enter the pet store to woo shopkeeper Adrian is warm and fuzzy cinema that rivals just about any amorous clip from the best on-screen romances. Throw the love story into the ring with the film’s blow-by-blow climax and the drama of training (i.e., conquering those famous Philly steps), which is emphasised by Bill Conti’s invigorating score, and Rocky is a tour-de-force that beats all the odds. The commentaries are exhausting — there are three in total — but Stallone’s is the essential one. He isn’t the greatest storyteller, but the action film icon is filled a surplus of minute details and vivid memories. Also included is a macked out Stallone charming his way onto Dinah! and In the Ring, and a standard three-part "making of” documentary that delivers many first-hand memories from all of the key cast and crew. Plus: featurettes, Lou Duva interview, 24-page collectible booklet, trailers. (MGM)