Rocky 2-Disc Collector’s Edition—MGM/UA

Video: 4
Audio: 4
Extras: 4

Forget the two-dimensional superhero that Rocky became in the sequels. The guy we meet in this first installment is a highly sympathetic character—an aging, likable loner with nothing going for him. He gets a title shot out of the blue and, in a touching moment, ultimately decides that all he can hope to do is go the distance. Then there’s the great supporting cast, highlighted by Burgess Meredith’s inimitable Mickey the trainer, Talia Shire’s sensitive Adrian, and the always underrated Carl Weathers as the larger-than-life but self-absorbed champ, Action, Apollo Creed.

This movie’s audio and video have always been terrible. With this release, I was expecting to see improvements, but I was truly surprised by the dialogue’s intelligibility and the bright, colorful, crisp images. I have given both the audio (Dolby Digital 5.1) and video (1.85:1 anamorphic) high marks for the remarkable improvements over previous versions. I had no difficulty understanding all of the Rock’s heavy-tongued mumblings and unusual aphorisms. This release is rich with extras. There are numerous commentaries, interviews, making-of featurettes, and more. Rarely do I lose track of time watching DVD extras as I did here.

Much has been said about Rocky’s appeal as an everyman who exhibits heroic, noble, yet personable qualities. And the fact that he was not an antihero must have been refreshing to at least some of the original post-Vietnam, 1976 audience, which was celebrating the nation’s bicentennial. But I like Rocky best for its ensemble of misunderstood losers who come to find each other.