The Captain's Greatest Movies Installment #2
As a quick background, Rocky is just about the greatest underdog story of all time. Even people who dislike boxing usually appreciate at least the first few films for their drama. Songs from these soundtracks are also my music of choice whenever I'm lifting. I don't care how cliche it is, I've never failed that last bench press or bicep curl when "Burning Heart" was playing. Speaking of "Burning Heart" was there ever a band in history whose entire career was owed to one film series, the way "Survivor" owed Rocky? Seriously...any band?
The series comprised of five movies, with rumors of a sixth that have been around for years. Like most fans of the series, I often pretend the fifth movie never actually existed, but for purposes of this tribute (and factual accuracy) we'll let it go here. And so we begin with Rocky...
Sylvester Stallone in Rocky.
The original Rocky was made in 1976. Sly Stallone, inspired by a fight between Muhammed Ali and Chuck "The Bayonne Bleeder" Wepner, wrote the script in three days. THREE DAYS!! This for a movie that currently ranks as one of the AFI Top 100 movies of all time. Originally, the studios wanted to cast Ryan O'Neal, but Stallone refused to sell his script unless he was Rocky. Smart move. Nominated for every major Oscar except Supporting Actress, it took home Best Picture and Best Director from the 1977 Oscars. And it led to Rocky II.
Rocky, finally victorious.
Ah Rocky II, the inevitable rematch after the ending in Rocky. The sequel actually did a pretty decent job of holding up to the original's perfection. Wasn't quite as good, and it had that entire EXCRUCIATING 20 minute scene where Rocky's wife Adrien was selfish enough to lapse into a coma after childbirth. And this while he was supposed to be training. Yes, selfish. Adrien Balboa is a charter member of the "wet blanket girlfriend/wife" Hall of Fame. Her favorite line of each movie: "You can't win Rocky!" There needs to be an entire post dedicated to All Time Wet Blanket girlfriends. I'm furious right now just thinking about this post. Be on the lookout for it.
The moment Adrien Balboa, with a PhD in being a wet-blanket bitch, ruins Rocky's life forever.
So anyway, Rocky becomes champion, manages to survive his marriage without finding himself at the end of a noose, and then kills the series. Rocky III was, to put it midly, a bit of a letdown. At least there was a cameo where Rocky fight Hulk Hogan, playing a character named "Thunderlips, The Ultimate Male, The Mountain of Molten Lust." I'm not making that up. Additionally, he loses the title and wins it back in a 1-1/2 hour span, and his manager, Mickey, dies. Very sad, Mickey Goldmill was a great character, played to perfection by the late Burgess Meredith. You ever wonder where the phrase "Women weaken legs!!" came from? It came from this man:
Stallone wasn't done yet. Next came the appropriately titled Rocky IV. In my humble opinion, the series picked back up with this film. Why? Because the villian was badass, the series dropped all pretense of drama and went straight to action, and it featured some of the best lines of the series by Paulie, the drunk uncle. Paulie should be mentioned along with Fredo Corleone and Hamish (from Braveheart) as one of the best supporting characters, ever. Among his gems..."Hey Rock...you remember how I told you if I could be anyone, I'd pick you...forget it."
Hold me back Paulie...Hold me BACK!!
And then there was Rocky V. It pains me still to write that sentence. Um, stuff happened, Rocky's kid got the shit kicked out of him, then gave it all back. A real boxer with zero charisma/screen presence played the villian, whose name was Tommy Gunn. One other thing. This was the only movie in which Stallone didn't take his shirt off at any point. Here's my theory. There were only three years between each of the first four films, but five years between number IV and V. Stallone had to be convinced to make number V, and he had let himself go. You've seen pictures of Stallone in Rocky and Rocky II above. Well here's III, IV and V. I still think steroids may have played a part here, but I have no proof.
Stallone in Rocky III.
Stallone, looking jacked up in Rocky IV. The picture of him with Paulie confirms this.
The most menacing picture I could find from Rocky V.
Lastly, I have to touch on the villians from the Rocky series, the opponents Rocky fought tooth and nail for glory. I have ranked them from worst to best. Here they are:
Tommy Morrison as Tommy Gunn.
Tommy Gunn sucked. The villian of Rocky V, he brought nothing to the table, and lost to a long retired Rocky in a street fight. How was this guy supposed to be the ultimate fight? I'm still only partially convinced this movie really exists.
Mr. T as Clubber Lang
Mr. T is pretty mean looking, but he loses points for the following: Beating Rocky two minutes after Mickey had died. Like Rocky was supposed to fight after losing his father figure. Additionally, when Rocky had "eye of the tiger" back, thanks to Apollo Creed, he dispatched Lang in three rounds. Sissy. Speaking of Apollo Creed...
Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed, fighting Stallone.
Apollo Creed was a smooth talking, quick punching machine. He was the man. He fought Rocky in two 15-round wars in both Rocky and Rocky II, winning the first time and losing by one second in Rocky II. Creed was modeled after the great Muhammed Ali, and Carl Weathers was perfect for the role. He even made a great turn as a friend in Rocky III, and shockingly died in Rocky IV. He never was as good after this series, hitting rock bottom when he appeared in Happy Gilmore. I hate Adam Sandler. Apollo Creed would have been the number one villian of all time if it weren't for...
Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago
Ivan Drago, the Russian monster. Do I care that he was using steroids? Not really. Ivan Drago gets to be number one for a couple of reason. One, he had a punch that measured at a PSI (pressure per square inch) of 1500. Normal heavyweight PSI is around 800. In other words, he had the ability to shatter bones. Secondly, he killed Apollo Creed. I think that about seals the deal. He took punishing shots from Rocky and it took forever for him to show damage. He may have lost, but this movie would have you believe he helped end the Cold War. And if you watch the beginning of Rocky V, he knocked Rocky stupid. Hand-shaking stupid. Drago had six lines the entire film.
"I must break you"
"You will lose"
"He is like a piece of iron"
"If he dies...he dies"
"I fight for me...FOR ME!!"
Never before has someone done so much with so little.
Thus concludes my tribute to Rocky. If I ruined any of the films for you, it's really your fault for having never seen them. Go watch them anyway. If you're looking for that little motivation to get started dieting/lifting/running, watch the movies. It's impossible not to be inspired.