Rocky Blu-ray Review
PictureThere is a huge amount of grain floating about the picture, which is slightly surprisingly when you consider that the high status of the film somehow didn't warrant it a large-scale restoration job, but don't be put off by it because the image is actually very good when compared to earlier editions. I have the Rocky Anthology Boxset (R2) already and found that the BD 1080p (MPEG-2 at 18mbps) fared pretty well when compared with that one.
There is a lot more detail available here in this 1.85:1 image, from the graffiti on the street walls, the shine in the characters' eyes and the photographs and fight posters behind the bar, to the railings stretching across the streets, the bustle on the docks and the fight-hungry crowd settling down at ringside. Daylight scenes have a tremendous sense of three-dimensionality - check out the scene when Rocky walks towards the entrance to his gym, which affords great depth of field up the streets on either side, or when he lumbers through rows of boxers training on the bags. But pick any street scene and the greater depth enhances it tenfold.
Colours are reasonably well-handled, with red being the primary that truly stands out. Have a look at the early scene when Rocky returns to a darkened home, flips on the light and the red lampshade in the foreground literally beams out of the screen. This same sequence is also a good showcase for the contrast level, going from dark to light and then keeping some darker portions of the screen intact with shadow. Skin tones, however, can be a touch too pink at times but are nice and naturalistic for the most part.
There is some print damage, which is probably only to be expected, but this is minimal. Beyond getting a magnifying glass out to inspect the image, I really only noticed a vertical band that affects only one scene for a couple of seconds and a curious sequence in which Rocky is watching his own press conference on TV and his portion of the image is definitely softer and slightly out-of-focus when compared to Adrien sitting next to him and Paulie over on the other side of the room. Let me stress, though, that these are very minor defects from the source print.
Overall, this is a very agreeable step up from the SD edition that I checked it against.
SoundWell, after all that, there really isn't much that can be said about the audio. Weighing in with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and the original 2-channel mono track, Rocky only uses the frontal array and, even then, in a very tentative manner. I could only listen to the DTS Core extrapolated from the HD track, but even if the full mix was available to me I doubt the difference would have been worth mentioning. The rears only pick up on some slight ambience - in the crowded gym or ringside for the big fight - and supply only the merest backup to Bill Conti's score. The spread across the front isn't particularly wide but the film does feel a little more open than the DD 5.1 mix that I cross-referenced this disc with. Dialogue always comes over clearly and there was no noticeable hiss or drop-out. The bass doesn't offer anything, though. In fact, I don't think I noticed any at all, with the film coming across as remarkably light and lacking any solidity to bolster it.
ExtrasSadly, Rocky doesn't get much in the extras department. Just a few trailers for forthcoming BD releases and the film's theatrical trailer, and that's your lot, I'm afraid. Even the supposed smart menu system is one of the most mundane I've yet seen on the format. So, the disc gets KO'd with regards to bonus features.
VerdictAn undisputed classic, but Rocky still doesn't feel like a heavyweight drama. It is surprisingly understated and reflective in mood, yet still boundlessly inspirational and touching. Stallone worked genius into the production, forging a character that has become an institution and an ideal. The films certainly got more exciting and action-orientated (which I like) but they ceased to be quite as affecting.
This BD release is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the series - the high-def improvement in the picture is commendable indeed, even if the sound doesn't really go anywhere. But extras-wise, this is still a let down.
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