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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rocky (1976)

This movie was a surprise, a total million-to-one hit when it was released in 1976. Imagine a struggling Italian-American wannabe star by the name of Sylvestor Stallone, who gets inspired by a boxing match that he saw in 1975 between the super boxing champion Mohammed Ali and a challengerChuck Wepner (whose major claim to fame is battling through a full 15 rounds with Ali and knocking him down once). Stallone writes a script and gets a studio to take a look at the script. Well, wonders of wonders, the studio and a pair of producers like the script and offer to buy it from him. And then Stallone springs the surprise, he wants to play the lead role. Imagine an unknown actor who had also starred in a soft-porn movie earlier wanting to play a role that the studio was wanting to offer to one of the macho stars. However, Stallone held out and got the chance of his life, although with a low-budget movie (the movie was so low budget that some of Stallone's family members including his dad and wife played cameo roles in the movie); The movie cost only around $2.1 million to make, and was an incredible hit, making more than $100 million and making the Italian-American a superstar. And then the Oscars came in. The movie won 3 Oscars (including the most prestigious ones of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing; it received a total of 10 Oscar nominations).

Rocky (1976)

The movie was the embodiment of the American dream; work hard, have pride in yourself, catch all the chances you can, put your heart into it, and you will make good. If you watch the movie and see the slow transformation, the scenes of training and the extra-ordinary hard work needed to be able to reach a stage where the challenge to the world boxing champion can seem realistic, then you will realize how appealing the movie actually is. In addition, the shy romance in the movie seems so natural. The music (by Bill Conti) is a perfect accompaniment to the movie, given how it matches the tone of the movie, hitting the emotional chords when required, and matching the hard physical training scenes in the movie. Further, to illustrate how realistic the fight was supposed to be, both Stallone and Weathers suffered injuries during the shooting of the fight scenes from the actual punches thrown. Together, all these factors seemed to come together and made the movie a big hit.
The movie is all about the sudden chance offered to a young man (Rocky Balboa) who is doing a routine job as a loan-collector for a loan shark and also a boxer, and the offer of a chance against the reigning boxing champion is the chance that seems to come once in a lifetime. He grabs the chance, rationalizing that even though the champion is the better boxer and will almost certainly win, it will be a victory for Rocky if he can stay with the champion till the end and not be knocked out early enough. This is his ambition, his driving force in the boxing match. In other ways, he is a normal young man, in love with the sister Adrian (Talia Shire) of his friend Paulie (Burt Young), and the blossoming of the romance is another strong point of the movie, treated by the director with a soft note compared to the hard physical tone of the movie.
The reigning boxing champion of the world, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers, who played a part in all the Rocky movies till Rocky IV) has an important fight coming up, with the fight scheduled for the New Year's Day of 1976, celebrating 200 years of the American Revolution. (If you know about the boxing world, you will realize the amount of money and prestige staked on these major clashes). However, his opponent has to drop out due to injury, and after looking around, Creed picks up Rocky Balboa to be his match. As in the real life match, everybody decrees that this is a terribly mismatched fight, except for Rocky who sees this as the path out of his current life. In real life, the boxer Chuck Wepner is always known as the boxer who managed to make Muhammed Ali go the full round, and so it was in the movie. Rocky is coached by a crusty old trainer Burgess Meredith (who is a former boxer himself, and sees in Rocky the chance to live his own dream). The selection of Meredith for this character was a very good choice, and you can only watch and wonder as this hard-nosed trainer transforms the rough Rocky into a gem, capable of standing against the world champion, and even knock him down. For what happens in the final fight, you really should watch it yourself. You won't regret it.

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