Rocky IV

tn_rockyiv“Yo, can you turn your robot down?”

Which is stranger: that a legit, best-picture winning sports drama like ROCKY would eventually have a part IV that was this ridiculous, or that such a part IV could still stand apart from the series as a classic of a totally different kind? IV goes all in on the Reagan-and-MTV glitz of part III, crafting a preposterous Cold War face-off with so many song montages in the second half it almost qualifies as a rock musical. In fact, the whole sound of the movie is different because I-III composer Bill Conti and his inspirational brass section are replaced with a cool synth score by Vince DiCola (TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE) that was “one of the first to exploit the Fairlight CMI and Synclavier II computers’ sequencing capabilities” according to DiCola’s websight. I guess that’s fitting for the ROCKY where the first new scene is about Rocky giving Paulie a robot for his birthday. The robot will occasionally pop up to force Apollo or Rocky’s driver to barely suppress a “these crazy white people” look, or to be used as a boombox. So if you were hoping III was a fluke, and that this one will be gritty again, I got bad news.

It’s tradition to replay part of the fight from the end of the previous movie. This one not only reminds us of the fight with Clubber Lang, but also the private, no witnesses rematch between Apollo and Rocky. Of course it was ambiguous like the Toretto-O’Connor rematch, or King Kong vs. Godzilla or Freddy vs. Jason, it froze just as they were swinging at each other. But now for the sequel they’re replaying it, so we must be about to finally find out who– ah, never mind. Freeze frame again. I’m not sure why they had to replay that.

Some more things had changed in the world since part III came out. Most importantly, Stallone had released FIRST BLOOD and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, movies that became a huge cultural phenomenon in part by (somewhat accidentally) tapping into an American thirst for national pride in an era confined between the shameful memory of Vietnam and the imagined near future of nuclear war. So like many things in our culture at the time, ROCKY IV channeled/acted as propaganda about animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union, capitalism and communism. At the beginning of the movie, Soviet World Amateur Champion and blond goliath Captain Ivan “The Siberian Express/The Siberian Bull” Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has come to the States “to compete as an international sportsman and ambassador of goodwill,” according to his Olympic gold medalist swimmer wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen). It’s too bad there wasn’t a separate movie about Ludmilla’s brutal swimming competition she must’ve had against the stars and stripes while she was there. Anyway, through a press conference with villainous Soviet trainers they request “an exhibition bout with your famous champion Rocky Balboa.” Rocky’s not interested, but his friend Apollo (a decadent capitalist who sees it on an outdoor TV while playing catch with his dogs in a swimming pool) gets worked up and insists (against Rocky’s advice) on coming out of retirement to fight this Russian.

mp_rockyivYou know who’s back this time? Rocky. This feels much more like the guy from I and II than the guy in III did. I love his debates with Apollo. First he tries to gently convince him that it might be better to try to come to terms with civilian life and aging than to take this dangerous fight. He can’t convince him so he smiles and says “You’re a great talker Apollo.” He tries again right before the fight and we realize that he’s too slow to see the political context of the fight, but that also means he’s not gonna get swept up in some dumb Cold War nonsense. “This is not just some exhibition fight that doesn’t mean anything,” Apollo says. “This is us against them! What are you talking about? Come on.”

Rocky lowers his eyes, defeated, doesn’t try to argue it. His look says well, I can’t really articulate why I’m right, so I’ll let you win. He reminds me of people I know who don’t follow politics or current events, and a conversation comes up that’s totally over their head, and they know it shouldn’t be. Or somebody who gets in an argument with someone who’s very opinionated and has had t his argument alot and knows a bunch of catch phrases, and they know better than to get into it but they still feel strongly about their position. That’s the look they get.

Rocky might be ignorant, but he’s right. American-flag-shorts-wearing, Uncle-Sam-dressing-and-quoting Apollo Creed and the Russian trainer guy he calls “Comrade Bigmouth” are being babies. They get into an argument at the press conference about who started an argument at the press conference. The Russian whines “You are the aggressor!” Back in the ’80s, seeing this as a double feature with RED DAWN, I definitely saw it as an anti-commie movie, but through the eyes of today it’s clear that’s not really what it is. Stallone might’ve been exploiting the Cold War to hype up the crowd, but he was also denouncing it.

Drago makes Clubber Lang seem down to earth. It’s funny that Lundgren almost didn’t get to audition because they weren’t looking for a guy that big. He towers above everyone and looks sculpted from toe to hair to be the ultimate boxing machine. As a Soviet propaganda tool they chose Drago for his genetics, and he trains in a high tech lab with a team of scientists testing and injecting him for ultimate power. I mean, it’s worth bragging about. All our robots can do is bring Paulie a beer.

This is the ROCKY sequel I’m most familiar with, having caught parts of it on cable over the years, but this might be the first time I’ve watched it beginning to end since the ’80s. Of course I remembered Apollo’s garish entrance with James Brown and his band (including Maceo!) doing a huge number for “Living in America” (which would be his last hit). What I forgot was that Drago is caught off guard by all this. He’s alone in the ring in the dark when suddenly the ceiling opens up and he rises into this decadent Vegas performance complete with giant props and glittery showgirls. He looks kinda disgusted, kinda confused, like Bill Murray in Japan, or like Apollo when he sees the robot. The frantic shots of American flags and model warplanes flying overhead indicate a bit of panic.

I’m sure Drago’s not in a mind state to analyze the lyrics, but if he was he’d find that the Godfather of Soul is bragging about America’s “super highways coast to coast, easy to get anywhere,” and says  “When there’s no destination that’s too far / and somewhere on the way, you might find out who you are.” In other words, the American institution of self discovery via road trip. In other other words, fuck you Soviet Union and your vast, difficult to traverse terrain.

Adrian looks unhappy with this display, and though Rocky smiles at first he starts to look embarrassed, or at least like he thinks it’s a bit much. A little too ROCKY III. So that’s one way the Balboas and the Russians are on the same page.

Another thing about this scene: the crowd boos Drago like a WWF crowd booing Nikolai Volkoff or The Iron Sheik. But he hasn’t done anything yet! I’m honestly not sure if we’re supposed to be with the crowd or recognize them as rude and dishonorable. Same goes for the openly antagonistic American sports journalists at the press conference.

This fight is obviously set up as propaganda for the USSR, but watching it now I think the Dragos themselves are honestly in it for the sport. Yes, Ludmilla smiles at some bad times, and Ivan makes a few horrendously insensitive comments, but I think she’s sincere when she tells Apollo’s wife “They’re sportsmen, not soldiers,” and later when she worries about the safety of her husband. There’s a way to read it that she’s the one more dedicated to the cause, but it could be another case of being protective of the man she loves.

Unfortunately Ivan Drago’s monstrous strength is fatal for Apollo. A tragic loss, but we can be consoled by the fact that he told Rocky he owed him one and Rocky said no, they were even. And also by the fact that he gave Rocky a cool hat to wear. Every time he wears that hat we know he’s remembering Apollo.

I don’t think Drago did it on purpose, but the dumb bastard defies the obnoxious press on the scene by failing to show any remorse. So, okay, fine, Rocky will take that exhibition bout. He’s too stubborn not to, even though Adrian tells him “You can’t win!” By the way, Adrian has now fully evolved from painfully shy pet shop girl to deliverer of emotional yelling monologues.

The way I remembered the training portion of the movie, it was some bullshit where the Soviets have all the technology and high tech equipment at their disposal, and the poor American has to run around in the snow carrying logs and stuff. But in fact that is Rocky’s deliberate strategy. He asks to be flown out to some remote place so he can be isolated and concentrate on the fight. This is like his rural version of training in the streets of Philadelphia.

Allow me to list the musical montages:

1. At the very begining there’s the recap of the Clubber Lang fight set to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

2. About halfway through, after Rocky has agreed to fight Drago in Russia, and has had an argument with Adrian about it, he goes for a drive in his Lamborghini and thinks about clips from all four ROCKY movies (yes, including this one) while the entire song “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper plays. At first he’s thinking about Apollo’s death, then about training and fighting against Apollo over the years, then his argument with Adrian and his relationship with her, but then his mind wanders to other things including getting punched by Clubber, Mickey dying, back to Apollo dying, etc. And lots of shots from when he ran on the beach with Apollo.

I don’t think Rocky is driving to a particular destination, but I think James Brown would argue that somewhere on the way he might find out who he is.

3. Part of “Burning Heart” by Survivor plays while Rocky, Paulie and Apollo’s trainer Duke (Tony Burton, becoming more of a character in this one) land in Russia, drive to the farm and look at icicles. “Burning Heart” is notable for including the lyrics “In the warrior’s code / There’s no surrender
/ Though his body says stop / His spirit cries – never!”

You know what man, I’ve been looking over the warrior’s code. I don’t see the word surrender in here at all.

4. The training montage that’s just set to Vince DiCola instrumental (a song fittingly called “Training Montage” on the soundtrack) rivals part III’s “Eye of the Tiger” opening as one of the best montages of the series. Rocky trains in the snow while Drago trains in the lab. There are brilliant match cuts going from Drago on a machine to Rocky pulling a wagon, and from Rocky chopping down a tree to one of Drago’s sparring partners falling.

Note: on Lundgren’s 1987 fitness tape Maximum Potential he says to never run on hard surfaces, and it shows him jogging on a beach. But Rocky runs on hard surfaces! Not everybody has sand or Soviet-funded-treadmills to run on. Dolph needs to check his fitness privilege.

5. After a brief dialogue scene buffer there’s another training montage cutting between Rocky and Drago. This one takes place later, because Rocky has a beard, and it’s set to “Hearts on Fire” by John Cafferty. Rocky’s part focuses largely on in-barn training such as extreme jump roping, lifting wagons and various resistance exercises with Paulie and Duke standing and watching. While Drago runs on an inclining treadmill, Rocky runs up an actual mountain. When he gets to the top the keyboards quote “Gonna Fly Now” and he raises his arms in victory. That shows you where this character has gone: from running up some stairs to conquering an actual mountain.

6. There’s a montage that covers rounds 4-14 of the fight.

7. “Hearts On Fire” reprises for an end credits photo montage. (In the tradition of “You’re the Best” being rejected for III, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” was rejected as the part IV end credits song before being picked up out of the garbage and used on KARATE KID II.)

James Symons is credited as “montage editor,” and he must be a Stallone buddy because he also edited COBRA, OVER THE TOP and RAMBO III. More significantly he has a credit for the fight and training montages on ROCKY II, which were spectacular.

Like Rocky, Stallone has a knowingly dumb sense of humor, and one example is when he cuts from the ring introductions to Rocky Jr. (Rocky Krakoff, POLTERGEIST II) and his friends and the robot (in a Santa hat) watching the fight at home.

“That’s my dad!”

“We know! What do you think we are, nerds?”

During the ninth round they cut to the kids again and they’re bouncing up and down and shadowboxing in excitement. You gotta hand it to those kids, they really oughta be bored and exhausted by round 9 of a boxing match. Especially since this is what they’re doing for Christmas! That really must be Rocky’s kid. He can go the distance.

But for the most part the movie treats this all very seriously, which I’m grateful for. This type of ridiculousness is much better with less mugging, more flexing.

As much as I remember this as a jingoistic movie, it’s nice to rewatch it and realize that its attitude really is above all that bullshit. If it really wanted to pump us up it would have Rocky trying to kill Drago to get even, or come close. It would have him cling bitterly to his dead friend’s plea that “This is us against them!” Rocky doesn’t do that. He just wins the fight, and more importantly wins over the Russian crowd, who start by booing him but are so impressed by his tenacity that they end up chanting his name. Then he uses his victory as an excuse to make a little speech against war and for the human capacity for change. This is not out of the blue; Rocky and Drago have been shown to be individuals, not the representations of ideologies that the promotion tried to mold them into. In III and now IV we’ve seen Rocky’s need to shed his capitalistic materials in order to find the eye of the tiger. And we’ve seen Drago lift his overseer by the neck and yell at the premier “I fight to win for me! For me!” Both of them are more dedicated to The Warrior’s Code than to any kind of nationalism. Despite the trunks.

I’d say the corniest moment in the movie is when “most of the politburo” who are at the fight are sort of shamed by the crowd into slow clapping for Rocky’s speech. But oh well. Better than having them throw a comedic fit.

The swagger of ROCKY IV is pretty well summed up by the beautiful title sequence of sculpted chrome boxing gloves that rotate to reveal American and Soviet flag theming before they punch at each other, collide, and explode into a shower of sparks. And the movie never really lets up after that, even if it’s ultimately about preventing such explosions. This is by far the dumbest of the series, but I mean that as a compliment. There’s no other movie quite like it.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015 at 1:52 pm and is filed under Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

58 Responses to “Rocky IV”

  1. Bill Simmons had Michael Rapaport on his podcast recently and they talked quite a bit about the ROCKY movies. One of them suggests it was a mistake killing off Apollo, as it hurt the later sequels. I have to agree there. Put him in a coma or something a little more dramatic but don’t go all the way with it. Rapaport said he got a ton of stories out of Stallone when they worked together on COPLAND. He said he could also throw out lines and Sly responded to every single one of them, to the point that the director had to keep them apart. Apparently Burgess Meredith was quite the ladies’ man.

  2. Rocky really should have thrown the damn towel – but then we wouldn’t have had one of the greatest movies ever made. This film is so good that it inspired me to play ‘Christmas with The Chipmunks’ every year after hearing it there first.

  3. This movie and SPACE CAMP were the movies that convinced me that personal robots were right around the corner.

    Fuck the hoverboard—this was the big lie of my childhood.

  4. The Roomba doesn’t count?

  5. You forgot to mention a couple of my favorite details in the “Hearts on Fire” training montage. When Rocky finally makes it to the top of the mountain he epically screams “Dragooooooooooo!” Also, he somehow manages to outrun the KGB agents following him around in a car. Finally, the approving nod Adrian gives Rocky as he lifts a bunch of logs or something. Over the years, I have occasionally cued up this montage to get me pumped up before some big event/life obstacle.

    I watched this movie a ton as a kid, but it has been forever since I’ve seen the entire film, and I don’t even remember all of those montages. I think the one at the beginning, the one with Rocky driving, and, of course, “Hearts on Fire.” Man, I need to watch this film again.

  6. So back when I was a kid this is the one that used to get played most on cable cause it was “the last Rocky” at that point and stayed that way for a few years. I always had a love/hate relationship with it.


    Paulie’s Robot – no apologies for this. It’s so refreshingly absurd you can’t help but love it. Think of how much fan fiction probably came from it for better or worse. So many ways to read that scenario. It was genius.

    The montages – Too fucking good and mad motivational. ROCKY IV = the ultimate gym movie.

    The final fight – Rocky on that brawler MMA tip before that shit was cool.

    It has a James Brown musical number with Apollo Creed as James Brown’s hype man. Shit man who can truly ever hate something that fucking cool?


    Rocky gets all humbled in the last one and kinda gets re-grounded then this one basically acts like the Rocky from the beginning of ROCKY III never left. That was pretty jarring to me and made no sense structurally. The character took a step backwards and to me this is the dumbest Rocky has ever been portrayed. At least the one from the original and tiger jacket era Rocky had some kinda street smarts. It makes the movie almost unforgivable if it wasn’t for all the spectacle.

    Killing Apollo – Just fucking why?

    As a kid this always bothered me and in 2015 I see that I agree with whatever podcast onthewall mentioned up there cause it was a stupid move and just very impulsive. No long term vision whatsoever taken into account. Imagine Creed verbal sparring with Duke in V or asking Rock for help to train his estranged son in the upcoming movie. Man.

    The speech at the end. Even as a kid I found that shit pretty cheesy but I have to say I was also spoiled by the likes of COMMANDO, ROBOCOP and Stallone’s own FIRST BLOOD and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PT II by then. I was growing a bit more cynical by age 5 lol.

  7. Damn even the poster is kinda stomach turning with it’s bombast. It’s so far removed from what ROCKY was at this point that you can’t ever blame ROCKY V for at least trying to go back to basics. Even if many considered it a very failed attempt I never really did. I can’t wait for that review cause I could stomach V a lot more than I can IV with that said I will still watch this again and cheer when I have to when I watch the marathon leading up to CREED next week.

  8. When you remove the montages, musical numbers, footage from III, the boxing scenes and credits, there’s only 35 minutes of actual dialogue and/or plot. You’ve got to love that.

    As much as I love V, it always bothered me that Rocky immediately went to the poor house and had to sell everything off. Let’s face it, he could’ve easily sold Paulie’s robot to pay off his debts and still come out ahead on the deal.

    Then again, knowing that the robot’s AI was highly evolved she probably got tired of Paulie’s shit and left him for a Mr. Coffee machine.

  9. Oh and just like ROCKY III with Ghostface’s THE CHAMP this movie also has a link to modern day NYC hardcore rap.

    Big Pun and Black Thought’s SUPER LYRICAL from back CAPITAL PUNISHMENT back in ’98 samples Adrian Balboa’s monologue.

  10. Vern and Jack pretty much express my own sentiment, which is that Rocky IV is a glorious power ballad opera, a symphony of montages connected by occasional bursts of dialogue. It’s so peppy and colorful and full of characters I’ve grown to love, and it’s keeps the pedal to the metal for its whole running time, that I always gets completely absorbed and swept up in the momentum. Hell, even the scene where Paulie’s robot makes its first appearance is so interestingly shot and scored that for a moment it feels full of suspense and intrigue.

    As with Rocky III but even more so, what never ceases to amaze me is how so many things simultaneously strike me as both prima facie ridiculous and utterly compelling. The maudlin power ballads that narrate too much; the super bombastic James Brown/Creed-Drago extravaganza; the cartoonish nature of Drago and the red scare motifs; the unending onslaught of 80s hair-rock montages; and, of course, the extreme unlikelihood of a Rocky beating Drago and winning over all of Russia in the process and then capping it off with a big articulate impromptu speech (Rocky wrapped in American flag drops mic). I am a complete sucker for all of it and with zero irony.

    Some favorite stray items:
    “If I could unzip myself and come and be someone else, it would be you.”
    The extended Russia training montage (or is it two back-to-back montages?).
    No Easy Way out rearview mirror flashback montage
    “He’s not a machine!!!”
    “Drago!!! Draaaaaagoooo” from the mountain.
    The “War” multi-round, mid-fight montage (DiCola’s answer to “Conquest”)

    I love that the Rocky mythology and story continues and manages to absorb and hold all of the very grounded, nuanced, human moments, as well as the absurd pageantry and even absurdity of the overall series timeline. It’s really hard to believe that Rocky IV and 6 both exist as films in the same universe or chapters in the same life, and yet I love it all. 40 years and no remakes or reboots or reimaginings, bitches!

  11. I like that Apollo’s trainer, Duke gets a more prominent role after Apollo dies.

    “You´re the one that´s gonna keep his spirit alive. You´re the one that´s gonna make sure that he didn´t die for nothing. Now you’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare that you ever dreamed. But in the end… I know you’ll be the one standin´.”

    “All your strength! All your power! All your love! Now, this is your whole life!”

  12. “You know what you gotta do. Do it.”

    “Do it.”

  13. You guys, I just now realized that CREED comes out next Friday, not tomorrow. I thought I had timed this all so perfectly.

  14. College Humor just put out a parody of ESPN’s 30 for 30 sports documentaries about how Rocky “won the Cold War” when he beat Drago. It’s pretty funny:

    If Rocky 4 Happened For Real (30 for 30 Parody)

    Still wondering why the crowd switched sides? Us too. See more http://www.collegehumor.com LIKE us on: http://www.facebook.com/collegehumor FOLLOW us on: htt...

    I like how the commentators are at a loss on why the Soviet crowd suddenly were cheering for Rocky in the middle of the fight.

  15. Er, it comes out Wednesday, but I won’t be able to see it until Friday, so in my opinion that’s when it comes out.

  16. The Original Paul

    November 20th, 2015 at 5:45 am


    “40 years and no remakes or reboots or reimaginings, bitches!”

    You had to say it, didn’t you? Well, didn’t you? You’ve doomed us all!

    On another note… did anybody else not realise until really, really late that CREED was actually supposed to be about Apollo Creed? When I first saw a poster for that I thought “Man, the makers of ROCKY should sue or something.”

    I’d like to bring my startling insights and analytical skills to bear on the subject of ROCKY 4. So here they are: yeah, I kinda liked it. (This is why I haven’t commented on the first three ROCKIES either. I really have nothing to add to the discussion here.)

  17. Rocky IV hit home video when I was about 8 years old. My best friend and I watched it nearly daily, after school, while we lifted little ten pound weights with our shirts off. I’ve seen this Rocky sequel more than any of the others by far and it still never fails to entertain.

    Great write up Vern. It’s interesting because even as young as I was, I remember liking the Russian people more after watching this. Stallone’s message about overcoming the Cold War still hit home for a little 8 year old kid.

  18. Man I love this film, for all of the reasons you have articulated so well Vern.

    It’s interesting that the movie seems to ask us to judge Drago, or at least the Russian camp, for using steroids when Stallone was at least taking human growth hormones and very probably steroids too at that time.

    Also, it’s interesting that Rocky would never block anything with his hands if he could use his chin instead.

  19. Is this a good time to start discussing the realism of boxing movies? The Swedish champion Paolo Roberto was once asked to rate a bunch of boxing movies. He championed THE BOXER with Daniel Day Lewis as the best and MILLION DOLLAR BABY as the absolute worst. And if my memory serves me right he wouldn’t even talk about the ROCKY movies.

  20. Someone shared that 30 for 30 parody with me a few days ago, and it really works as a take down of overly dramatic sports documentaries. Also, since I saw Rocky IV when I was a youngin’, it never seemed strange to me that the home team would suddenly change their allegiance. But knowing what I know now about sports fandom, this would never happen in a million years.

    My favorite boxing film is this great little film noir called The Set Up directed by the great Robert Wise. It’s only 72 minutes long and the majority of the film takes place in the ring. I don’t think I’ve seen a film quite like it. The film uses real time, and it was made prior to High Noon. I believe Wise said it was his favorite film that he directed. It’s an underrated gem of a film, and it’s worth tracking down. Even by today’s standards, I think the film is kind of experimental.

  21. THE SET UP is real good. I’m not really much of a noir fan, despite loving the books they’re often based on, but I like it when they take a real barebones situation and make that work for them with stark stylization and laser focus. Another in that vein–but not boxing-related–that I enjoyed was BLAST OF SILENCE.

  22. Other words not in the warriors code: icecream, deodorant, spa.

    The death of Apollo was the most shocking thing I had seen in a cinema up to that point (overtaken the following year by the death of Optimus Prime). One of the good guys being so graphically dismanteld in the first third of a movie just wasn’t supposed to happen. It raised the stakes to a level I had never experienced during a movie: if Apollo could die… then Rocky could die!!

    Sorry Apollo, but you had to die to make this movie live.

  23. pegsman, if I recall correctly the fights in Ali were reproduced fairly faithfully, and Cinderella Man and The Fighter were both decent approximations.

  24. The Original Paul

    November 20th, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Pegsman – never, ever, ever watch a film that features mixed martial arts. Some of the crap you see in those ones would make you cry.

  25. Even as an 80s kid, being inundated with 80s Cold War messages, I always felt bad for Drago, even though he was a mean sumbitch. But how mean was he, really? Somehow in my 10-11-year-old brain I felt he was a pawn, literally a machine, a Capekian robot, if you will. At the end, when he finally stood up for himself against his puppet masters! Good performance there by ol’ Dolph.

    Rocky IV Ivan Drago "I fight for me" DLYA SEBYA!

    Ivan Drago don't give a fuck about Mother Russia. He only fights for himself. Dlya sebya!

  26. Vern since obviously you won’t be able to review CREED this weekend does that mean the ROCKY V review has been postponed till next week?

  27. Don’t feel too bad Vern, AV Club has been doing Star Wars this week despite the movie coming out next month.

  28. Yes, Lawrence and Jackyl: Tony Burton absolutely rises to the occasion and kicks ass in this movie.

  29. Looks like Sly and Carl are no longer beefing. Weathers needs to be used in Expendables now.

    Stallone’s hairpiece looks like an elegant ferret

  30. ah dang I give up.

    Carl was at the CREED premiere though buddying it up with Sly. So was Dolph and Arnold. I was hoping there was a pic of Dolph and Carl together for my “Apollo’s long lost twin Hermes meets Ivan Drago” Rocky fan fiction but it was mostly pics of Carl with Sly and Michael B. Jordan.

  31. Is Tony Burton in CREED?

  32. This has NOTHING to do with anything ROCKY related… but for some reason, I have just been overcome with the idea that I actually NEED a Vern review of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

    No idea what initiated this feeling… but there it is.

  33. Don’t think Tony Burton is in Creed. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is Classic. Bringing things full circle:

    Pee Wee's Big Adventure - Mr. T Cereal

    Pee Wee enjoys his breakfast with a healthy dose of vitamin T.

  34. Wood Harris is playing a character called Tony Burton a.k.a. Little Duke. An obvious homage. I wonder if he too will be an illegitimate son of a classic ROCKY series character or just Duke’s former protege.

  35. grimgrinningchris

    November 21st, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Man, Skani… I wracked my brain trying to think of a connection between Pee-Wee and the Rocky series and came up dry… Yet there it is. I’d totally forgotten about that.

  36. Good for Dolph for beating the “He’s too big” prejudice. William Smith – a legit karate expert and the guy who beat Arnold in an arm wrestling match on the set of CONAN THE BARBARIAN – was supposed to be Roper in ENTER THE DRAGON, but someone decided… well, you can probably guess why they got John Saxon instead. William Smith should’ve been a legitimate movie star.

  37. Smith was pretty well known over here after the Falconetti role in RICH MAN, POOR MAN, and he was cool in ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN. And of course RUMBLE FISH.

  38. AnimalRamirez1976

    November 22nd, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Yes, RICH MAN, POOR MAN of course. That mini-series is such a relic of its time that it is easily overlooked. In my opinion the zenith of Smith’s career was playing the villain in the Rod Taylor movie DARKER THAN AMBER. There’s a scene from that film that’s gotten a lot of hits on YouTube, but I don’t want to link to it because then people might not watch the whole movie! Which I believe they can also see on YouTube.

  39. “Too many montages” is something I never thought I’d say, but I kinda felt that way when re-watching this one. I mean, that re-cap while he’s driving was a good idea back then (and I loved it when I was a kid), but it may be the only con against binge-watching this series as I had just seen these scenes, including a ton of scenes from just a few minutes ago in this movie! (Other than that, this binge-watch has been excellent)

    So music videoyness aside, this is still an incredibly effective movie. It’s got iconic characters and images, a classic training montage, a REALLY good performance from Tony Burton, and a badass score (even though I missed Gonna Fly Now). And for some reason Apollo’s patriotism really moved me this go-round. A simple line like “it’s us against them!” just speaks so much about him. We’ve never thought about him in non-sports terms, but to see a black character, who we learned in Part I still can’t get respect from a bartender after becoming Champion of the World, who we learned in II gets hate mail telling him to kill himself and that he’s a disgrace to his people, that we learned in III pulled himself up by the bootstraps on the streets of LA – to see him want to give his life to defend the country that still gives him shit but also gave him the opportunity to become the success he is, call me corny but I actually got chills. People have a point about this movie needlessly sacrificing Apollo, but in a weird way I think he gets developed a ton with his limited screentime – my mind almost processed it like a twist that we learn that the George Washington float and the American Flag Shorts, etc…weren’t just part of the act or a gimmick – Apollo Creed is the freaking embodiment of the American Dream and how dare this Russian try to badmouth us.

    His death still ranks up there with Murphy’s death from Robocop as one of the hardest to watch – so incredibly brutal and bloody for a PG movie. I do kinda wish he was just hurt or put in a coma though, but I guess that would take away from Stallone’s sneaky ANTI-war propaganda, which as Vern pointed out, is much more evident today than when viewed back in Cold War-era 1985 (and alongside Rambo II where the Russians are all just one-dimensional baddies).

    Alot of people have pointed out that when the two gloves meet and explode at the beginning, you can see the Russian one fall for a split second, hinting the events of the movie. I think the important thing is the fact that the two gloves still explode! The US glove is destroyed as well; there’s no winner here. People always make fun of how Rocky has no defense game in these movies, and it’s at its worst here – I’m pretty sure he doesn’t block or dodge a single punch in the fight – his entire strategy (which honestly made this fight a little more repetitive and less awesome for me) is a literal war of attrition – they just stand there punching each other in the head over and over until one of them can’t take it anymore. Rocky obviously learned to dodge like a martial artist in the end of III – this is not unintentional. These two representatives for their countries are scorching the earth or cutting off their nose to spite their face, or whatever the metaphor is. It’s tragedy disguised as badassery. I mean, how did we all miss an anti-war metaphor this obvious this whole time?!? Answer: Because this movie was too good at its job of being awesome and because we still don’t give Stallone enough credit as a writer. Anyways, this movie is a classic, subversive or otherwise.

  40. Happy belated 30th to one of the most iconic movies of it’s time.

  41. RIP Tony Burton, aka Duke. He did so much with so little screentime in the Rocky Series, creating a character that we feel like we know even though we know very little about him. Rocky IV gets a lot of flak for being cartoony but it’s definitely Burton’s deepest and most shining moment in the series.

  42. Aw, that’s a shame. You’re right, you felt like you knew Duke without ever learning anything about him, just from Burton’s strong, earnest demeanor. He was great in ROCKY IV but I still think “Let’s start building some hurting’ bombs!” is one of the greatest psych-you-up lines of all time. I’m glad that character stayed active in the ROCKY mythology in CREED, even if Little Duke seems like kind of a prick.

  43. Crushinator Jones

    February 26th, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Aw hell. That makes me sad.

  44. Aw man! R.I.P.

    …and co-sign Majestyk on that ROCKY BALBOA quote. Powerful use of words.

  45. “He’s not a machine! He’s a man!!!” What more could you ask for in a cornerman?

  46. Random observation: After they glamoured Adrian up a bit in part 3, they went back in this movie to her “Natural beauty next door” look, including some clothes that she wore while not in public, that looked more like what she wore in the first two movies. I liked that. Nice little detail.

  47. Stallone, probably proud of the fact that he helped Hulk Hogan become huge not just in wrestling but in pop culture, originally had his eye on a few wrestlers for the Drago role. One of them was “Nikita Koloff”, who took being Russian so seriously there were some people even in the industry who thought he was legit Russian when in fact he was from Minnesota. He talked about his audition with Stallone recently.


  48. Yeah I gotta agree with Vern’s twitter comments – the Rocky IV Director’s Cut is a big swing and a miss, or whatever the boxing metaphor is. I actually like alot of the added scenes (Stallone is really great in the new funeral scene), but way too much of what made the original great is cut out – it’s not incomplete but it feels sorta choppy and “missing something” as a standalone movie. There’s lots of inexplicable choices like adding in more clips of Part III but taking out the actual relevant clips of Part III (Stallone removed all traces of the greatest ending of all time which is madness)

    Speaking of inexplicable – I literally don’t understand what he’s trying to do with Ludmilla – so much of Nielsen’s performance is cut out it can only be explained as spiteful. For instance, the famous scene where Drago chokes his handler and yells “I Fight For Me!” – we used to see Ludmilla screaming “Nyet!”. Now we don’t even see her, we just hear her voice ADR’d in from somewhere offscreen. Absolutely pointless change. (Extra pointless too considering Nielsen’s cameo was one of the most delightful parts of Creed II and got one of the biggest cheers from my audience – all the meta warm fuzzies of “holy shit i guess they buried the hatchet!” are now down the toilet).

    The Cold War stuff is now buried and muddled (Stallone keeps in the “we can change!” line from the end but weirdly takes out the lines before it saying how the crowd didn’t like him and he didn’t like them, which makes me wonder what was actually changing this time). In its place we get repeated musings about the Warrior’s Code and honorable deaths or something, which is nice for a Samurai movie or John Wick but feels kinda weird for a sports movie. Making Apollo’s motivation be more personal and selfish might be better for some fans, but I actually really loved that in the original his motivation was patriotism – you realize four movies in that his All-American, Uncle Sam, Stars and Stripes Shorts schtick wasn’t just a funny gimmick – his love for his country was real and he honestly had no choice but to fight this Russian badmouthing us. Now that beautiful character reveal is pretty much thrown away, like so much else special about the original.

  49. Was “Warrior’s Code” ever mentioned in the original cut? I don’t remember it outside of the lyrics to “Burning Heart”, which I never thought of as being of any particular significance, if that was a relic from something the Survivor guys saw in an early cut or read from the script that’s a cool little nugget. (I assume this cut doesn’t restore “The Sweetest Victory” by Touch to the film?)

    ROCKY IV: LESS 1985 VERSION sounded like a sisyphean project on Sly’s part when it was announced, and it sounds like he even backed away from that a bit and just made ROCKY IV: NO ROBOT CUT. I’ll still see it of course.

    Some of the negative reviews do remind me that some people have a frustrating inability to see that for all its chest thumping the movie shows the fallacy of jingoism more than it celebrates it. Or maybe it’s that they have no interest, in all senses of the word, in seeing that.

  50. Watched it this morning. Still ROCKY IV in my opinion:

    A ★★★★ review of Rocky IV (1985)

    Watched the new ROCKY 3.0+1.0: GONNA (NOT) FLY NOW version.  Honestly, it was about the same to me.  I will agree Stallone did Nielsen dirty in this version though.  But it’s still ROCKY IV.  The only scene I really missed was the following: Rocky: Yo, Paulie!  You’s f—-ing dat robot? Paulie: tenor.com/bH3No.gif

  51. I think the strength of the new cut is emphasizing Apollo more in the first act. After that it’s mostly the same but losing the robot makes Paulie and Rocky Jr disappear too. A lot of the edits are simply sloppy in the way Vern always observed in DTV Seagal movies. Shocking from a filmmaker so skilled at montage.

    This doesnt’t erase the theatrical cut. It’s just an interesting experiment that kept Sly occupied for 2020-21. I think there’s an ultimate cut with these new scenes but still the robot scenes. Some fan can put it together.

  52. Well I’ll stick my neck out and say, at least on a first viewing, and I am shocked to say this, I do prefer the 2021 Re-edit of ROCKY IV. Of course, that’s after having seen the original version several times, so it’s a very different experience from judging a movie on a completely fresh viewing, and it’s certainly not to say it would have worked anywhere near as well for 1985 audiences if it had been released then, but I was surprised by how emotionally invested I got in this. Yes, some of the edits are kind of sloppy, but I can live with that.

    I’m not quite sure what to make of Neilsen’s reduced role. It’s easy to read it as sour grapes, but she seems to still be in a little too much (including in parts where she is not strictly necessary) for me to think it’s quite that cut and dry. I liked the shot (not in the original cut as far as I recall) of her giving an awkward smile to Shire during the fight. So much to unpack there!

    One weird thing though; in this version there’s no mention of who is looking after Junior. It’s kind of funny that a key touchstone of ROCKY V is Rocky losing touch with his son when (in the film’s timeline) mere weeks or months earlier his father and mother had flown off to behind the iron curtain with nary a thought for the effect on him, or considering bringing him along even though even Paulie is going there just to cry and whine, even without mentioning the cheap gag that they were there long enough for him to age 6 or 7 years. Also no wonder Rocky’s heart started to “change” on the Soviets; it was awfully nice of them to allow and presumably arrange a separate flight for his wife at the height of the Cold War when she decided “you know what, I will go”.

    And to answer young November 13th, 2021 at 1:26 pm Pacman2.0’s query, yes, The Sweetest Victory by Touch *is* restored to the film (at the end of the ROCKY III recap).

  53. I’m much less of a re-watcher than I once was. Hell, I’m much less of a movie watcher than I once was, and I never was a movie watcher of the breadth or depth of some of this site’s regulars. So, that is a big reason I haven’t caught this new iteration of IV yet (I’d still say it’s a re-watch, even if it’s a new edit). I mentioned I recently re-watched FREDDY VS. JASON, but honestly, that was at someone else invitation, and I believe there’s a semi-probable alternate timeline where I never watched it again in my whole life. EXORCIST III was same thing — I finally watched it and loved it, but then a friend wanted to watch it, so, I watched it again and was glad I did, but that re-watch wouldn’t have happened that fast (and possibly not at all) otherwise.

    The other thing with this director’s cut, is that I really do think IV is a nearly perfect film, and I don’t want it to be any less of a 1980s power ballad, where the soundtrack is a major character — where it’s 98% visuals and soundtrack to the point that it could work quite well as a film even if there were no audible dialogue. I have serious doubts that this film can be improved upon, and although I’m slightly bi-curious about what an “artier” or more respectable version would be like, that’s only as a thought experiment.

  54. I used to be the same way with rewatching stuff, but I feel that’s kind of changed in the last year or two. Something something overwhelming options today, easy to go for the familiar blah blah blah.

    Also, not as a point of encouragement because I seem to be pretty much on my own here and don’t expect (or particularly need) that to change, but the new cut in many ways still is a musical; the No Easy Way Out, Hearts on Fire and Training Montage sequences are all present and accounted for (though I’m sure somewhat changed). It’s true that the first half is talkier though.

  55. Yeah, I can never predict how I’ll feel about this stuff — as fars motivation/interest/capacity to re-watch or to watch movies. I found some energy to do a lot more movies this Halloween season than I thought I would, and I was glad I did. And I’ve had some really rewarding theatrical experiences in the past year or two (to be clear, I could count those on one hand). But then there are movies I used to be able to watch annually or even more often that I will contemplate watching now and just [insert elderly person’s silent, dismissive handwave here]. Right now, I get as much joy reading and talking about old stuff or talking ad nauseum about the new stuff I watch as I do watching it (I have to be watching some of it just to prime the pump), which is your partial answer to “What the fuck is up with this guy?,” so, fuck it, that’s what I’m doing.

    Even JASON X – I went back and re-watched a good chunk of that this Halloween season (after reading Vern’s great, most-recent review of it), and I really enjoyed the first 40 minutes (The Cronenberg scene alone is worth it, the face smash alone is worth it, etc.), but then I just got off to something else and rand out of steam. Oh, well, got some wins in.

    In conclusion: Watching this re-edit may yet happen as my capacity and mood changes. In the meantime, I’ll be in this pool, chucking tennis balls at the dog.

  56. Am not just saying this because we recently lost the great Burt Young, but man, Paulie is such a fantastic character when you watch the 6 movies in sequence. Frequently irritating, occasionally loathsome, but Young also brilliantly brought out the sadness and regret at the core of the character, a man who’s pretty much seen life and opportunities pass him by and finally dispatched off the only job he’s ever had with a goodbye and a slab of meat.

    So, it’ll be damn near impossible for me to hear:

    “I know sometimes I act stupid and I say stupid things, but you kept me around and other people would have said “drop that bum”. You give me respect. You know it’s kinda hard for me to say these kinda things, cuz it ain’t my way, but if I could just unzip myself and step out and be someone else, I’d wanna be you. You’re all heart, Rock.”

    Without a little lump in my throat.

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