MGM’s recently released Rocky Heavyweight Collection contains all six films in the Rocky franchise, similarly to 2009’s Undisputed Collection. The main reason fans may want to invest in the latest release is a new transfer of the original—and by far, the best—entry in the series, and a few new extras. Other than that, everything else is basically the same as the earlier set. The six films Include:

Rocky (1976): Shot for just over a million dollars in under a month, the film became a global phenomenon, grossing over $225,000,000 worldwide, launching the career of writer and star Sylvester Stallone, and winning the Oscar for Best Picture. For those that don’t know the story, Rocky Balboa (Stallone) is a small-time Philadelphia boxer whose career seems to be going nowhere; he fights in sleazy clubs for a few bucks here and there. By day, he works as a collector for a loan shark to make ends meet. The trainer at his local gym, Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) regards Rocky as little more than a bum, even going as far as to give his locker to another fighter. At the same, Rocky try to catch the attention of Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire), a painfully shy woman who works in a pet store and lives with her alcoholic brother Paulie (Burt Young).

Rocky’s life takes an unexpected turn when heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) chooses him as an opponent in a title fight. Apollo figures this to be an easy fight; but for Rocky it’s a chance to prove to himself, and everyone else that he’s not a loser. Rocky has some truly memorable dialogue, and a few heart-stopping moments. It’s easy to see why a sequel arrived just a few years later.

A totally new remaster, this 1.85:1 1080p transfer looks very good. DNR doesn’t appear to be an issue. Overall, Rocky has a more polished appearance than the previous release, and a brighter, more natural looking color palette. Textures are solid without looking too sharp, and there are no haloes in evidence. There is some slight crushing in evidence, but nothing too invasive.

The  DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack doesn’t seem to have been updated from the previous release. The original Mono Mix is included for purists. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio remix isn’t particularly aggressive, offering occasional directional movement. Dialogue and incidental effects are largely focused in the center channel. Volume inconsistencies pop up a couple of times—the scene in the meat locker, for example—but generally, dialogue is clean, and clear. Bill Conti’s legendary theme music is crisp, if not particularly bombastic.

The extras of everything that was included on The Undisputed Collection, plus a few new things, marked as such.

  • Three Audio Commentaries: The first with Stallone solo, the second with boxing trainer Lou Duva and boxing commentator Bert Sugar, and the third with director John G. Avildsen, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, actors Talia Shire, Carl Weathers and Burt Young and steadicam inventor Garrett Brown.
  • 8mm Home Movies (HD, 8:10, New) Vintage, behind-the-scenes images with narration from Avildsen and production manager Lloyd Kaufman.
  • Three Rounds with Legendary Trainer Lou Duva (SD, 4:30)
  • Interview with ‘Legend’ Bert Sugar (6:50, SD) An interview with a celebrated sports writer.
  • The Opponents (SD, 16:10) An overview of Rocky’s antagonists throughout the entire franchise.
  • In The Ring (SD, 1:15:00) A three-part retrospective documentary.
  • Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown (SD, 17:30)
  • Make Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore (SD, 15:20)
  • Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti (SD, 11:40)
  • The Ring of Truth (SD, 9:30) An interview with production designer James Spencer.
  • Behind the Scenes with Director John Avildsen (SD, 12:30) More of the 8mm footage, including discussion with the director on its use.
  • Tribute to Burgess Meredith (SD, 7:50)
  • Tribute to Cinematographer James Crabe (SD, 3:40)
  • A Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone (SD, 28:50) Footage of the writer/actor discussing the film.
  • Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (SD, 17:20) Footage from Stallone’s appearance on the talk show from 1976.
  • Stallone Meets Rocky (3:00, SD) A weird video featurette with Sly talking to himself.
  • Trailer, teaser trailer, and three TV spots.


Rocky II (1979): A fine sequel, the story covers a lot of the same ground as the first film, but adds a little more flash. Having proven himself against Creed, Rocky now has some money and the girl of his dreams, having married Adrian. Though he explores other options, Rocky soon realizes that boxing is really his only chance at financial security. Meanwhile, Creed, facing mounting criticism for the way the last meeting played out, longs for a rematch. Naturally, the heated rematch is eventually set, with Bill Conti’s memorable theme music once again accompanying Rocky through the streets of Philadelphia.

Over $200 million at the box office would guarantee yet another sequel.

Sporting the same exact transfer as the 2009 release, it looks okay. Not a particularly pretty looking movie in the first place, grain is prevalent throughout. Minor digital artifacts such as dirt, and scratches, can be spotted intermittently. The image is not particularly detailed, showing noticeable fuzziness throughout. Nonetheless, everything, details, patterns, textures, colors, etc. are more vibrant than any stand definition disc offers.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is fine, and the occasional dialogue fluctuations found in the first film are a no show, though Conti’s score does sound just slightly muffled to my ear.  MGM/Fox has included a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix that I assume matches the film’s original stereo mix.

Rocky III (1982): By now, the Rocky franchise had become a real cash cow. Gone was the real human story that had made the original Rocky resonate with so many. Sylvester Stallone seemed happy to make what seemed like little more than a parody of the original film. Clubber Lang (Mr. T., in his film debut), is a comic book version of Apollo Creed, who has now joined Rocky’s camp. Even as one major character is killed off, Rocky III’s success lays in the fact that Sly and company acknowledged they were doing a parody. Even so, the Rocky franchise was really fraying at the edges here, and of all the installments, this is the one (save for Rocky Balboa), I revisit the least.

A rather colorful film, Rocky III has a rather dreamy look throughout. Soft focus is used, even in the harshest light; given that, along with the generous amount of film grain, and occasional print damage, means that the level of detail is minimal. Still colors are fairly vibrant, and faces, natural.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix and its Dolby Digital 2.0 counterpart sound more aggressive than the first two films. While the 5.1 isn’t what you could call truly immersive, it does have some noticeable punch. Dialogue is nicely centered, never crowded out by Bill Conti’s theme.

Rocky IV (1985): Strangely, The most popular entry in the franchise, bringing in over $300 million worldwide. Fueled in large part by increasing Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, Stallone’s decision to take Rocky back to his old training methods to take on   Soviet Übermensch Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) proved a popular decision. While the brutal Soviet used big technologically advanced machines to get ready for the big match, Rocky was training the old fashioned way, the American way, running, hitting the bag, and enduring various intense training montages. Rocky IV was just the kind of film the Reagan era eighties ordered.

This is a surprisingly strong transfer, showing sharp edges and an impressive amount of fine detail. The amount of film grain in evidence would seem to suggest that excessive DNR wasn’t used. Contrast levels are quite strong. And while colors do bleed into one another on occasion, they never appear muddy.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (produced using a 2.0 Dolby track, which is included here), is rather aggressive, with a notable increase in directionality and bass. Dialogue is syill nicely centered as in the earlier films, but there are no muffled sounds to speak of.

Rocky V (1990): Honestly, I’ve never liked this film. In many ways, it’s a Rocky film in name only. More about family drama, than boxing, Rocky takes a back seat to idiot fighter Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) he’s attempting to train. At the same time, Rocky is trying to mend fences with his teenage son (Sage Stallone). I give some credit to Sly and the filmmakers for trying to address brain damage, and the effects of getting hit in the head for years with this one, but it just too much of a mess to be any good.

Even the look of Rocky V is depressing, with everything desaturated. Details are washed out, and the film has a soft appearance. The dark, dingy palette looks rather natural, but separation isn’t great. This is a rather disappointing transfer.

However, Rocky V does have one of the stronger DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remixes, featuring well placed dialogue with consistent volume levels. There is an immersive feel throughout that is definitely a big improvement over the first four films.

Rocky Balboa (2006): The sixth film in the series, Rocky Balboa, is quite good. A highly personal story, this makes a great ending to the Rocky saga, if indeed it is. Long retired, retired, Rocky is just trying to navigate a world he really doesn’t understand. Adrian has died, and an aging Rocky must decide whether to take one more shot in the ring against current champ Mason “The Line” Dixon (boxer Antonio Tarver). It could be his last shot at redemption.

Compared to the others, Rocky Balboa, is a fairly new film, and looks it. Black levels are fairly inky, while the occasional blown-out whites are stable.  Detail is impressive, with every drop of sweat and blood visible.

The uncompressed PCM 5.1 track is busy mix without being distracting. There are lots of ambient effects—crowd noise, punches—and dialogue is clean throughout. Bill Conti’s music comes through powerfully, without being bombastic and blends well into everything else.

The original release extras are included:

  • Sylvester Stallone commentary
  • Seven deleted/extended scenes and an alternate ending (HD, 23:20)
  • Bloopers (HD, 1:30)
  • Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa (HD, 17:50)
  • The Reality of the Ring: Filming Rocky’s Final Fight (15:40, HD)
  • Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight (HD, 5:10)
  • Trailers