First Time Watching: Rocky

About fifteen years ago – maybe more – I received the Rocky Soundtrack CD for Christmas. That CD was always paired best with winter weather and homework. I loved it.

A few days ago, I put it in my 20-year-old stereo, listened to it from start to finish, and then pressed the eject button. It didn’t come out. Instead, I was met with a loud hissing noise, as if I had just awoken an evil spirit, who didn’t want to let the CD out of its grasp.

It’s been almost a week and the CD is still trapped inside. I tried prying it loose by shoving things like a business card and a ruler inside the slot, but it won’t come out.

I can play it; I just can’t ever see it again.

So, I took that as a sign that it’s probably time to watch the movies. It is time to understand the full Rocky spectrum.

And maybe when I get finished with all (most) of them, the evil spirit inside my stereo will be satisfied with my progress, accept it as an offering, and return my CD in peace, as well as one piece. That’s how this ends, right?

God, I’ve been watching too many shows with supernatural elements.

This is my viewing experience of Rocky (1976). I haven’t looked up anything about the movie.

Before Watching

I had an idea of what I was getting into.

There would be boxing, an underdog story, Philadelphia, running up steps, Rocky Balboa, and Apollo Creed,

Just about everything else would be brand new.

In A Nutshell

Rocky Balboa is a 30-year-old amateur boxer training at a local gym. His life isn’t really going anywhere and he is doing just enough to get by. His best friend is, Paulie. His girlfriend by the end of the movie is Paulie’s sister, Adrian.

The Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed, has a fight in Philadelphia and wants to face a local, unranked boxer after his initial opponent pulls out with a broken hand.

Enter, The Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, who will receive $150,000 for the fight.

Creed’s ego gets in the way and he doesn’t take Rocky seriously. Creed thinks it’ll be over in three rounds, but the fight goes the distance.

The First 40 Minutes

The movie was very patient in its build-up, to the point where I felt like they knew they were getting a sequel before they even filmed a minute of this one.

Most of the scenes in the first 40 minutes felt like deleted scenes you would find on the DVD edition later. They were “nothing scenes”, but those are the types of scenes I like. The slower ones that subtly reveal a character’s lifestyle.

The scenes of Rocky just walking down the street, past a bunch of guys huddled around a burning garbage can. What I took away from that is Rocky is a bit of a loner. He’d rather say a quick, “hello”, and keep going.

There was also a line later where he says, “To you it’s Thanksgiving, but to me, it’s Thursday.” Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness and gratitude. Rocky didn’t have anyone with whom he could be together.

And we saw that same “loner” behaviour in other parts of the movie. Every time he walked into the boxing gym, he wasn’t stopping to interact with other boxers. Not a lot of wasted time chit-chatting.

When he got the fight with Apollo Creed, he didn’t want a manager. He didn’t want a trainer. He thought he was going to do it all by himself because that’s who he has had to be. He’s a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

Another scene I liked for no other reason than the fact that it was such a movie cliché, was when Rocky was walking on the sidewalk and a restaurant worker came out to take out the trash.

I feel like we don’t get scenes like that anymore – yeah, yeah, I’ll beat you to the punchline: “says the guy who doesn’t watch movies.”

Finally, the scenes of Rocky visiting the pet shop where his love interest, Adrian, worked showed that he was interested in companionship and not content with being alone forever. He went by that pet shop every morning and every evening, just to talk to Adrian, even if she didn’t say much (anything) in return.

That’s the kind of thing you do when you like someone. You conveniently keep popping up.

“Oh, I was just passing by.” No one is ever, “just passing by”.

Sylvester Stallone’s Boxing Skills

Look, what do I know about boxing? Not much. They punch, they protect their face, they don’t like southpaws, they put vaseline on their face, and they want big money fights with Jake Paul.

The opening sequence of the movie is Rocky’s latest fight. I thought Stallone looked like a real boxer. If I wanted to be critical, I’d say some of the punches could’ve been a bit more snug for the camera. One of his knockout punches hit the middle rope, even though his opponent acted like he was hit in the head.

But that didn’t bother me at all. I was just watching too closely.

All in all, I didn’t feel like I was watching an actor pretend to be a boxer. I’m sure Stallone took more than a few boxing lessons before filming and it showed.

Again, I don’t know proper technique. I’m a writer, not a fighter. Stallone was convincing. I’d love to hear a critique from people in the boxing world, though. They have the eye for it; they’d know what to look for. Maybe that exists somewhere on the internet.

Paulie’s Outbursts

Rocky and Paulie have a very…rocky friendship. Basically, Paulie gets mad, Rocky takes it, and then they’re good again. I think it came down to Paulie being jealous of Rocky’s success and he felt like he was being left behind.

Paulie felt like, “He’s dating my sister, I let him train at the meat packing facility, and I set him up an interview on TV for him, what do I get out of this?” Rocky pacifies Paulie’s jealous by agreeing to let him advertise “Shamrock Meats” on the back of the robe he wears to the ring.

Oh yeah, there was the scene where Paulie wanted his sister, Adrian, to go out with Rocky, even though she was using Thanksgiving dinner as an excuse. So, he threw the turkey into the alley, which I didn’t consider to be that egregious because I’m not a turkey person (unless it’s in a bagel).

There was also the scene where Paulie gets mad at Rocky and swings a baseball bat at everything inside his own house. What a way to really stick it to someone, huh? Break your own things. That’ll show ’em!

Paulie did seem to find some peace near the end of the movie, so maybe that will continue.

The Creed Fight

I really liked how the fight was shot. They let the viewer watch fight sequences, without implementing a bunch of camera cuts to disguise the viciousness of the punches.

You could even see the fictional television crew in the audience moving around with a camera. At first, I thought it was a mistake and the film crew was accidentally in the shot. But no. The footage cut to that camera and the movie made it feel like a broadcast angle, rather than a movie angle. That was a nice touch.

I don’t really have much to say about Apollo Creed. He took Rocky lightly, which is, honestly, understandable. Here he is, the best boxer in the world, facing off against an unranked nobody with a nickname that rhymes. How was he supposed to know that Rocky’s face could take every punch thrown at it?

At the end of the fight, they agreed to no rematch, but I feel like that just sets up a rematch. Don’t tell me, I’ll find out when I watch the next one.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

Again, I feel like they knew they were getting a sequel, if not multiple, before filming this movie. If you take a step back and think, what actually happened in this movie? It was a lot of character development and one big fight, that didn’t have much of an aftermath.

It felt like the purpose of this movie was to tease us into wanting more. This movie was merely the hors d’oeuvres. The whole meal is still to come. I actually like that.

This way, the story has room to build from movie to movie.

Rocky and Wrestling

Many aspects of professional wrestling can be connected back to Rocky. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Three things stood out. I think there was a fourth, but I can’t seem to remember it.

1. Rocky was introduced as, “Philadelphia’s favourite son”. I can’t remember who it was, but someone in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) or All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was recently introduced the same way, but with their hometown city, of course. It might’ve been MJF in Long Island.

I don’t know if Rocky was the first time anyone was introduced as “_____’s favourite son” but it was interesting to hear that phrase being used back in 1976.

2. The whole, “Champion faces local fighter” story is told quite often in wrestling. In behind-the-scenes wrestling lingo, the local fighter is known as a “local jobber” because their role is to show up and get beat.

The local jobber is normally a smaller wrestler who fans view as one of their own and an underdog. They don’t get any offence in and take their opponent’s most devastating maneuvers – sometimes multiple times – before being pinned. That maximizes the heat (hatred) the champion gets because not only did they pick on someone much smaller than them, but it was also a hometown hero.

3. Current NXT Superstar, Tony D’Angelo, is currently portraying an Italian mobster-type character. When not wrestling, he dresses the same way Rocky does. White shirt, jacket, fedora, dress shoes.

Now, maybe that’s “the look” (which it is) and he hasn’t used Rocky as an inspiration, but it’s the first thing I thought of when I was watching the movie. “Oh, Tony D. took his look from Rocky.”

Other Things

Rocky doesn’t have a phone because people call him and bother him. He has a point! Now, in all seriousness, I feel like the real reason he doesn’t have a phone is because he fell behind on payments, or maybe it broke and he couldn’t afford to get it fixed. Something money-related.

There was a scene where Rocky was walking through the streets at night and they were all wet. My mind immediately went to the production of The Bachelor. When they do the limo exits, they water the driveway because it looks better on camera.

I think that’s what they did in this scene. Is it possible that the road was wet because it rained? Yes. However, Rocky walked through a gate and neither the gate, nor the fence, seemed to be wet. Surely, they would be wet if it had rained.

So, I’m on to them!

I once made a video in my high school Communications Technology class with a group of others, where one member did a training montage that was inspired by Rocky’s training montage. That member cracked four eggs into a glass and attempted to drink them. I remember it not going very well, in addition to a messy kitchen counter.

They then followed it up by trying to do one handed push-ups. I can’t remember how those went. Probably painfully.

Anyway, the point being, how many people are out there drinking four raw eggs in the morning because they saw Rocky Balboa do it? I’m pretty sure that’s not recommended.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the movie and look forward to where it goes next! I feel like this was a small taste of the entire Rocky experience, but I can already see why it’s so popular.

Thanks for reading!

You’ll hear from me again after I finish Rocky II.

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10 Responses to First Time Watching: Rocky

  1. So when I started watching the series (which then goes into the Creed movies) I was told that the way movies film fight scenes now all started with Rocky. It wasnt realistic before and these movies were the stepping stones for more realistic film fighting!

    I actually like the Rocky series. But I don’t like the start of the Rocky/Adrian love story. He baaically harassed her and kinda forced himself on her. Thats a no go in my books. But I can’t go back to the late 70’s and change that LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Belladonna says:

    I love everything about rocky except for the last one. Not going too spoil it for ya

    Liked by 1 person

  3. peckapalooza says:

    I’ve always considered Rocky (and to a certain extent, Rocky II) to be a love story, with boxing and the big fight in the end being almost secondary to the story that’s being told. I think that’s why the movie spends so much time building up in the first couple of acts, developing these characters in the lead up to the training montage and the fight at the end.

    “It is time to understand the full Rocky spectrum.” It’s funny because the fight between Rocky and Apollo took place in Philadelphia’s Spectrum Arena.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the sequel, which I actually feel has a more compelling story to tell.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      You’re so right. It was hardly a story about a boxing match. I’m sure that’ll change the deeper I get into the series, but I’m glad they spent time giving us background on the characters.

      Ha! I wish I could say I planned that whole “spectrum” connection.

      I’m looking forward to Rocky II. I wanted to watch it yesterday but figured I better write out my thoughts on this one first.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: First Time Watching: Rocky II | The Captain's Speech

  5. Dutch Lion says:

    I highly respect Sylvester Stallone and his career. He’s a very interesting man. I’ve heard interviews with him that were extremely insightful into his life and how he wrote/directed his movies. One thing that I still recall was Stallone talking about the Rocky character and why he tried to make him into this uneducated guy who seemed almost dumb or stupid. Then most fans/viewers of the movie thought of Stallone as dumb. Stallone always had to remind people that he’s not Rocky. He only PLAYED Rocky in the movies. It was funny and interesting. Anyways, I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. You’re gonna have so much more enjoyment with this series.

    Reid

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Over the years, I’ve definitely gotten the impression that people have seen Stallone and Rocky as one person, so that’s interesting that you said he’s had to remind people that he’s just playing a character. I’m planning to look up Stallone interviews once I finish the series. It’s such a great story.

      Liked by 1 person

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