|Me on the top of the famous steps,|
While I haven't watched the full original movie itself in a number of years, I can't tell you how many times I have listened to "Gonna Fly Now" and "Eye of the Tiger" from "Rocky III"during my fitness journey. Or watched the training montage from the original film. Or visualized scenes from that training montage when running. (Rocky lumbers the way I do!)
And yes, when I was sprawled out in Citi Field's center-field dirt during my Spartan Race last year, wondering how the heck I was going to finish, "Gonna Fly Now" did seem to taunt me. That was the lede of my Spartan Race story that won the Guideposts contest for me -- and got me in the magazine.
Also, when I ran the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll 5K in September 2014, I did the obligatory post-race photos on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. It's no accident that I wore my shirt from that race when I ran in the Staten Half-Marathon last month. And my theme song during that race was "Victory," the Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes song that samples the ring music from "Rocky."
|Me in front of the Rocky statue,|
with my medal for the race.
- People don't think of Sylvester Stallone as much of an actor, but he is tremendous in this film. Like the look on his face when he gets the offer to fight Apollo Creed. Or when he finally loses his temper and yells at Mickey. Or when he confesses to Adrian that he doesn't think he can beat Creed, but just wants to go the distance. There's a reason he was nominated for Best Actor for this movie.
- There was also a reason Stallone was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for this movie. The script became the template for so many sports movies over the years. But most of the imitators miss two things: how bleak Rocky's life and surroundings were to start with (remember the lamp with no shade and the upside-down KFC bucket?), and the fact that he didn't win at the end. He just went the distance, and that was enough.
- The film's low budget ($1 million) and short filming schedule (28 days) helped contribute to its verisimilitude. The ice skating scene was done the way it was, with the empty rink, because they didn't have the money for extras. And the picture of Rocky with the wrong-colored shorts -- and the too-big robe -- were production mistakes that the movie explained by having Rocky point out both things.
- Stallone has acknowledged that part of the inspiration for his writing was his own struggle as an actor/screenwriter, but he said that nobody would have wanted to watch a movie on that. And he believed in his script so strongly that he wouldn't sell it unless he got to play the lead role. He ended up getting less money up front, but 10 percent of the gross. Not bad for a movie that made over $225M at the box office.
- Don't forget that this was also an era of depressing movies -- "Taxi Driver," "All the President's Men" and "Network" were all nominated for Best Picture that year, and this movie, although pretty down for much of it, was very uplifting at the end. (Although in the first draft of the script, Mickey was a racist, and Rocky threw the fight in disgust with the system.)
- Stallone looked pretty good in the movie, especially when he took his sweater and shirt off. And the undershirt had to be an homage to Marlon Brando.
- Rocky running in Converse high-tops is not something you would see today. But the training scene, which might be the first of its kind set to music, still really holds up.
- Mickey reminded me a little of Squawker Jon, complete with the gruffness.
- The Adrian character is an interesting one -- it's amazing how much taking off the glasses, and getting a cooler hat, did for Talia Shire's looks in the movie. Athough, I have to wonder, does she get contacts, or just walk around blind? This nearsighted person wants to know!
- And why doesn't she watch the fight until the later rounds? However, that does lead to her rushing to the ring to see Rocky, and him asking her, "Where's your hat?" Another great line.
- Is Paulie the worst brother ever, or what? Just really a horrible human being.
- On the other hand, I loved Apollo Creed more than I did when I first saw the movie. Him coming out to the ring as George Washington across the Delaware, throwing coins was classic. As was him stripping down the costume to be wearing a second costume -- Uncle Sam. Carl Weathers was excellent in that role -- hilarious, but tough, too. A more jovial Ali.
- People forget what a big deal the bicentennial was. So the timing of Creed picking Rocky fit perfectly. Although July 4, not January 1 as in the movie, was the main celebration day of the bicentennial.
- How about Joe Frazier in that lime green leisure suit? Good times!
- I don't know how much Bill Conti got for his music in the movie, but he did a tremendous job with the score. Every sports movie since them owes something to his work here.
Anyhow, now I'm really pumped up to see "Creed." Just thinking about Rocky, I'm inspired to think that what should be my next fitness challenge. Another half-marathon? Another Spartan Race? Or something else? I'm ready to rumble -- as soon as my bursitis and tendinitis in my right leg and hip heal! What would Rocky do?