As Rocky turns 40, Jason Nark takes a look at the icon today. But we looked back, taking a deep dive into our archives to see how we saw Sylvester Stallone's Italian Stallion when the movie was released in 1976.
1. Legendary Daily News sports writer Stan Hochman was not a fan of the movie. "Let's face it, the story is so flimsy, so trite, it would make you gag if not for the way Sylvester Stallone goes about telling the story."
Most of Hochman's complaints were boxing related. The famed scene where Rocky punches meat? Bad for the hands, Hochman says.
Hochman did say the fight scenes "grabbed you where you breathe," but repeated throughout his review, that this was not a boxing movie.
He might have changed his tone. Hochman had a cameo in Rocky V.
Inquirer film critic Desmond Ryan and Daily News film critic Joe Baltake liked Rocky considerably more. "...Rocky emerges as a film of warmth and emotion, a refreshingly quiet movie that respects the hearts and minds of its characters and, almost uniquely nowadays, of its audience. Us. And that's nice," Baltake wrote.
Ryan called it a "terrific fairy tale cum blue collar fantasy."
2. Talia Shire was not a fan of the Italian Market.
3. Stallone told Baltake he set Rocky in Philly because he used to live here and, "This place has a center city intelligence that's surrounded by blue collar sensibilities. Very unique, fascinating, the city's potential is still untapped."
But in another interview, as reported in the Inquirer, Stallone made fun of Fishtown:
4. Does Rocky exist because of daddy issues?
Stallone told Baltake:
The refrain that Rocky is too dumb to do anything but fight or act as muscle is a big theme in the movie, almost as if he has to overcome his body in order to show the softy inside. If Stallone's dad had been a little more supportive, perhaps Rocky wouldn't exist.
5. Stallone really didn't like the 1976 movie Marathon Man. Starring Dustin Hoffman as a grad student caught up in a Nazi conspiracy, Marathon Man is probably best remembered for a horrific scene featuring Laurence Olivier as an evil dentist (seriously, it will put you off dentistry). In interviews with both the Daily News and Inquirer, Stallone talks about how Rocky is a reponse to Marathon Man.
Here's the Inquirer:
"Matters have reached an all-time low," Stallone told the Daily News, "when you have an actor like Laurence Olivier in 'Marathon Man.' That film puts negativism on a new level of grotesqueness. Well, 'Rocky' is my way of saying, 'Enough already!' It's about a hero who has hope, who is positive."
Fun fact: Both Marathon Man and Rocky were two of the earliest movies to use a Steadicam (the first movie was the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory, which would eventually lose Best Picture to Rocky at the 1977 Academy Awards). The famous training sequence? The camera was able to move so fluidly to follow Rocky because of the Steadicam. Steadicams were invented by cinematographer Garrett Brown, who grew up in Philadelphia.
6. Stallone had a particularly Philadelphian view of success