Rocky: The Knockout Collection (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (Rocky)
The Film (Rocky II)
The Film (Rocky III)
The Film (Rocky IV)
The Film (Rocky vs. Drago)
The Video (Overall) (Rocky)
The Video (Overall) (Rocky II)
The Video (Overall) (Rocky III)
The Video (Overall) (Rocky IV)
The Video (Overall) (Rocky vs. Drago)
HDR Effect (Overall Collection)
The Audio (Rocky)
The Audio (Rocky II)
The Audio (Rocky III)
The Audio (Rocky IV)
The Audio (Rocky vs. Drago)
The Collection (Overall)

SUMMARY

In the first four films in the popular Rocky Balboa franchise from Sylvester Stallone journeyman southpaw Rocky faces several daunting challengers and must train to rise to each challenge.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Rocky: The Knockout Collection brings together the first four films in Sylvester Stallone’s boxing film franchise. The collection with the 1976 Academy Award Best Picture and Best Director (John G. Avildsen)-winning Rocky, about an Italian American journeyman boxer named Rocky Balboa (Stallone), who gets the chance of a lifetime when the current heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) selects him as a sparring partner and subsequently to fight in a title bout.

The further films, all written and directed by Stallone, are virtual copies of the original film. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as the saying goes. 1979’s Rocky II sees Rocky taking on Apollo again in a rematch and this time winning the title match. In Rocky III, the now successful and wealthy Rocky who has settled into married life with Adrian (Talia Shire) and easy bouts arranged by his veteran trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) is challenged by hard-hitting and angry boxer Clubber Lange (Mr. T). Finally, Rocky IV brings in 1980s Cold War-era geopolitics and some bad comedy, when a Soviet amateur fighter, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a hard-hitting, cold as ice fighter, comes to the US and challenges the Heavy Wight Champion Rocky. When a tragedy in a first exhibition fight occurs, the bout is moved to the Soviet Union where Rocky must train to get himself into shape for the ultimate challenge of his career.

The collection also includes the recent Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago Ultimate Director’s Cut version of Rocky IV which edits out a little over 30 minutes of footage and replaces it with approximately 30 minutes of previously unseen footage. The result is a similar, but grittier film that has better pacing that excises some of the less successful comedic elements of the film or overly jingoistic elements. One strange change is the removal of the count out at the end of the bout in the final fight.

  • Mr. T and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III (1982)
  • Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire in Rocky (1976)
  • Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in Rocky II (1979)
  • Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in Rocky (1976)
  • Mr. T in Rocky III (1982)
  • Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV (1985)
  • Mr. T and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III (1982)
  • Rocky: The Knockout Collection
  • Rocky: The Knockout Collection

The Video

All four of the films in the Rocky: The Knockout Collection have been remastered in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision. HDR10 Metadata for each is as follows:

Rocky:

  • MaxLL: 3992 nits
  • MaxFALL: 362 nits

Rocky II:

  • MaxLL: 3992 nits
  • MaxFALL: 1819 nits

Rocky III:

  • MaxLL: 3992 nits
  • MaxFALL: 2562 nits

Rocky IV:

  • MaxLL: 3992 nits
  • MaxFALL: 1649 nits

Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago:

  • MaxLL: 3992 MaxFALL: 3383

Each film is framed at 1.85:1 except Rocky vs. Drago which gets a 2.40:1 framing. Counterintuitively, the best-looking films in the collection are Rocky and Rocky II which look very organic, have a good layer of natural grain, and the Dolby Vision grading is gorgeous. Even in Rocky I which despite its sometimes-desaturated palette, looks enticing. The nighttime shots of Rocky on the streets have extended shadows and the streetlamps and neon signs ‘pop’ with colors and specular highlights.

When one gets to Rocky III, the picture quality takes a definite step down. It does not look awful, but there is a roughness to the overall picture, more visible wear on the source, and a hint of noisiness in the granularity. Things look up when moving to Rocky IV, which has very sharp grain and textures, but the difference in picture quality between the original theatrical release and the director’s cut is strange. Rocky vs. Drago (Rocky IV director’s cut) looks smoother and obviously has more grain suppression applied. It is noticeable throughout the film, but in the fight sequences Rocky’s and Drago’s muscles are not as defined as in the theatrical cut.

The Audio

The widely reported issues with lower-pitch problems on Rocky II-IV is one that could never be noticed without direct comparison to previous releases on disc. Furthermore, without a statement from Warner Bros. or access to the original negatives and masters it would be impossible to know what the original pitch should have been. There have been audio release mastered at incorrect speed/pitch and released and sold as such for decades before being fixed. That said, the lossless 5.1 mixes sound really good, but are not without issues. There are dialogue inconsistencies in the first three films, where the dialogue tends to get lost. The fight sequences are complicated with the banter between Rocky and Apollo often sounding muffled and dropping well below the crowd noise, but maybe they are meant to sound this way? There is one spot in Rocky III where, when Clubber first confronts Rocky at the press conference to challenge him to a fight, his dialogue does not synchronize with his lips. I cannot say if this is unique to these releases since I do not own Rocky III on Blu-ray or DVD.

There is also the issue with the Original Theatrical Mix on Rocky 1 being a 2.0 surround downmix. In fact, I am not convinced that any of the 2.0 mixes are the “original” theatrical mixes. I know Rocky II, for example, was original Dolby Stereo, so a 2.0 surround mix makes sense, but the mix sounds far too similar to the 5.1 mix to my ears.

The Supplements

Apart from the audio commentaries on Rocky, all the previously available bonus features are provided on a separate Bonus Features Blu-ray. The included Making of Rocky vs. Drago documentary is approximately 35 minutes shorter than the version widely available online via YouTube, which is perplexing to say the least. I did not, however, come across any mislabeled special features as had been reported on certain Blu-ray sites.

  • Audio Commentary with Avildsen, Winkler & Chartoff, Talia Shire, and Burt Young (Rocky)
  • Audio Commentary by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky)
  • Audio Commentary by Lou Duva and boxing commentator Bert Sugar (Rocky)
  • “8mm Home Movies of Rocky” with Commentary by Director John G. Avildsen and Pre-production Supervisor Lloyd Kaufman (SD; 00:12:32)
  • 3 Rounds with Lou Duva (SD; 00:04:34)
  • Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown (SD; 00:17:26)
  • Make-Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore (SD; 00:15:11)
  • Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti (SD; 00:11:30)
  • The Ring of Truth with Art Director James Spencer (SD; 00:09:37)
  • A Tribute to Burgess Meredith (SD: 00:07:53)
  • Stallone Meets Rocky (SD; 00:03:00)
  • The Making of Rocky vs. Drago: Keep Punching (1080p; 00:58:29)
  • Trailers (1080p):
    • Rocky
    • Rocky II
    • Rocky III
    • Rocky IV
    • Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago

The Final Assessment

This collection is a mixed bag of head-scratching quality control issues that may or not be addresses, but ultimately not the nightmare, worthless release that some pearl-clutchers have made it out to be. One never wants a studio to drop the ball on consistency, but the sound and picture quality are reasonable and there have been releases that are way worse than this.


Rocky: The Knockout Collection is out on 4K Ultra HD February 28, 2023, from Warner Bros., Home Entertainment


  • Rating Certificate: PG (Rocky) | PG (Rocky II) | PG (Rocky III) | PG (Rocky IV) | Unrated (Rocky vs. Drago)
  • Studios & Distributors: Chartoff-Winkler Productions | United Artists | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Directors: John G. Avildsen (Rocky) | Sylvester Stallone (Rocky II; Rocky III; Rocky IV) |
  • Written By: Sylvester Stallone
  • Run Time: 120 Mins. (Rocky) | 119 Mins. (Rocky II) | 99 Mins. (Rocky III) | Rocky IV (91 Mins.)
  • Street Date: 28 February 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 | 2.40:1 (Rocky vs. Drago)
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • Rocky:
      • MaxLL: 3992 nits
      • MaxFALL: 362 nits
    • Rocky II:
      • MaxLL: 3992 nits
      • MaxFALL: 1819 nits
    • Rocky III:
      • MaxLL: 3992 nits
      • MaxFALL: 2562 nits
    • Rocky IV:
      • MaxLL: 3992 nits
      • MaxFALL: 1649 nits
    • Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago:
      • MaxLL: 3992 MaxFALL: 3383
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 | English Descriptive Audio | French DD 5.1 | German DD 5.1 | Italian DD 5.1 | Spanish (Castilian) DD 5.1 | Spanish (Latino) DD 2.0
  • Subtitles: English | French | German | Italian | Spanish (Castilian) | Spanish (Latino) | Dutch
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In the first four films in the popular Rocky Balboa franchise from Sylvester Stallone journeyman southpaw Rocky faces several daunting challengers and must train to rise to each challenge. Rocky: The Knockout Collection (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)