Philly’s own Italian Stallion came home last week, and he brought the director’s cut of the beloved fourth addition to his franchise, “Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago.” Even though Sylvester Stallone himself is from New York, his character Rocky calls the City of Brotherly Love Home, and the city has certainly adopted Stallone as one of our own.
When ‘Rocky’ first premiered, the story of the underdog boxer from Philly making it all the way to the top in the world of global boxing, was met with huge acclaim. Created and starring Sylvester Stallone, the film that sparked a franchise showed universal themes of ambition, passion, determination and giving it your all to be a champion. In later films, such as ‘Creed’ starring Michael B. Jordan, those sentiments were exemplified for a new audience. MGM’s ‘Rocky’ and ‘Creed’ films have generated more than $1.3 billion in worldwide box-office sales, three Academy Awards, and 10 nominations, so it comes as no surprise to see the impact still holds strong, and young and old fans can celebrate together.
The premiere event of “Rocky IV: Rocky V. Drago: The Ultimate Director’s Cut” with Sylvester Stallone emanated from the Philadelphia Film Center and broadcasted via Fathom events. After a Q&A with Turner Classic Movie’s host, Ben Mankiewicz, the screening took place with a slew of audience members, including veterans to honor Veterans Day last Thursday. But before the events kicked off, Stallone and Burt Young (Paulie) hit the red carpet at the Philadelphia Film Center.
The fourth film in the initial franchise follows Rocky Balboa in his training and journey to fight Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his friend Apollo Creed in a title fight at the beginning of the film. With never-before-seen footage, the fight scenes are more intense, the music is more powerful and the drama is heightened.
“This one would be the easiest to sell to MGM — in other words, this one was very successful and it’s translatable because of what’s happening with Russia [now], so it’s back on the front burner rather than the back burner,” says Stallone. The two countries head-to0head style does hit a timely note, but it’s more so the style of filming that the writer-director wanted to focus on with this new cut that he worked on during quarantine. “I knew there was tremendous room for improvement. With the other ones I said, I pretty much got all the footage in me, with this one, no. I took a whole different turn, went for a montage and very 80s style with lots of smoke and star filters. I look at it and go, ‘Oh my God, what was I thinking?’ It was very glitzy, and some of it is still in it—you can’t do anything about it. But, we did the best we could.”
For the actors who starred in the film that premiered in ’85, the memories were also as fond as the response to the film. Despite the timely effects of the decade playing a part in the story as Stallone said, Rocky IV is still a fan favorite and for good reason.
“There’s a call for it,” says Young who played the smart-talking Paulie, always in Rocky’s corner. “People don’t waste money and they knew they wouldn’t waste money with this,” he added when talking about the studio, MGM. He also remembers Paulie in a good light: “He still rides a clean horse and a character that you still find interesting and full of brightness. I like brightness.”
What fans will get from the 20-plus minutes of new material is a lot more heart and one of the central messages of the film that Stallone mentioned in his Q&A, in a scene with his son before he leaves to go to Russia, and it’s also mentioned in the scene of Apollo Creed’s funeral: Sometimes you have to answer those little questions inside of you in life. You have to go for what you want ultimately, and in this new cut we see a little more of each character’s intentions.
“It definitely touches on why Apollo feels — he’s sort of like a Greek tragic figure. He’s drawn into this flame of destruction,” explains Stallone. “Dolph Lundgren was also portrayed as this robot pile of flesh. You realize he has been constructed like a Frankenstein monster, nobody knows what he really wants. People are speaking for him. He was a political tool and just like a weapon, and he malfunctioned because that’s the human frailty. And of course, Adrian has a couple more scenes in her… It’s just overall much more dramatic, but still has the punch of the fight and the big finish at the end,” says Stallone.
As for one beloved character from the film however, his fate is just as bad as Creed’s. “Sorry to say the robot has gone to robot heaven,” says Stallone. “He’s in a trash compactor somewhere.”
The Director’s Cut of Rocky IV is now available to stream on Amazon Prime