I have a few friends my age who are simply not wired to sit through a movie. We’ll be in the theater, chomping down popcorn. Bristling with impatience, they’ve gotten up to “…change the oil in the tractor before the film starts and maybe run a few errands…” Going back to when I was 5, I’ve seen an easy — easy — 35,000 movies.
A few stick out as far as to where I was when I saw them. My Pops and I were backpacking up in Bigfoot Country, Northern California. I remember we had just the surprisingly best Italian dinner. Before finding a dent in the woods to camp, we drove past a little theater in Arcata, 1972. “The Godfather” was playing. Holy. Cripes. “The Godfather.”
“The Exorcist?” A year later in Westwood? I was terrified for a year and seriously considered returning to Catholicism by sleeping in the planter outside Father Banks’ bedroom window on Lyons. “Werewolves on Wheels?” The 1971 outlaw biker/flea collar flick? Saw it at the Chatsworth Drive-in with Suzy Topping and a half-century later I still have to warn Suzy not to growl or show her teeth, not so much that I’m terrified of a werewolf riding a Harley but, with a half-smile, half-smirk, it opens doors to places within my psyche that I’d rather not visit.
But that all-time, never-forget landmark-in-your-life movie was the 1976 American classic phenomenon, “Rocky.” Stifled with a hyper-tight budget, “Rocky” ended up being 1977’s top-grossing film, raking in nearly a quarter-billion — a mind-boggling number for the time. Adjusted for inflation, that’s nearly $700 million in 2023 dollars. Over the years, the Rocky/Creed franchise has made nearly $2 billion.
Motored down to Westwood by myself to take in a late show that December 1976. The place was packed. I’ll never forget, at the end, in the final fight scene between Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), EVERYONE in the theater was standing up, bouncing, screaming, cheering. Talk about an emotional response.
Just last week, finally caught the first two “Creed” movies. With the third-volume set just released this month, the “Creeds” are the final in the film library of the lovable “deez & doze” pugilist, Rocky Balboa. I’ve gotta say. I was pleasantly surprised. There should be an Oscar category for Best Betcha Can’t Guess The Outcome. CI & CII managed to be about as subtle as a silent movie. And yet, they are so endearing. Actor Michael B. Jordan plays the tough, kind, vulnerable, absolutely adorable Adonis Creed, illegitimate son of Apollo who convinces his father’s old friend and rival, Rocky, to train him for a shot at the heavyweight title.
The staggering thing, like a telegraphed punch, each of the nine flicks is a Xerox of the previous movies. Like with “Rocky,” there isn’t anything left of Donnie/Adonis that you couldn’t spoon into a Petrie dish. Abandoned, filled with self-doubt, he curls up into a fetal ball in between taking reflective walks at night through the mean streets. Then, there’s the turning point when someone who loves Adonis drops some bromide that turns his life around and remotivates him into taping up his dismembered head, eye sockets, spinal column, spleen, etc., and quit being a big baby.
“Youze gotta want it,” or something to that effect says Rocky in gravelly bass G-7 voice.
Hm. I’ve got to remember that next time I ask management for a raise. I squint. Punch myself in the face and announce: “I want dat raise.”
I’ve seen every one of these exercise videos with the modern John Philip Sousa driving music. The zero-body fat protagonist is sweating, gritting his teeth and pushing a full-grown elephant by the butt up a Himilaya. He’s chasing chickens. He’s being pummeled by riot batons, tickled with ostrich feathers and forced to watch Jimmy Kimmel.
Finally, the fight comes. I have to say. Every movie, every movie, “Rocky” or “Creed,” I want to stop it, climb out of my seat and onto the scene. I want explain to BOTH fighters the concept of a “telegraph.”
In boxing and other sports, a “telegraph” is when you have a move so outlandishly foreshadowed that the other boxer looks out at the studio audience as if to say: “Are you guys seeing what I’m seeing?”
These aren’t punches. It’s like putting your head on a giant golf tee and someone whacks you straight in the face with a 600-pound driving iron.
Creed, as I mentioned, gets beaten so bad in his movies that they should insert nine little winged Adonis Creed angels with harps, floating heavenward. Then, his opponent takes 42 little hopping steps backward on his right foot, leaves the ring, hops backward past the concession stand, past the city limits, past the rainforests of India, THEN he takes a running start to land that final All The Stored Rage Of Mankind overhand right. Anybody ever hit me like that and my head would be bouncing down the road like an old hubcap.
Every Rocky/Creed movie, loved ones and medical specialists have their 12-second scene where they warn the hero that if he ever should sneeze, his head’s coming off.
I know this is not the proper venue and it’s wrong of me, but I’ve often wished that of certain people. Anywho.
These movies are so, darn, schmaltzy. Corny. Predictable. Yet so heart-tugging, sweet and unashamedly American. So terribly important and more so, they are a mirror into the possibilities of becoming the man or woman you were supposed to be.
If you’ve ever found yourself alone, shadowboxing, bobbing and weaving in the middle of the day, you know what I mean…
John Boston is the most prolific humorist and satirist in world history. The boy’s a local. Visit his bookstore at
johnbostonbooks.com. Then, buy stuff…