Marc Bernardin
April 20, 2001 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Fortune smiles upon the brave. Or, at least, the brave enough not to know any better. The story of Rocky — both on screen and behind the scenes — is an object lesson in fortuitous perseverance. Sylvester Stallone was a thuggish bit player who wrote a script about a thuggish boxer who gets a shot at fighting the champ. This five-disc, 25th-anniversary boxed set documents everything that came from that script, from the Best Picture Oscar for the first Rocky all the way to the misbegotten Rocky V. The first disc boasts the lion’s share of the extras, offering commentaries with director John G. Avildsen, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, and costars Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, and Burt Young; and three featurettes, including a tribute to the late Burgess Meredith.

The most interesting bit is a 28-minute interview with Stallone, who gives something of a Rocky oral history from genesis to release. By turns touching, insightful, and self-indulgent, it’s a fascinating look at a star glancing back through time at the role that, for better and for worse, defined him. As for the rest of the set, there’s nothing special about it: All you get are decent wide-screen transfers of mostly mediocre films and theatrical trailers. (Personal note: This writer has a special weakness for Rocky III. It’s like the Goldfinger of Rocky movies, the one in which all the elements came together: the training sequence, the theme song, the unidimensional opponent, Stallone’s abnormally defined physique. It created the mold for almost every pulpy fisticuffs flick that followed, from Kickboxer to Hard to Kill.)

And it all sprang from Stallone’s script. As Burt ”Paulie” Young says in the commentary, ”We had gold, thanks to that goofball.”

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