Will the Rocky IV Director’s Cut Kill its Charm?

Rocky IV robot and Paulie

And that brings us to the film’s Siberian Bull big bad himself, Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, whose claim-to-fame fight in which he beat Carl Weathers’s Apollo Creed to death will apparently be extended in a yet-unknown manner in Stallone’s new cut. The role positioned newcomer Lundgren for stardom in what was only his second onscreen appearance, having previously appeared six months earlier in 1985 Bond movie A View to a Kill as a thug named Venz; a role he acquired due to his real-life romantic relationship with co-star Grace Jones. Besides being an imposing spectacle of a human being (which he remains to this day), Lundgren’s outing as Drago was meant to depict him as the ultimate villain, a soulless Soviet slayer shaped by communism, steroids and all-around godlessness. However, while that façade was shattered by the end of the film (and even more so in Creed II), it remains to be seen if extended Drago scenes—specifically in the Apollo fight—ends up weighing the film down unnecessarily.

If there’s one thing that critics can’t take away from Rocky IV, it would have to be Stallone’s artfully economic approach as a director. The film manifests as a slim, trim 91-minute affair that saves money by being deliberately diluted with lengthy montages—FOUR of them in total. In fact, even if we generously discount his blatant reuse of Rocky and Apollo’s Rocky III-closing sparring session for the opening scene, two of said montages utilize recycled footage from the previous three films. Indeed, the movie kicks off by playing “Eye of the Tiger” during the franchise-obligatory recap of the previous film’s final fight, and Rocky’s contemplative car ride after Apollo’s death is riddled with flashback scenes, during which a soundtrack song, Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out,” plays out in full! You certainly have to hand it to Sly, the man knows how to get a big bang for his production buck. Yet, as with other intrinsically-Rocky IV aspects, one must wonder if Stallone has soured on his in-retrospect-amiable montage method of movie-making as much as the Robot.

On another note, Rocky IV is also known to be riddled with major movie mistakes, and I do mean A LOT of them; proverbial warts that have also come to define the film. For example, a major continuity mistake occurs before the Apollo/Drago fight when Apollo is in the ring trash-talking Drago, shouting, “I want you! I want you!” while his bare hand mockingly points at the Russian. Of course, just minutes earlier, we saw Apollo getting his hands taped up in his dressing room, and he was clearly gloved up when he came down to the ring in a James Brown-accompanied spectacle entrance. Additionally, a similarly bizarre mistake occurs during Rocky’s mid-movie vision of Drago in the aforementioned “No Easy Way Out” montage, which shows Drago presciently sporting the actual cut under his left eye that Rocky would deliver to him in the second round! While I could see Stallone wanting to fix mistakes like this, it would still be a shame to lose them.

However, a director’s cut of Rocky IV could yield benefits. For one thing, it could correct Apollo’s funeral scene, in which an odd focus error occurs on the right side of the frame that blurs out a few attendees, leading viewers to think it was censored. Moreover, it could prospectively integrate legendary lost elements. For example, Drago’s iconic evil line—delivered after he just killed Apollo—declaring “If he dies, he dies” was originally complemented by another would-be famous line that wasn’t even delivered in the film, but could finally get its onscreen due. Rocky IV’s teaser trailer featured an ominous introductory monologue from the villain that, contemporaneously, was just as associated with the character as the movie line. Delivered in Lundrgen’s labored Russian accent, lines such as “My name is Drago” and “Soon, the whole world will know my name” were prominent pieces of the film’s early ephemera. In fact, the latter line was famously sampled at the end of New Wave act Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s 1986 hit (famously used in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off), “Love Missle F1-11,” in which the trailer clip—along with imitated lines from Scarface and The Terminator—was included to exemplify the song’s commentary on American cinematic ultraviolence.  

Regardless of how it turns out, fans of the campy four-quel will be anxious to see what surprises Stallone has in store for the Rocky IV Director’s Cut. However, he has yet to reveal a release date.

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