Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago – All of the Changes

| November 30, 2021

So here’s what has changed in Stallone’s re-edit of Rocky IV:

* The opening has been changed.  Gone are those silly “Rocket Gloves” and the scenes of Rocky Jr. with that video camera.  Much more prominent is the addition of scenes from Rocky III, including most of that film’s climactic fight and nearly the entire arc of Rocky and Apollo’s relationship beginning with Rocky’s defeat at the hands of Clubber Lang and their reunion.  Plus, the music is different.  The second Clubber Lang fight closes not with Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” but with Touch’s “Sweetest Victory” which was on the soundtrack to Rocky IV but not in the movie.

* The closing scene of Rocky III, the closed-door fight between Rocky and Apollo, is not recapped here and so now it is never mentioned continuity-wise until Creed.  With it goes the scene of Rocky coming home and meeting his son with the video camera asking how he got his black eye.  This arrangement makes the third Rocky/Apollo match even more of a closely guarded secret, even from his family.

* The actual beginning of Rocky vs. Drago begins with Apollo in the swimming pool watching the press conference with the Russians.  This, along with the opening recap, gets us into the story faster and puts Apollo’s story out front without the chunkiness of the scenes of Rocky’s homelife.  The focus of the Apollo’s pre-fight determination is given much more focus and a lot more weight.  It allows us to spend time with Rocky and Apollo as friends and much more time with their struggles with getting older and outdated in a less cumbersome way.  Which means:

* The robot is gone, and with it Pauly’s birthday party.  The ambulatory robot with artificial intelligence that Pauly later turns into a girlfriend is nowhere to be found.  That means a lot less Pauly and a lot less distraction from the seriousness of Apollo’s story.

* An added scene after the swimming pool shows Apollo in the back of Rocky’s mansion talking about the fight and playing it up as an act of patriotism.  It gives Apollo a larger and much more meaningful reason to fight Drago other than wounded personal pride.

* Adrian is given slightly more to say.  While it is still a one-note performance, Talia Shire has a kitchen scene in which she furthers her point of by Apollo and Rocky would do best to gracefully exit the boxing game.  She doesn’t support the fight and tells Rocky that Apollo can’t fight without his support either.  That gives the staircase scene later (“You can’t WIN!”) a little more weight.  It also gives a little more meaning to her sudden appearance in Russia later on.

* There are some dialogue cuts during the scene in which Rocky and Apollo watch one of their fights together, particularly when Rocky asks who the fight is against.  Originally, Apollo answered in a joking manner (“If it’s not against the Russian, then who is it against”).  Cutting this line means that Rocky’s doubts are already known to Apollo.  It cuts right to “I don’t want to hear about this, Stallion.”  It means that the conversation about Apollo’s wounded pride are already hanging in the air.

* The Apollo/Drago press conference plays a little differently because Drago finally gets a word in edgewise.  When asked for his thoughts, Drago drinks water and then tells the press “I did not come here to lose” which makes it clear that he takes Apollo’s insults a bit more personally.  It also, in an unspoken way, lets us know that Drago doesn’t speak because he isn’t allowed to speak.  When he tries to express himself, his wife and his manager talk over him.  That makes things a little more meaningful later on during the Rocky fight when he breaks away and begins fighting for himself – “I fight for me!  ME!.  This is also added to just after Drago kills Apollo with a new scene in which Drago (rather clumsily) addresses the crowd by shouting “Soon the whole world will know my name: DRAGO!”

* Stallone tries to tie up Rocky’s decision during the Apollo fight of not throwing in the towel.  In the original, the towel fell from his hand as Apollo took his fatal fall to the floor.  In the re-edit we get a much bigger emphasis that Rocky’s decision not to stop the fight is based on Apollo’s insistence.  There’s even the added moment when Rocky tells Apollo that he wants to stop it and the battered Apollo says “Don’t do this to me.”

* Apollo’s funeral finally has some dignity.  In the 1985 cut, Rocky stumbles through a half-assed speech about “You always did everything the way you wanted it.  I didn’t understand that, but now I understand.  I’ll never forget you, Apollo.”  It sounds like a eulogy for a co-worker that he hardly knows.  In the re-edit, the scene is much better, beginning with a nice eulogy from Duke, talking about Apollo’s warrior status, then leading into a much more emotional speech by Rocky about how his success wouldn’t be possible without Apollo before he breaks down and then places the belt on the grave.  The shot of the belt at the end of the scene is replaced by a moment when he confesses guilt to Adrian.

* The scene following Apollo’s funeral were added to the film’s original trailer but, until now, have not been part of the scene.  In it, Rocky sits down with the members of the boxing commission who refuse to grant him permission to fight Drago – their mixed feelings stemming from Apollo’s death but also from the fact that Drago hasn’t had a professional fight.  It is a good scene but it isn’t entirely necessary since it is established quickly in dialogue that Rocky gave up his title to fight Drago.

* Just before leaving for Russia, Rocky has a rather clumsy heart-to-heart with Robert (his son) in which he reminds him that sometimes one has to do things even when others think it is wrong – never mind that Apollo just got killed for doing that very thing!  The dialogue here is clumsy but I suppose that it does establish some of the relationship problems that the two would have in the next two movies.  Also added to the scene is a moment when Adrian begs him to stay.  Actually, the scene on the stairwell adds more weight to her showing up in Russia later on.

* The climactic battle between Rocky and Drago is mostly intact with only a few minor additions.  After Rocky is knocked down, there is a moment when we hear his inner-monologue.  It isn’t necessary since it isn’t anywhere else in the film but it does establish what is present in the later films.  Also, aside from some further dialogue in Drago’s corner, there’s a moment when the Russian boxing commissioner announces that he’s stopping the fight in Drago’s favor because of Rocky’s injuries to which Duke refutes that Drago is hurt just as much.

* In order to further excise the robot from the new re-edit, scenes of Robert and his friends watching the fight on television have been entirely cut.

* That speech at the finale is still there but with an addition.  Rocky opens it with a reference to Apollo by telling the crowd “My best friend says people don’t change. He died,” then we go into the whole “Everybody can change” bit.

* The Soviet Premiere is pissed off.  In the 1985 cut, the Soviet Premiere inexplicably started clapping after Rocky’s speech, signifying that perhaps Rocky ended The Cold War.  Here, he stands up very stone-faced and walks out, perhaps indicating that Rocky has just escalated tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama