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The Curator of Schlock #48 by Jeff Shuster

Rocky IV: Apollo Creed Is Dead

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We’re back with Patriots Month here at The Museum of Schlock. Many of us kids back in the 80s were waiting for that final fight between the United States and the Soviet Union. We expected nukes to be flying all over the place, for Red Armies to come crossing our borders and blowing up our houses during Christmas time. Sadly, this never came to pass. The closest we ever got to that war was Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren pummeling each other in a boxing ring.

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1985’s Rocky IV (from director Sylvester Stallone) starts out well enough. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) are enjoying some time away from the ring. Rocky buys Paulie a robot servant, which is pretty cool.

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I know you younglings think your smartphones and your apps and your Facebooks and Twitters are the apex of technology, but we had robots back in the ’80s! I had a cousin who owned a Robie the Robot. I had a Verbot and a Dingbot. I haven’t seen those robots in years. Maybe they became sentient and decided to leave Earth to colonize a planet of their own…

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Anyway, all is well until this Soviet boxer named Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) shows up out of nowhere and requests an exhibition match with an American boxer. How dare he? Apollo Creed takes up the challenge and tells Drago where he can stick his Stroganov! When the two men meet for their match at the MGM Grand Hotel, Creed enters the ring dressed as Uncle Sam. As if that wasn’t enough, Creed decides he’s going to bury this Commie with The Godfather of Soul!

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That’s right! James Brown shows up to perform “Living in America,” a song about how great America is because we have all night diners, black coffee, and hard rolls! He also has a back up chorus, dancing girls, and a giant electronic bull’s head. What do you have Soviet Union, diners that close before 10 PM? The crowd boos Drago as they should and then Drago has the arrogance to tell Creed, “You will lose.” Woah. Check your hubris, Drago!

Creed dances around taking quick jabs at Drago until Drago punches him dead in the face. Creed loses his composure and Drago punches him in the face again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

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I think the translator must have screwed up. Drago wasn’t looking for an exhibition match, he was looking for and execution match! After the first round, Balboa tells Creed it might be a good idea to forfeit the match, but Creed begs Balboa not to stop the fight no matter what. In round two, Creed dances around and Drago punches him in the face again and again and again and again and then Creed falls down and dies. Noooooooooooooooooooo!

Rocky Balboa decides to avenge the death of his friend and challenges Drago to a match on Russian soil.

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Balboa trains in the hard snow and chops wood and climbs mountains while Drago trains in his computerized gym. I think good old-fashioned training beats fancy gizmos, but what do I know. When Balboa enters that ring, you can hear those deafening boos from hostile Russians, but as he gains the upper glove on Drago, something strange happens. The Soviets actually start to cheer Rocky on. Perhaps, it’s a mutual hatred of Dolph Lundgren that put an end to the Cold War.

Five Things I Learned from Rocky IV

  1. Robot servants need to make a comeback.
  2. “Living in America” should be a contender for the national anthem.
  3. Faces are not fists.
  4. Soviets like to hold their “Beat the American” exhibition matches on Christmas because they want to ruin Christmas for America.
  5. Sylvester Stallone should be credited with ending the Cold War.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

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