Sly's Once-Rocky Life

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before he wrote "Rocky," Sylvester Stallone's career was faltering. He couldn't afford to feed his beloved mastiff Butkus, so the actor sold him. When his car broke down, he was forced to take the bus to auditions. Yet when producers offered him $300,000 for his script about a boxer, Stallone held out--because he also wanted to star in it.

These are just three of the stories Stallone tells in the enchanting 25th anniversary DVD of "Rocky" (MGM, $20), the low-budget film about a stumblebum boxer who falls in love and regains his dignity in the ring. "Rocky" made Stallone a superstar, and the box-office hit won several Oscars, including best film and best director (John G. Avildsen).

The digital edition of "Rocky" includes a nice wide-screen transfer of the film and a 33-minute interview with Stallone, who talks about his inspiration for writing the film, how he got the script to producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, and the casting process. There's also a very funny story about how, after he got Butkus back, Stallone cast the pooch in the movie.

There's also a fun behind-the-scenes look at the film, hosted by Avildsen, who shows the home movies he made of Stallone and Carl Weathers rehearsing their boxing sequences. There's also a lovely tribute to the late Burgess Meredith, who played Rocky's grizzled manager Mickey, and a short but sweet salute to the cinematographer, James Crabe.

The terrific audio commentary is hosted by "Rocky" co-star Burt Young and features his reminiscences along with those of Avildsen, Chartoff, Winkler, Weathers and Talia Shire, who played Rocky's love interest. Rounding it out are several trailers, TV spots and advertising material. MGM is also offering all five "Rocky" films in a DVD set ($90).

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Another lovely DVD is Paramount's special edition of the 1990 box-office hit "Ghost" ($30), starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn and Whoopi Goldberg in her Oscar-winning role as a crooked medium.

The digital edition includes the wide-screen edition, the theatrical trailers and a compelling featurette that offers interviews with Oscar-winning screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, director Jerry Zucker and Swayze, plus vintage interviews with Moore and Goldberg.

Rubin says he always wanted to do a ghost story from the ghost's point of view. He was aghast, though, when he learned that Zucker--who, with his brother David and Jim Abrahams, had directed such outrageous comedies as "Airplane!"--was signed to direct his delicate drama. To make matters worse, Zucker had problems with the script. Rubin doubted they could work together. But then they went out to dinner one night with the promise they would not talk about "Ghost." The two discovered they had a lot in common and wound up having a great working relationship.

Zucker admits he wasn't interested in Swayze at first. In fact, Swayze says that Zucker had stated that the "Dirty Dancing" star would be cast in the film over his dead body. But when stars such as Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford turned down the part, they finally agreed to see Swayze, who wowed the writer and director in his audition and got the part. Rubin and Zucker also provide the funny audio commentary.

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For decades, the only available print of "The Lost World," the fanciful adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, ran only about an hour. The film was released in 1925 at more than 100 minutes but had been cut over the years. Image Entertainment has just released on DVD ($25) a restored version of the sci-fi dinosaur thriller that runs more than 90 minutes.

Wallace Berry, Bessie Love and Lewis Stone are among the stars of this action-packed silent about a controversial scientist who leads an expedition to a remote South African plateau where he had previously found prehistoric creatures.

Willis O'Brien provides the splendid stop-motion creatures. Eight years later, O'Brien created the effects for "King Kong."

The disc includes 12 minutes of restored, previously unseen animation outtakes; two musical scores--a traditional one by Robert Israel and a contemporary soundtrack by the Alloy Orchestra; excerpts from Roy Pilot's "The Annotated Lost World"; and interesting commentary from Pilot.

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Dr. Seuss created the energetic, imaginative 1953 fantasy "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," starring Tommy Rettig as a little boy who is forced to take piano lessons from the pompous Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conreid). Real-life husband and wife Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy also star. The DVD (Columbia TriStar, $25) features a nice full-screen transfer, an extended still gallery and a classic Gerald McBoing-Boing cartoon.

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Columbia TriStar's digital edition of the Sean Connery drama "Finding Forrester" ($25) has few extras. The DVD features a wide-screen transfer of the inspiring drama, about a bright, 16-year-old African American (Rob Brown) who befriends a reclusive writer (Connery); the trailer; an average HBO "making of" documentary; two minor deleted scenes; and a featurette on newcomer Brown. But without commentary from director Gus Van Sant or star Connery, this disc comes up short.

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