Almost two years ago, I wrote a piece about the Rocky running route in Rocky II. It turned out Rocky’s montage run (when connected arbitrarily, by me) in the film was nearly a 50K — a number so incredible it led to its own entry on a Google search and an actual race tracing the route.
Recently, I re-watched the film again. As far as sequels catching you up on the original, Rocky II is a hoot: The first few minutes of the film are actually just the final few minutes of Rocky. What better way to start a sequel than to literally pick up where it left off!
When the original footage ends, though, things get weird.
The ambulance route begins on the Girard Point Bridge, south of The Spectrum. According to State Athletic Commission guidelines, all promoters must have an ambulance at the location of a boxing match. Presumably that was also the case in 1979, but in 1993 in Pittsburgh an ambulance left in the middle of the card, leaving a fighter in need of assistance stuck at the amphitheater.
The ambulance could have picked up Rocky at The Spectrum, headed south over the Girard Point Bridge, made a U-turn, then headed back north up I-95 toward Center City (where the rest of the ambulance route takes place). That makes little sense, so let’s assume this is footage of the ambulance rushing toward the arena. Why would it go the wrong way?
Of course, once you see the rest of the route, you may wonder if this characterization is being too nice to the ambulance driver.
When I traced the Rocky running route, it was actually quite easy to connect the dots. But there won’t be a map of this route, because the route is too freaking confusing to make any sense. The next shot after I-95 is right at City Hall, headed north, and about to turn onto Market Street. Let that sink in before you scroll down to the next shot in the ambulance montage.
Oh, here’s the ambulance headed north at Broad and Pine. (The Gershwin Y and parking garage are on the left of the above screenshot.) It must have turned right onto 13th, headed South to Lombard, then turned back onto Broad Street. A pointless loop!
Here’s the ambulance again, continuing north on Broad Street and approaching City Hall. How many wedding party photos would have been ruined if that “NO TURNS” traffic light were still in the center median?
Next, we see the ambulance… on the north side of City Hall, with the Masonic temple on the left, and what’s now the Courtyard Marriott in the rear. The ambulance approached City Hall again and this time — instead of turning right onto Market, the driver decided to do a loop around the building.
The ambulance then continues down the street, heading west on JFK Boulevard. Wait until you see where the driver ends up taking Rocky.
I must say, this opening montage is photographed well. So kudos to Bill Butler. But to go from west on JFK to an indeterminable alleyway in Philadelphia is a bit much. We’ll cheat from the next fade and say the ambulance is turning from Latimer — which only exists for about an eighth of a block now — onto Darien. (This alleyway doesn’t actually appear to be Darien, as there’s parking on it, among other things. But I spent a month trying to figure out this one shot and I’ve given up.)
After the ambulance turns onto Darien Street, it passes by the Mikveh Israel Cemetery. Yes, that means…
… the ambulance reaches its final destination, Pennsylvania Hospital. For some reason Rocky was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital in a route that circled around City Hall and delayed him getting important medical treatment for minutes, if not longer! It’s a wonder he even returned to take on Apollo Creed again.