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The smell of napalm in the morning
A region 1 DVD review of APOCALYPSE NOW – THE COMPLETE DOSSIER by Slarek
 
"Everybody gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my
sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was
a real choice mission, and when it was
over, I'd never want another."
Captain Willard

 

Apocalypse Now, the original 1979 cut

If you've never tried it, you might be surprised just how difficult it can be to write objectively about a film that you love, one that you regard as a work of pure cinematic art. There is a constant temptation to overdose on superlatives, to list every small thing about it that fills you with joy every time you watch it. The result can sound horribly like a critical dick suck, a fall to the feet of the filmmaker with the cry of "I am not worthy!" But any true film fan will have at least a fistful of films that she or he holds so dear that all negative criticism is effectively null and void. And so it should be. This is the magic of cinema, that a film can so excite the watcher, whether it be emotionally, intellectually or just for the sheer beauty of the filmmaking, that for two or three hours the pairing of the right viewer with the right film can lead to true love. I'll admit that I have a lot more than a fistful in my collection – at the last count it was approaching 400. But if forced to sort them into order (and I have no desire to try, thank you), there would be certain films that I would have little trouble placing near the top. Apocalypse Now is one of them. Perhaps I should be more specific and say that I'm talking about the original cut rather than Redux. But more of that later.

I tend to assume that every film enthusiast has at least heard of Apocalypse Now and that most have seen it, but in the past three years I have learned not to be so presumptuous about any film made before 1990. I have worked with teenage students who would probably not even be of aware the original Star Wars were it not for those wretched new episodes – I tried once to use it as an example of the narrative theories set out in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and the entire class looked back at me blankly. None had seen the film and several had never heard of it. When I expressed my surprise, one of them remarked that they didn't watch "old films." I pointed out it was made in 1977, hardly the birth of cinema, and the reply came back, "That was ten years before I was born." To a young moviegoer still finding their way around the films of the present, 1977 is ancient history. But I'm going to stand by my presumption this time and warn newcomers that there are some spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution.

If you have seen it, then I hope you were lucky enough to catch it in the cinema, and if you were really fortunate, as I was, you'll have caught the original 70mm blow-up with its quadraphonic soundtrack. It really is overwhelming on the big screen. Visually it's consistently astounding – one audience member at our film society screening of Apocalypse Now Redux said to me in all seriousness, "That is the most beautiful looking film I have ever seen in on a cinema screen." This had as much to do with the quality of the Redux prints as with Vitorrio Storraro's cinematography – rarely have I seen colours this vivid, images this precise on a projected 35mm film print. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's assume you haven't seen it and trot through a quick bit of plot.s

During the war in Vietnam, young Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on a mission to find and kill Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a Green Beret renegade who has gone off the rails and set himself up as a God deep in the Cambodian jungle. This basic premise, inspired largely by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, is used to explore a journey into the darker side of the self through the experience of war from the viewpoint of the American combatant. Willard travels up river on a PBR (Patrol Boat, River) crewed by, in his own words, four "rock 'n' rollers with one foot in their graves." Two are black – the almost underage Clean (played by the then 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne) and the authoritative Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) – and two of them white – the slightly wired Chef (Frederick Forrest) and laid-back surfer Lance (Sam Bottoms) – who together serve as a microcosm of the young American fighting man in Vietnam.

The journey undergoes a number of interruptions, each exploring a different aspect of the American experience in the war. The first is Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), a bullish, reality-detatched Air Cavalry commander who orders his men to surf under fire and plays Wagner over loudspeakers as his helicopters attack a village. Then there's the isolated floodlit supply centre ("a bizarre sight in the middle of this shit!"), where GIs can buy drugs, a motorbike, or a ticket to a show featuring Playboy Bunnies. A darker encounter sees the crew stop a sampan to search for weapons, only to end up slaughtering its occupants in a clear reference to the Mi Lai massacre. All interesting enough, at least on paper, but what is it that makes the film so special? Oh, where do I start? Well how about the opening.

Picture the scene. We've been waiting for this movie for years, and I do mean years. Shooting took something like twelve months, post-production three times longer than that. The film went way over budget and over schedule, and the movie press had taken to dubbing it 'Apocalypse When?'. Stories of chaos and near madness from the set had already become the stuff of movie legend, but a screening of the incomplete film at Cannes had generated huge excitement and earned the film a joint Palme D'Or win alongside Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum. Finally the completed film arrived in the UK. It was due to go on general release on 35mm in a few weeks, but for now was playing only on 70mm in the big cities. I wasn't prepared to wait and hopped on a train to London and the ABC Shaftsbury Avenue and plonked myself in a prime seat near the front of the stalls. I'd already become accustomed to a degree of audio-visual joy at cinemas in London – I was there for the third night of Star Wars and the second weekend of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but this was to be a first for me. The lights went down and the projector rolled. No image appeared, but a strange, rhythmic electronic pulse started somewhere at the back of the cinema and began drifting down the left hand side towards the screen. Heads were turning in wonder all around me. What was going on? By then we had an image to accompany it, a static shot of a jungle tree line, and as the sound reached the screen a helicopter drifted into view, slowed down like the electronic representation of its rotor blades we now knew we were hearing. As it departed screen right, the sound of the rotor continued its journey up the right-hand wall to the rear of the auditorium.
This may sound all very well to those of you with home cinema surround systems, but I'll wager that this is the first time anyone in that audience had heard what was pretty much the first cinema incarnation of what was to become the ubiquitous 5.1 sound of today. It was a revelation. But this was just the start of it.

The abstracted helicopter sounds were soon joined by the twangy opening strains of The End by The Doors. I was never a big Doors fan, but I always loved this track. As Jim Morrison sang, "This is the end..." the tree line exploded in napalm. Oh wow. The song continued, and non-specific glimpses of warfare were overlaid with the face of Martin Sheen, upside-down in frame, the helicopter blades transforming to those of a fan on the ceiling of his room, a brilliantly executed montage that was half character introduction, half cinematic drug trip. One of the things I learned from this DVD was that what must rank as one of the greatest opening sequences in cinema history came about partially by accident, and the Doors track was chosen because Coppola thought "wouldn't it by funny to start a film with a song called The End?" Like so much of the improvised work in the film (the whole last act, for example), Coppola appears to have been working with his subconscious in overdrive.

"This is the end..."

The song seemed to predict both the film's narrative and the politics of the war. The end of innocence for the crew of the PBR, of Willard's desperate waiting for a mission, of his understanding of his own role in the conflict, of America's participation in it and its certainty of its moral high ground.

"All the children are insane..."

I won't even START on the implications of that line. I had always believed that the song had been chosen specifically for it (teenagers in uniform, armed to the teeth, bombed out on drugs and caught up in madness). That the music fades away just after this line has been sung seemed to emphasise this.

Willard is an immediately intriguing figure and remains so throughout the film. His surface is impenetrable, his private torment kept completely in check when sober and in company, his military history as a skilled assassin only teasingly hinted at. No-one in the film gets even remotely close to knowing or understanding him, a privilege reserved for the audience through one of the very best voice-overs ever created for a film. Written by Dispatches author Michael Herr, it's model of poetic economy that, as delivered in Sheen's mumbled growl, really does seem to come from inside the character's head, a blend of past tense recollections and musings on the here and now that always feel personal, in part because of a choice use of language. Consider his concise summing up of his relationship history:

"I hardly said anything to my wife until I said yes to a divorce,"

or his description of Kilgore's Air Cavalry division:

"First of the Ninth was an old cavalry division that had cashed in their horses for choppers and gone tear-assing around 'Nam looking for the shit."

Gorgeous. You don't think so? Maybe it's just me. Maybe you have to hear Sheen say it, in context, blended with the sound effects and the music. But then the sound design is a small miracle in itself, primarily the responsibility of the great Walter Murch, whose extraordinary montage work on Coppola's The Conversation was as important to the plot as the actors or the narrative. Sound effects, real and surreal, are blended here with Carmine Coppola's alternately mysterious, sinister, druggy and semi-abstract electronic score to take us inside the experience of individual characters. Thus when Willard, after surveying the madness around him, settles down to concentrate on the report on Kurtz, the radio, the shouts of the crew and even the throb of the boat's engine all fade into the background to be replaced by the a few simple haunting notes of score and Willard's voice over, delivered as if he was sitting right behind you, softly speaking the words into your ear.

The journey encompasses a spread of Vietnam war experiences. The astonishingly staged helicopter attack (I refuse to believe this could be so impressively recreated with CGI – certainly no subsequent film has ever come close to matching it) vividly captures the doubtless very real excitement of being part of such a well equipped assault force, but slyly and disturbingly illustrates how easy it is to slip in to the racist mindset that such combat inevitably encourages. Almost every scene is similarly layered, simultaneously advancing the narrative a commenting on the American Vietnam experience.

Largely cushioned from the realities of the fighting, the boat crew initially treat the trip down river like a Club Med holiday, sunbathing, water skiing, dancing to rock 'n' roll, toppling the locals into the water with the wash from the boat like the irresponsible adolescents they effectively are. They are living a male teenage masturbation fantasy, equipped as they are with a speedboat and an arsenal of big guns and set loose to do their stuff. But hand a machine gun to a spaced-out teenager and sooner or later he's going to shoot at the wrong people.

The mid-narrative encounter with the sampan is a turning point for the whole crew, especially the young Clean, whose macho posturing with the machine gun is a clear extension of a power kick he is not yet old enough to deal with. A sudden move by one of the sampan occupants (to protect, it turns out, a small dog she was hiding) is all that is required to twitch his trigger finger and precipitate a massacre. But the harshest lesson is delivered immdiately after by the battle-hardened Willard. When Chief realises that one of the victims is still alive and announces his intention to transport her to where she can receive medical help, Willard coldly shoots her and without a hint of emotion tells him, "I told you not to stop. Now let's go." From that point on, they know only too well that they are in a war, and a dirty one.

Things get darker still at the Do Lung bridge, a purposeless and purely symbolic fixture that is destroyed and re-constructed on a daily basis, guarded by the desperate and traumatised and manned by drugged-out and leaderless black soldiers who have effectively been ghettoised and abandoned by the very army they are supposed to be fighting for. The final outpost of American occupation and influence, beyond which lies only Kurtz country, it is the absolute flipside of the euphoric helicopter assault, an almost Dante-like vision of war as hell. That the crew reach it in the darkness of night seems only right – it's hard to imagine that the sun ever shines here.

From this point on the journey becomes increasingly and darkly surreal, culminating in the arrival at Kurtz's compound, where Dante gives way to Hieronymus Bosch and even Chef's loud incredulity at the nature of Willard's mission ("We gotta go up there so you can kill one of our own guys??") is silenced by what he is confronted with. The descent into madness is symbolised by Dennis Hooper's brilliantly twitchy photojournalist, a wayward soul who is the crew's only initial point of contact. When Willard is finally summoned, the entire mission comes down to a philosophical face-off between him and Kurtz.

Now if most critics were supportive of the first two-thirds (I say most because some of those who had attacked it before even seeing it simply refused to back-track), then the final act was to prove different story. The traditionalists expected what they still saw as a war film to end with a bang, and many felt that this hitherto fine movie completely lost its way at this stage and effectively disappeared up its own behind.

I couldn't disagree more.

There is a solid narrative and thematic logic to have a journey into the soul that has been conducted largely in daylight and in open spaces conclude in enclosed darkness. The decision may have been forced on Coppola by the need to disguise Marlon Brando's unexpected bulk, but as Coppola himself remarks on the DVD extras, chance has always played an important part in art, and it is clear that no decision here was taken hurriedly or without considerable thought. Above all, the scenes make for mesmerising viewing, Brando's own stories and dialogue (told to the director, who incorporated them into the script-in-progress) giving rise to some of the most frequently quoted lines in the film. And even though self-consciously overweight, camera shy and working from cue cards, Brando still makes every single word count.

The confrontation that follows may not be action orientated, but it still builds to an astonishing cinematic crescendo, as a suggestive assassination is intercut with the graphic, real-life sacrifice of a water buffalo,* both victims dispatched with machetes as a storm thunders overhead and The Doors well up once again on the soundtrack. As Willard emerges from Kurtz's compound and stands God-like before the assembled tribespeople, I am on every viewing left feeling stunned and breathless. No big climactic bang? Do me a favour.

As their boat idles out of camp, the final, half-visible close-up of Willard is a mirror reversal of the first, the same face, the same man, but changed forever by his experience. The 70mm print ended at this point, a fade to black with no end credits, preserving the rare cinematic poetry of the piece.** The 35mm print that went on general release, on the other hand, included an end credits sequence set against footage of the destruction of Kurtz's compound, which was misinterpreted by just about all of us as signifying that the air strike we didn't think Chef had got round to calling in had actually taken place, making a mockery of the film's final call to disarm and let live. Later prints saw this replaced by the simple white-on-black textual credits you'll see here.

Apocalypse Now does everything a great film should – it tells a compelling story with superbly drawn characters and marvellous performances, repeatedly takes chances and breaks new ground, refuses to follow the obvious narrative arcs, and....oh it's just superb. And yeah, there are a thousand little moments that I could sit and get excited about – sit me down with a bottle of wine and I'll tell you just what's so marvellous about every shot and every edit in the film. Apocalypse Now is consistently magnificent cinema and one of the finest examples I can name of a great outsider film made within – albeit partially in spite of – the Hollywood movie machine. Along with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, it remains the most lavishly staged art-house film in movie history. It is work to treasure – we may never see its like again.


Apocalypse Now Redux

It was exciting news back in 2001, hearing that Coppola and Walter Murch had gone back to the editing room to produce a new cut of the film, re-inserting a hefty 29 minutes of extra footage excised from the original release. We'd already had a taste in the shape of snippets from a French plantation sequence that had appeared in Eleanor Coppola's riveting documentary on the making of the film, Hearts of Darkness, and were intrigued by what else this 29 minutes might include. I use the term 'we' not in the royal sense – just about everyone I know is a huge fan of the film and this was a hot and frequent topic of conversation.

The release date came and reviews were largely ecstatic, the general feeling being that the recut had transformed a great film into a masterpiece. Since I already thought it a masterpiece I was getting pretty fired up by all of this. I was even instrumental in organising the only cinema screening in our area. The lights went down and once again the helicopter once again moved around the cinema...

I was and to this day remain uncertain about the new cut and can think of several arguments both for and against it. The most obviously positive aspect is that we get to see this footage at all, and see it placed into the timeline exactly where it was intended. The additions range from small expansions of existing scenes to entirely new sequences. Some change the way we read the scenes they precede or follow and in one notable case the central character. All of the major additions alter the flow of the narrative – whether these alterations read as disruptions will be a matter for individual taste.

I would certainly argue that one of them does. The scene in question, the one I have the most issues with, is an extension to the encounter with Colonel Kilgore, following his notorious "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" monologue. Played partly for laughs, it sees the crew steal Kilgore's surf board and later hide the boat under the cover of trees as the Colonel hovers above in a helicopter, suggesting they be reasonable and return the board. Interesting in its own right, I have three particular problems with the scene as it plays and fits into the narrative.

  1. The scene takes Colonel Kilgore, a previously larger-than-life but nonetheless intimidating and oddly believable character (many ex-vets have apparently told Coppola that they thought he was based on their own commanding officer) and turns him into a figure of fun. There is an almost farcical element to some of his new bits that sits uneasily with the surrounding material.

  2. Wlllard is very much part of this prank and ends up laughing with his shipmates as they make good their escape. In this single moment, the image of Willard as an impenetrable enigma accessible only through his voice-over is effectively shattered, and for me the film loses something as a result. Some may welcome this glimpse of the human face beneath the cold exterior, but it is the only example of the aspect of Willard's personality and feels out of step with how he is presented elsewhere. The very next sequence he's back to his old self, like this little adventure never took place. That said, this scene does put a different slant on Willard's later killing of the woman on the sampan, and his musing that "Those boys were never going to look at me the same way again."

  3. It breaks the flow of Michael Herr's narration, which was clearly written for the original cut. The moment in question occurs at the end of the scene as it originally played. Following his monologue, Kilgore says encouragingly, "Someday this war's gonna end," and gives his version of a reassuring grin. Cut to the PBR crew on their way again, and Willard muses, "Some day this war's gonna end. That'd be just fine with the boys in the boat." A simple but very effective scene transition that is then developed further through the voice-over that follows. As it plays in Redux, though, the activity that occurs between Kilgore's statement and Willard's reflection effectively disassociates these two elements from one another, to such a degree that you'd be pushed to recognise the link, at least on a first viewing.

The two other major additions both represent interruptions to the journey, but this is at least in keeping with the original structure. Whether these two scenes add or detract is debatable. The encounter with the stranded Playboy bunnies comes close to overplaying the comedy card again, but ends on a note of considerable sadness. It's certainly an intriguing sequence and I did wonder if my initial uncertainty with it was due largely to having become used to the film without it, but Willard's willingness to pause a journey he later kills to keep moving, coupled with his cheerful generosity to his crew, again sits uneasily with the character as he is presented elsewhere.

The French plantation scene is a different matter. On my first viewing I felt that of all the restored scenes, this was the one that was most effectively integrated into the flow and mood of the original. It's a long and talky sequence that includes fevered political and historical discussions, but there is a creepily effective sense here that the crew have stumbled through a worm hole and into the past, first suggested by the ghostly appearance of the plantation inhabitants, emerging from the mist like the Elizabeth Dane crew from John Carpenter's The Fog. Even Willard's bedding of the mysterious widow sees him remain in character – there is no joy, no passion to the scene, just a memory from somewhere in his past that he is coldly reliving. A few viewings in the sequence feels a little overlong and by this point in the story the pull of Kurtz is distractingly strong, but it is still a fascinating inclusion. I should mention that at our cinema screening, a fair few of the audience really hated this sequence and felt its inclusion was a huge mistake.

The final addition of note takes place in Kurtz's compound and has Kurtz reading propagandist extracts from Time Magazine to a severely weakened Willard, a scene that fits easily with sequences that are already slightly disconnected from each other by the unspecified passing of time. And any more of Brando's Kurtz is always a good thing.

At the end of the day Redux does stand on its own merits and for me at least improved considerably with subsequent viewings. But I'm going to have to take view that is contrary to the one most commonly expressed – Apocalypse Now Redux is a great movie, but Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece.

sound and vision

OK, let's get this out of the way first. Yes, the aspect ratio here is once again 2:1 and yes, the film was shot in Technovision at 2.35:1 and so yes, the image has been cropped for home video. However, this is not a thoughtless act but an uncaring distributor, but a process undertaken some years ago by the film's director of photography, Vittorio Storaro. Whether he shot the film with 2:1 in mind is still a matter of debate, but Storaro has for some time been promoting 2:1 as the standard aspect ratio for cinema in order to minimise the information loss on 16:9 TV screenings, even proposing a new film format as a result, to be known as Univisium. That we are not being given access to the original 2.35:1 framing (or, if you saw the 70mm print, 2.21:1) is still going to piss off a fair few, myself included, but the high definition 2:1 transfer supervised by Storaro with Coppola's full consent is now the only source for all video versions, and so this is unlikely to change, at least in the immediate future.***

The good news, especially for fans of the original cut, whose DVD incarnation was never up to that of the remastered Redux, is that both versions look and sound superb, with contrast, detail and colour all excellent, and black levels rock solid with no loss of shadow detail. The 5.1 sound is equally impressive, a very precise and very active surround mix that very effectively recreates that original 70mm experience. LFE bass work is also well used, the Arc Light sequence sending thunderous rumbles around the room.

The film is actually spread over two discs and the likelihood is that a form of branching was used to present two cuts from essentially the same transfer. if so, the transitions are seamless. No doubt the mid-film break will have those who used to complain loud about 'flipper' discs in an uproar, but given the film's length this presents no real problems.

The packaging, by the way, is very nicely done, a confidential dossier complete with seal housing a glossy fold-out package containing the two discs.

extra features

The special features, like the film itself, are spread over the two discs and of very impressive quality.

Spanning both discs is the screen-specific Commentary by director Francis Coppola. Now if you've picked up on the advance press on this release, you may be aware of the claim that there is a commentary on both versions of the film. This is essentially true, but it's the same commentary, it's just that on Redux there's more of it. As you'd expect, it's compelling stuff, and despite everything I've read and heard and seen about the making of the film, Coppola still had a few surprises for me, from the level of improvisation in the final scenes (he was pretty much making it up as he went along at one point, inspired by those around him and his paperback copy of Hearts of Darkness) to a whole host of small details about how scenes were devised, set up and shot. There are no dead spots of any significance here – if you are a fan of the film then this is the commentary you have been waiting for.

Disc 1

Watch Apocalypse Now With Francis Ford Coppola (2:33) is effectively a brief introduction by Coppola to the commentary track, which you are then taken straight to.

The Hollow Men (16:55) features a complete reading of T.S. Elliot's The Hollow Men by Marlon Brando as Kurtz, broken up and intercut with behind-the scenes footage of the Kurtz compound sequences, shot by Eleanor Coppola. It's a hypnotic, almost dream-like piece, and was directed by a certain Francis Coppola.

Monkey Sampan (3:00) is a downright surrealistic deleted scene with a nightmare twist that is best to be surprised by.

Additional Scenes (26 mins total) features 12 additional scenes, gleaned from what looks like timecoded VHS. All are interesting and provide an intriguing glimpse of how things might have been. Colby (played by Scott Glenn and seen only briefly in the film) gets some dialogue and executes Dennis Hopper's Photojournalist, Lance nearly falls victim to a booby trap, and some interesting extensions are provided to familiar scenes. One sequence I am seriously glad was chopped has Willard cheerily introduced to the boat crew in a rather cheesy superimposition.

The AV Club is subdivided into four short featurettes. The Birth of 5.1 Sound (5:47) looks at the film's sound design and its pioneering use of what we now know as 5.1 surround. It includes behind-the-scenes footage of post-production work, and interviews with Walter Murch, Francis Coppola and Ioan Allen of Dolby Labs, who provides a very clear history of the development of cinema surround sound (aided by some simple but very effective graphics), and berates home cinema users for having their surrounds and subwoofer turned up far too high...goddammit! Ghost Helicopter Flyover (3:50) covers the sound mix for that opening sequence that so dazzled us back in 1979, and includes a neat graphical representation of the speaker usage as you listen to the mix. Needless to say, this featurette has a 5.1 soundtrack. "The Synthesiser Soundtrack" by Bob Moog is a detailed essay on the evolution of the film's distinctive music track. Technical FAQ provides some answers to a few commonly asked questions about the film.

Redux Marker activates a marker that appears on screen when a sequence added for the Redux version is playing.

Disc 2

The Post Production of Apocalypse Now is subdivided into three fascinating and substantial featurettes (well, four, as such).

A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now (17:55) provides a concise and informative look at the editing of the film, and includes interviews with all the main players here and some more footage of the post-production work, including of Sheen recording the voice-over and brief discussions with scriptwriter John Milius.

The Music of Apocalypse Now (14:43) is a wonderful examination of the development of the electronic score, a constant eye-opener that enhances further your appreciation of just how much work and passion went into this film. It includes more great archive footage and the revelation that Coppola was at film school with Jim Morrison. The sound mix, 5.1 again, is great.

Heard Any Good Movies Lately? is further subdivided into two sections. The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now (15:19) continues in the style set by the previous two featurettes, mixing interview with archive footage to tell a compelling behind-the-scenes story. Sound is once again 5.1. The footage of recording of sound effects for the tracer attack on the boat is short but priceless. The Final Mix (3:07) is a brief but interesting trip back to the nine month long sound mixing process.

The final three featurettes are framed 4:3, short, and far less detailed, but still of real interest.

PBR Streetgang (4:10) is a collection of retrospective interviews with the actors who played the PBR crew and includes some pre-production read-through footage.

Apocalypse Then and Now (3:40) briefly looks back at the Cannes screening, and Walter Murch talks about re-editing the French plantation sequence for Redux.

The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now (4:05) discusses the Technicolor print that has resulted in the lovely transfer on this disc.

Also here is the disc 2 Redux Marker as detailed above.

Impressively, all of the extra features have optional English and Spanish subtitles.

summary

Subsequent viewings and the re-availability of the original cut have softened my view on Redux, which was initially one of slight disappointment. I now regard it as a great film in its own right, but will still go with the 1979 cut every time. I am glad both are available and delighted that both now feature equally impressive picture and sound. Whichever version you prefer, this DVD release is an absolute must. You could argue that without Eleanor Coppola's Hearts of Darkness or the original 35mm credits it's still a few notches short of the self-titled 'Complete Dossier', but in all other respects this is one of the DVD releases of the year – great film, great picture, great sound, great extras. And you can pick it up on-line for about £10. Seriously, what are you waiting for?



* It will doubtless come as little comfort to animal lovers to learn that this was not staged for the film, but a sacrifice regularly made by the tribespeoplewho had been employed to play the inhabitants of Kurtz's camp. Finding this out did prove to be personally useful for pricking one bubble of anti-Coppola prejudice following the film's original release. A fellow film student, one who has done rather well in the industry since and thus shall remain nameless, was cheerfully pouring scorn on all aspects of the film. This sequence really came in for a lashing. "And that sacrifice sequence," he bleated, "the cow was so obviously fake!" On being told it was a real sacrifice he became flustered and managed to stammer out an annoyed, "Yeah, well, it LOOKED fake!" I was curious to know how many real animal sacrifices he had attended, just for reference. Strangely, I received no response on that one.

** Those attending the screening were given a handsome printed booklet containing all of the credits and background information on the production. I treasured mine and showed it proudly to many of my fellow film students at the time, at least until one of the evil bastards stole it from me.

*** The 2.35:1 framing was later restored for Optimum's 2011 Blu-ray release.

Apocalypse Now – The Complete Dossier

USA 1979/2001
153/202 mins
director
Francis Coppola
starring
Martin Sheen
Marlon Brando
Robert Duvall
Frederick Forrest
Sam Bottoms
Laurence Fishburne
Albert Hall
Harrison Ford
Dennis Hopper

DVD details
region 1
video
2;1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby surround 5.1
languages
English
subtitles
English
Spanish
extras
Francis Coppola commentary
Introduction
The Hollow Men featurette
Additional scenes
5.1 sound featurette
Ghost Helicopter Flyover featurette
Synthesiser soundtrack essay
Technical FAQ
Editing featurette
Music featurette
Sound mix featurettes
Cast interviews
Apocalypse Then and Now featurette
Colour palette featurette
Redux marker
distributor
Paramount
review posted
5 September 2004

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