Apocalypse Now Redux
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (30th August 2006).
The Film

The struggle that Frances Ford Coppola had endured during the making of "Apocalypse Now" is the stuff of legend. The film took 16 months to shoot, He recast the main role of Willard two weeks into the production and had to restart (Harvey Keitel was originally cast in that role). To add further pressure the production endured terrible weather that caused many of the sets to wash away, throughout production Coppola had no ending to his film and was constantly re-writing scenes trying to come to some conclusion for the film. Marlon Brando caused the director to have numerous breakdowns not only did he show up to set incredibly fat, he had not read "Heart of Darkness" (the book in which this film was based on) he did not know his lines and caused numerous filming delays. Martin Sheen (who replaced Keitel in the role of Willard) attacked the director during the filming of the opening scene were Willard is drunk in his hotel room. Sheen also suffered a heart attack due to heat exhaustion, other problems involved the Philippine government (helicopter delays as they were on loan from their army), after the film went over-schedule and over budget, Coppola invested his own money into completing the film and had to liquidate a number of his assets including his home. During the production Coppola delved into madness (as chronicled in the documentary film "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" which was shot by his wife, although Coppola comments that his breakdowns are out of context and shows him in a negative light), as a result of his breakdowns he lost 100 pounds and also threatened suicide. 16 months of madness, over 200 hours of footage shot and massively over budget the film took three years to edit and finally deliver to theaters in 1979 and it's a wonder that the film didn't end up being a total disaster itself. What submerged after all this calamity has been continually hailed as one of the greatest cinematic experiences of our time. "Apocalypse Now" remains an important artistic statement of the insanity of war and the fragility of the human psyche. It's a viscerally audacious work that cements Coppola as one of the world's most influential and provocative American filmmakers.
"Apocalypse Now" tells the story of Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), during the Vietnam War, is sent on a perilous mission into Cambodia with an army unit to track down and assassinate a renegade Green Beret, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has established himself as a God among a local tribe.
Depending on what version you choose to watch, the original 1979 theatrical version or the updated "Redux" version that adds several scenes back into the film you'll have gone through an experience. This is not a film you simply view; this film involves you and has the ability to stay with you long after seeing it. A testament to why it's remained one of the top films for such a long time. Coppola's latest version is somewhat weaker than the original, although the majority of the added scenes are welcomed, I am still hesitant about the infamous 'French Plantation' scene which was originally cut from the film because Coppola hated the performances and it was deemed redundant. While the performances are far from bad the scene is superfluous. The films enormous run time is also something that audiences will have to contend with.
Despite this "Apocalypse Now" demonstrates not only some visually stunning photography, but some of the cinema's finest performances. These performances are not only well crafted and capture the tension of the time but are entirely memorable and remain etched into my mind. The fine cast also included Robert Duvall as the insane Air Cavalry commander Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore who delivers a line that people who haven't seen the film are familiar with ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning"), a young Laurence Fishbuorne (who lied about his age to get the part) delivers a free spirited turn in the film, and the drugged out photographer played by Dennis Hopper is probably not all that different from his own personality and would not have been too much of a stretch to play, but despite this Hopper delivers a psychedelic charged performance that warrants credit. While these players provide some decent support its the film's main players Sheen and Brando that come through, Sheen's complex and disturbing Willard is fragile and confused but under duty is focused and determined. His character is constantly fighting an internal battle that is brought through in Sheen's performance and the screen time he shares with Brando is stuff of legend. Brando's lines were all nearly improvised, and results in some chaotic dialogue that in context with the images shot by Coppola come off as haunting. All these performances were Oscar worthy (yet only Duvall garnered a nomination).
As I mentioned before this film is an experience, one of the key aspects that lend credibility to my statement is the film's photography. Vittorio Storaro has created a look and feel for this film that best reflects the craziness of the time. Adding to the 'look' was the 'feel' shot on location in the Philippines and included some incredible production design that felt authentic.
I could go on and on about this film's greatness, the sound, the music, the photography, etc. But if you're already a fan then there really isn't anything that I could write about that you don't already know. If you aren't a fan and have yet to experience this film then there's nothing more to say except do yourself a favor...see it now.

Video

Many will have read by now that the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 has been altered for this release and is in fact 2.00:1 widescreen. With Coppola's blessing this new ratio was decided upon to better make use of the standard 16:9 TV formats and was supervised by cinematographer Storaro. Controversy aside regarding this reframing lets instead focus on the quality of the image, which is fantastic to say the least. The image is infinitely sharp and detailed, so much so that the film looks better than it ever has. The colors are rich, vibrant and lush, blacks are true and bold, shadow detail is perfectly balanced and remains so throughout the print, aside from some very minor blemishes this is as near perfect an image we're likely to get.

Audio

Only one audio track is included and is shared with both versions of the film, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that has as much depth and immersability as any DTS track that I heard. The dialogue is clear and distortion free but the real heart of this track is in its active and beautiful surrounds that exercise pitch perfect sound separation throughout all channels. Just like the image, this sound is the best I've heard this film and goes down as one of the best Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes committed to the DVD format to date.
Optional subtitles are also included in English and Spanish.

Extras

DISC ONE:
These discs include both versions of the film, the 1979 theatrical cut and the 2001 Redux version. The first parts of these cuts are presented on disc one, while parts two are on disc two. The films can be viewed with an introduction by the director, the intro to the theatrical version runs for 2 minutes 50 seconds while the into to the Redux version runs for 4 minutes 3 seconds. Coppola introduces the films and discusses his experience in making it and the challenges he faced including reactions to the distributor screenings and provides a brief background on what became a classic film and how it changed from what was originally a surreal experience to a more linear narrative as well as the re-edit that eventually became the Redux version released in 2001.

Both of these versions in include a feature-length audio commentary by Coppola, you can view both films with this track, note that these are not separate tracks but the same, with the Redux version including additional comments made for that edition seamlessly added in. Coppola provides a very informative track discussing various topics from hoe sequences in the film came about from the filmís memorable opening helicopter sequence to the filmís dark conclusion. Coppola is incredibly detailed as he justifies his vision and provides trivia regarding certain shots, editing decisions and also the filmís sound elements and inspiration for the score. He covers almost everything you wanted to know about the film also paying attention to character set-ups and the evolution of the script, locations and the scenes that were a frustrating exercise to complete considering the many problems he faced during the long and over-budget production. Some of the tracks highlights include the director talking about he directed certain scenes (specifically the opening Willard drunk sequence, which Sheen was not only drunk at the time of filming but actually punched the mirror that hurt his hand). Coppola has provided an detailed and insightful track for fans of the film that should not be missed.

Next up is the "The Hollow Men" featurette, which runs for 16 minutes 55 seconds. This is the complete Brando reading of the T.S. Eliot 1925 poem, it features footage from the production taken during the filming of the Kurtz compound sequence. The footage is a mixture of behind-the-scenes footage and unused footage from the sequence.

Following that is a lost scene entitled "Monkey Sampan" which runs for 3 minutes 2 seconds. In this scene the Kurtz tribesmen sing a version of Light my Fire by The Doors to traditional instruments, the scene also includes footage of the PBR coming across a boat infested with monkeys and a dead man hung up on the sail. Itís a weird moment that was probably cut from the film for time reasons.

Also included on the disc are 12 additional scenes, these are taken from the tape source and include an imbedded time code, they are not very good quality but that doesnít matter as they are an interesting curiosity for fans allowing us access to the scenes that were ultimately cut from the film for various reasons. The scenes can all be played individually and include:

- Saigon Streetlife which runs for 45 seconds, Willard looks onto a bustling interection of Saigon from his hotel window.
- Military Intelligence Escorts" runs for 42 seconds, this extension sees Willard getting cleaned up by the two escorts that come to get him for his meeting.
- Intelligence Briefing Extension 1 runs for 2 minutes 15 seconds, the general asks Willard what he thinks of Special Forces and what their mission is, the scene cuts to an exterior of the base with a voice explaining that a tour will begin of the facility.
- Intelligence Briefing Extension 2 runs for 3 minutes 15 seconds, in this alternate version of the previous scene the scene starts outside the facility with some Veitnamses people and cut back into the briefing room, with the general outlining the type of person they are looking for to take this mission, Willard agrees to the mission.
- Willard Meets the PBR Crew runs for 1 minute 2 seconds, the chief introduces the crew to Willard.
- Letter From Mrs. Kurtz runs for 1 minute 26 seconds, in this scene Willard reads a letter from the dossier while on the PBR.
- Booby Trap runs for 51 seconds, Lance spots a floating baby coffin that turns out to be booby trapped with a bomb.
- Do Lung...That road is open runs for 55 seconds, a solider tells Willard to get out of the area as they try to protect the bridge that is blown up on a regular basis.
- Photojournalist runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds, the photojournalist informs the gang that they are all Kurtzís children, Willard questions him as to the whereabouts of Kurtz.
- Colby runs for 1 minute 33 seconds. In this scene Colby informs Willard that they killed most of the MVA regulars and directs him to Kurtz.
- The Tiger Cages runs for 4 minutes 29 seconds. While kids play on top of the cages, Kurtz has a conversation with an imprisoned Willard, Kurtz tells him what he thinks of his Washington colleagues.
- Special Forces Knife runs for 6 minutes 34 seconds. Colby kills the photojournalist and Willard kills him with a Special Forces knife.

The next section is entitled A/V Club and includes a collection of 2 featurettes and two technical notes sections, these include:

- "The Birth of 5.1 Sound" is a featurette which runs for 5 minutes 47 seconds. This briefly covers the fact that this film gave birth to what is now 5.1 sound. The soundtrack for this film was such a groundbreaking endeavor that presented the film in a unique way theatrically. Itís interesting to learn that at one time Coppola intended to show the film in just one theater fully equipped to play his film in 70mm with stereophonic surround and would play for 10 years making it an attraction that people would travel to just to see.

- "Ghost Helicopter Flyover" is a featurette that runs for 3 minutes 50 seconds. And takes a closer look at the opening of the film with the electronic helicopter sound that merges into a real helicopter and then the Doors music fading into that. This clip informs us as to the genesis of opening the film with this unique sound mix.

Next up is a text article entitled "Bob Moog: Apocalypse Now: The Synthesizer Soundtrack", this is a reprint of an article that was published in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine about the inventor of the synthesizer and itís use on the soundtrack for this film. It covers aspects regarding how the score was created covering the writing, laying down of the tracks and how one can become an electronic musician among other things. This article is 28 text pages long and features some insightful information about the landmark score.

A text technical FAQ follows that covers the frequently asked questions regarding this film posed over the years, the questions include:

- Was the film shot in 70mm? (1 page)
- Why 2.00:1 ratio? (2 pages)
- Was there a 5 ¬Ĺ hour version? (1 page)
- Did Willard call in the air strike, were there multiple endings? (2 pages)
- Why no end credits on the original theatrical version? (1 page)
- Was Redux released in 70mm? (1 page)

This resource provides the truth behind these common questions that have plagued fans for a long time and makes a welcomed addition to these supplements.

Also included on the disc is a "Redux marker", when turned on an on-screen icon will appear during the added footage.

DISC TWO:
This disc features the second parts to both the original theatrical version and the Redux version. The commentary also continues on this disc.

The first extra on this disc comes under the heading "The Post Production of Apocalypse Now" this is a documentary split into several sections with a Play All function, these sections include:
- A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now which runs for 17 minutes 54 seconds, Walter Murch and crew as they take us through the grueling editing process that saw over a million feet of exposed film come through the studio. Coppola discusses how he likes to edit and is totally involved in the post-production process. Itís also interesting to note that this film had several editors working on different sequences for extended periods of time. Coppola comments on the opening scene and how that was a total accident, as they used discarded footage from the napalm drop sequence with Killgore. The clip also takes a look at the recording of the voice over and the cutting of the Brando material among other things.

- The Music of Apocalypse Now which runs for 14 minutes 43 seconds, this clip uncovers how The Doors music an important element to the filmís score and how it functions in the film especially in the opening scene. It also looks at the discovery of a hidden vocal track by Jim Morrison that was eventually used in the final mix. We also get a look at the influence of the electronic score and how it came about writing and recording it and finally on the primitive percussion elements integrated into the score.

"Heard Any Good Movies Lately?" is the sound supplement of this documentary and covers:

- The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now which runs for 15 minutes 19 seconds, and takes a look at how the psychedelic soundtrack was developed and engineered with the manipulation of sounds, the recording of Foley (mainly the sounds generated from the PBR) as well as the creation of quadraphonic sound and its release in the surround format, a first for the time and the father of true 5.1 surround sound.

The Final Mix runs for 3 minutes 7 seconds, and once all the elements that make up the sound track were delivered the final mix was laid down, this process took over 9 months with technicians working 12 hours a day, sometimes more in order to complete Coppolaís final release mix.

Also on the disc is "PBR Streetgang" a featurette which runs for 4 minutes 10 seconds, this is a clip from the 2001 release of the Redux version that interviews the cast that made up the PBR gang. They discuss their involvement and share thought on the film and stories from the set. Mainly they all tell us why this film means so much to them. Being a short publicity piece there isnít anything earth shattering learned here, nothing that hasnít already been spoken about previously anyway.

"Apocalypse Now and Then" is a featurette that runs for 3 minutes 40 seconds. Starts with the Cannes Film Festival Q&A and also includes interviews with Coppola as he recalls the filmís original release at the festival in 1979, we are also taken through the sound mixing of the Redux version, and Murch comments on re-editing the film as he had to basically start again from scratch.

Finally the "The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now" is a featurette that runs for 4 minutes 5 seconds, and sees cinematographer Vittorio Storaro commenting on the color of the film and the new dye transfer process that enabled the film to look as good if not better than ever. The purpose was to present the film with added depth and realism.

Also continued on the disc is a "Redux marker", when turned on an on-screen icon will appear during the added footage.

Rounding out the extras are some DVD credits that run for 3 pages.

Packaging

This all new 2-disc 'Complete Dossier' edition is packaged in a special digi-pack housed in a cardboard case.

Overall

Although this Complete Dossier does not include the excellent documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) which was shot by Coppolaís wife while in production this new DVD still includes a wealth of excellently produced extras that should satisfy the most rabid of fans and would make an great addition to anyoneís DVD collection. And perhaps one day Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse will be finally released on DVD sometime in the near future.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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