on May 9, 2003
I'm a hardcore Apocalypse Now fanatic, and this, the original version of the film, is what made me one, several years ago. Reviewers like to debate endlessly over which version is better, this or the Redux. Personally, I like both, but I find this original version to be more surreal, relentless, and, to quote another reviewer, more "dangerous." The fact is, Coppola used different shots and edits in the Redux, in some cases diluting the surreal impact of the original. Plus the characters Kilgore and Kurtz come off more strongly in the original; sure, we get to see more humanity from Kilgore in the Redux, but his exit in the original is much more memorable, much better than the "tossing megaphone into the air" antics as shown in the Redux. And Kurtz is a more powerful Evil One in the original version, not much more than a shadow.
What gets me is that, in the press releases that came out with Redux, Coppola claimed that he no longer considered the 1979 version of Apocalypse to be "unusual." He felt that, today, it comes off as a rather ordinary film. So he integrated an extra 50 minutes into the movie, to make it more unusual. The thing is, the Redux is, if anything, MORE normal than the original. After all, you get more character development, a romantic subplot, etc; all the things the unusual (and unique), original version lacked. The very lack of these things is what gives the original such a mysterious, dangerous edge. There is no levity in the original, no stealing of surfboards, no Playmates for the PBR crew. Only the dark jungle, and the mission.
If it's true that Coppola wanted to make the original version even more unusual, then I wonder why he chose to add the Plantation sequence and the Playboy Bunnies escapade. Having seen the Work Print, I know that there is a wealth of material Coppola could've used. Bizarre? Unusual? How about a scene in which Martin Sheen's Willard, trapped in a bamboo cage, writhes in pain as the montangnards (and Kurtz's American soldiers) dance and chant around him, as they sacrifice a pig? Or how about Willard, still in the cage, being questioned by Kurtz, who tells Willard that he's as weak as his "colleagues in Washington?" Or how about possibly the most bizarre scene of all: Dennis Hopper's Photojournalist being shotgunned to death by Scott Glenn's character Colby?
Coppola could have used any or all of these scenes to make a truly "unusual" film, one that would successfully create a darker film. If anything, the extra scenes in Redux lighten the film's mood. Coppola could have even improved on the end of the movie. That's one thing that's always bothered me about Apocalypse Now. Willard's hired to murder Kurtz; when he finally does, all he has to do is just walk into Kurtz's temple, take out one guard, and then get to hacking at Kurtz. It comes off as so easy, you wonder why the Army even bothered hiring Willard. This problem is solved in the Work Print, which features Willard taking on a host of guards, including one grisly scene in which he spears an American guard who cowers behind a young, Vietnamese boy. Now, if you ask me, that's more "unusual" than a bunch of French people arguing politics at the dinner table! But unfortunately, Coppola has chosen not to use these scenes, in either official version of the film.
I don't intend to mislead, though. I think the Redux is fine, a five-star movie. It expands on the broader themes of Apocalypse Now, but at the same time lessens the impact of the movie itself. After having watched the Redux a few times, I popped the original in for the first time in a few years. I was amazed at how the film seemed so different than the Redux, so much more psychedelic and surreal. Even the fades and images shown in the beginning and the end are different in the original, more disturbing. And that's the main difference between the two versions: the original is much more disturbing.
I'll finish with another quote, taken from the web. Which director do you think is better, the Francis Coppola of 1976/1979, or the Francis Coppola of 2001? Of these two very different directors, whose vision would you be more willing to trust?
1/27/09 update: Six years ago I also had a review for the "Redux" DVD here on Amazon. Somehow it's been removed from the site -- it seems Amazon has combined the reviews for the original Apocalypse Now DVD release with the reviews for the "Redux DVD" release. And since Amazon has a policy that a reviewer can only post one review per item, it appears that my "Redux" review got the boot. I've rescued it from oblivion via a Google cache search; please see the Comments section, below, for the review.
on August 17, 2006
The Film 5/5
There have been countless books, websites, and even a documentary (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse) about this film that it seems almost pointless to write about it. One of the most troubled productions in film history, the film went on to recieve universal acclaim and is now a cinema classic.
For those of you getting into this film for the first time, do not expect your typical vietnam war film. In fact you could argue that the film is not really about the Vietnam War, but is instead about man's descent into "the heart of darkness" if you will. The film follows Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen)who is given a mission to proceed up river into Cambodia to assassinate a Green Beret Colonel (Marlon Brando) who has gone insane.
That is the basic story of the film. But, it is much more than that. The movie is essential one sureal moment after another. From a helicopter attack done to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", to surfing calvary men, to the much debated ending.
If there ever was a film that must be experienced just once in your life this is it.
The Video 5/5
The film was shot in the scope widesceen format of 2:35:1, but is present here (as with other DVD versions) at a slightly cropped 2:00:1 format. This decision (made by Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro) has caused much controversy over the years, and while I would love to see it in it's original format this version doesn't bother me.
That being said this is the best I've ever seen Apocalypse Now look. The colors are much more vivid and flesh tones are more realistic. For a film that was released in 1979 it stands right up there with any modern blockbuster. Each film is spread across two discs for higher picture quality. The result is stunning.
Speaking of standing up there with any modern blockbuster. Apocalypse Now is the Grandfather of all home theater show off films and this new DVD set is no exception. The original discs for their time offered impressive 5.1 mixes, this one however takes it to the next level. Bass response is more dynamic and there were even obscure background sounds and dialogue that I never noticed before on the old versions. It fully uses the 5.1 system. Again for a film released in 1979 it stands toe to toe with any modern movie.
The Extras 4/5
Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier is a two disc set that feature both the classic 1979 version and the extended 2001 version known as Apocalypse Now Redux. Each film is divided into two parts. While my preference is for the 1979 version. I recommend watch both versions and decide for yourself which one you prefer.
Extras on disc one include several deleted scenes, Marlon Brando's reading of T.S. Eliot's Poem "The Hollow Men" as well as a few short featurettes on 5.1 sound.
Disc two includes several featurettes on the editing, music and sound of Apocalypse Now. These featurettes are very informative and really give you an insight into the process of assembly a film from what is essentially nothing into a cohesive whole.
Above all else though is the absolutly engaging commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola. Following the same standard of excellence that was on The Godather dvds. This commentary track is extremely informative and provided insights that I've never known before.
Now, what is missing however is the classic making-of documentary Hearts of Darkness. In fact there are no featurettes on this set about the making of the film. One of the reasons Apocalypse Now is so famous is that its production was arguably the most troubled in cinema history. Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong.
In spite of the lack of Hearts of Darkness, and the slightly cropped aspect ratio. This DVD version of Apocalypse Now is head and shoulders above the previous versions.
This DVD gets my highest recommendation.
If you are truly a fan of great films stop reading about this one and go see it! Coppolla's "Apocalypse Now Redux" is a real gem.
The basic story flows vividly yet mysteriously up the river into the dark jungle. Coppolla, as you may have heard, adapted the story from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" with the exception that H.O.D. is set in the African jungle based on a journey that Conrad took into the Upper Congo, then controlled by Belgium as a colony, whereas A.N. is set in the jungles of southeast Asia during the height of the Vietnam war.
For Redux, Coppolla went back to the raw footage, or dailies, and re-edited the entire film from scratch. The added scenes enhance rather than detract from the film, I felt. The film is set during the Vietnam War, but it is more about the dark side of human nature, and also how those in power often try to twist and distort the truth to fit meet their own ends. Is there a "method" to Col. Kurtz's madness? See the film and decide for yourself. It is interesting to watch the profound transformation that Capt. Willard (Sheen's character) undergoes.
The big questions on your mind may be:
1. Did Coppolla considerably improve the film?
2. Did the 45+ extra minutes of film enhance the flow and thematic development of the film?
3. Are the special effects and battle scenes spectacular?
The answer to all three of these questions is a resounding YES!
(except perhaps for those closed-minded "purists" out there who vehemently object to ANY change from the original release. To those of you whom fit this description, I remind you- Coppolla himself adapted the movie more closely to what HE originally envisioned, with FULL creative license- not with some big brother film exec looking over his shoulder and pressuring him to edit it in a certain way).
-the panoramic shots are more spectacular (of course this was my first time seeing it on the big screen so I'm sure that makes a difference)...
-some of the battle scenes are more realistic, allowing us to see the face of human suffering, not just the awe of exploding napalm bombs.
-the scenes at Kurtz's compound are more visually dazzling, and also a bit more shocking and graphic (some may feel this is gratuitous; but I believe Coppolla did that intentionally to communicate the devastation of man's violent nature, and the vicious cycle that we find ourselves in as a race).
Moral of the story:
Evil is rooted in lies; we all have a dark side to our human nature that we try hard to deny and keep in the shadows.
For more on this theme read Conrad's novella "Heart of Darkness" (a concise 130 some pgs) or delve into some of Carl Jung's writings about the shadow side of human nature.
-Mr. Clean, the teenage soldier on the gunboat was played by a 14 yr old Laurence "Larry" Fishburne.
-Much of the film was shot in the Philippines on location
-Coppolla had to personally mortgage virutally everything he owned to secure financing to complete the film which ran well over the studio budget.
-Coppolla makes a cameo appearance as a wartime journalist in the film
Apocalypse Now Redux is a cinematic masterpiece- well worth the journey upriver.
Darkness, madness and hallucinatory images of Hell pervade this stunning, mind-blowing film set in the Vietnam War. Herein Francis Ford Coppola has rendered a beautifully surreal work of art. So much has been said of the original 1979 release, as well as this 49-minute more substantial REDUX, recently released on DVD. It has been studied, discussed, and pondered over; it has been abhorred, feared, and embraced. Undeniably, APOCALYPSE NOW has always packed a powerful punch, and nearly a quarter of a century of time has only served to intensify its transcendent force.
Based symbolically upon Josef Conrad's novel, HEART OF DARKNESS, this movie not only delves deep into the psyche of war, but also explores the vast facets of evil and indistinct limits of sanity. Such are the themes that Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) must grapple with when assigned to dispatch "with extreme prejudice" a lunatic Green Beret, Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) - a rogue officer bunkered in an absurdly gruesome renegade outpost on the far reaches of a river in Cambodia, the outer fringes of the war. His trek down that river is an utterly absorbing, terrifyingly bizarre odyssey marked with all sorts of surreal, often nightmarish encounters.
Willard commences his mission with a small unit of men in a Navy patrol boat. Along the way, they come across a number of variously strange, disconnectedly horrid and uproariously erratic entities - the most memorable of which is Robert Duvall's Lt. Kilgore, a surfing fanatical, riotously brash helicopter commander who takes Willard and his men on a riveting aerial assault in a hot area. Choreographed under a blaring rendition of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," this scene just takes your breath away. It is Kilgore the cowboy who raps out the best quotes of this movie, which I need not even repeat, as they've all been repeated over and over here already - but the REDUX version gives him more ample air time, highlighted by his amusingly desperate attempts to get back his surfboard, which Willard and his men had stolen. Duvall's performance earned him an Oscar nomination.
The REDUX version also includes an exquisitely ethereal encounter with the French at a rubber plantation in the midst of the jungle. Willard and his remaining men have dinner with the Frenchmen, and the conversation essentially courses through the many sundry themes of the movie entire. Afterwards, Willard sleeps and smokes opium with a young French war widow. The aesthetic, dream-like qualities of these plantation scenes are such that it becomes somewhat unclear whether or not these French expatriates are actually just ghosts.
The film reaches its climax when Willard reaches Kurtz's cult-like camp-"the farthest outpost on the river." It is here that the American patrol boat floats right into some horrid apparition of Hell - dead bodies dangling from trees, decapitated heads swarming the landscape. It is here that The Doors' ominous opening number, "The End," gains its relevance. The dead are omnipresent here, yet strangely far removed. Indeed, this is the way the world ends. The remaining living population is veritably brainwashed, worshipping their leader, Kurtz, like he's some kind of mystic divinity. At this point, the film takes on an almost mythical quality. Yet, though the tone is confoundedly serious here, there out of the blue comes Dennis Hopper's maniacal photojournalist, a steadfast Kurtz apostle, to lighten things up.
The performances in this amazing motion picture are simply tour de forces in every single aspect of the art of acting. Martin Sheen exudes all the unfathomable depths of his intellectually contemplative, poignantly resolute hero through both the mediums of voice-over narrative and sublime corporeality. He is nothing short of astounding. Then there's Brando, who, no matter who he is or what he's doing, cuts an unabashedly amazing figure on the screen. Whether you like him or not, it seems impossible to avert your attention from him whenever he's in view. In APOCALAYPSE NOW he truly becomes the embodiment of all that there is in the whole vast world to dread, confound and disinherit. He is the destination of the trip that everyone metaphorically takes, in some form or to some degree or other, down the winding river of life, cutting into the vast, pulsating heart of darkness.
on December 11, 2004
Whenever a "director's cut" edition of a movie is released, regardless of the scope or level of success the movie enjoyed originally, the first question that should automatically come to mind is "If the 'extra footage' was so important, why was it slashed in the first place?"
"Apocalypse Now" as it was originally released was an absolute masterpiece of a movie...the character development was precisely where it needed to be; Martin Sheen did a fine job of portraying a solo Special Forces operator assigned to locate and "terminate with extreme prejudice" a renegade Green Beret colonel whose "methods...have become...unsound" (yet spectacularly and embarrassingly successful). In the original theatrical version Sheen is clearly damaged goods himself; slowly losing his grip on reality as he waits in a Saigon hotel room for the release of a mission to return him to the only world in which he now feels comfortable; the jungles of Vietnam. On the way he meets an assorted array of characters with whom he interracts but never sufficiently connects, an entirely appropriate relationship given the nature of his own character and the professional nature of that character's mission.
The "Redux" version of "Apocalypse Now" instead does everything possible to humanize Sheen's character [...]particularly with his bonding more closely to the crew of the patrol boat that escorts him to his destination. What should come off as expansion of a character instead results in an uneven "ping-ponging" effort that makes Sheen's character appear almost schizophrenic as he riccochets from being "one of the boys" by stealing Robert Duvall's surfboard and liaissoning with the Playboy bunnies further up the river to being the stone-cold killer we know him to be by nearly throttling a supply sergeant and shooting a wounded teenaged Vietnamese girl in lieu of diverting his mission to take her to an aid station.
The exception, I feel, is the "French Plantation" scene. This actually gives a sense of history that the casual filmviewer unfamiliar with the history of Vietnam may find interesting. And it adds another surreal twist to a film already awash in surreality; it could not inaccurately be described as Vietnam on acid, and seeing Sheen's character taking opium as he beds a widowed French aristocrat only further adds to the aimless direction his life takes when not consumed by his mission.
My recommendation for anyone who hasn't seen either version is to watch (and stick with) the orginal 1979 version. Although the downgrading in price for the "Redux" version in comparison to the original cut does make it somewhat attractive as an impulse buy, the movie studio's initial instinct to release the film cut as it was in 1979 proves to be, in my opinion, the correct one.
on September 7, 2011
Converting "older" movies to blu-ray has been a hit and miss proposition. Some do not look much better than the standard issue Dvd and thus are worth buying only for the upgrade in audio. Happily, "Apocalypse Now" does not fall into that category. The audio and video quality of the blu-ray issue are both superb. If you have a fairly large hi-def TV and a good surround sound system, watching this refection on Vietnam is like sitting in the theatre watching it when it first came out. Coppola filmed some scenes that look and sound amazing in blu-ray! If you want to round out your experience, also get a hold of the documentary on the making of Apocalypse, "Heart's of Darkness." It will make you appreciate the film even more.
"I watched a snail crawl across the edge of a straightrazor. Its my dream, its my nightmare. Crawling, slithering across the edge of straightrazor and surviving." That's the voice of a man called Kurtz, an enigmatic officer that's gone "native" in the depths of Combodia. Your mission objective is simple enough, go up the river, locate Kurtz, and terminate with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, many things are remiss in the oversimplified statement, "Go up the river and kill Kurtz." Just ask Captain Willard, who's been wanting to submerge himself within the depths of warfare once more and has now been given this onset of a message, intercepted from the prize, Wiliam Kurtz. His mission is simple enough, going up the river and finding his prey of a man, or at least that's how it seems. In the beating heart of the firestorm called Vietnam, nothing is easy, though, and Willard, submerged beneath the veins of madness and brutality as he seeks that elusive objective, begins to understand that more and more in the process.
The strange thing about Apocalypse Now, set in the tinderbox of Vietnam, is that it isn't focused upon the sole event of the man forging through the jungle to go and capture the renegade named Kurtz. Instead, borrowing from its predecessor "The Heart of Darkness" - to which the film makes it clear that it pays a great deal of homage, it is about the madness of the events set into motion engulfing this one small figure and the futility of many of the actions/interactions located along the way. As Willard tells you in the beginning of the film, this is his confession on the matter, letting you know that he, too, is a guilty party in the chaotic affair that gnaws hungrily at the souls of all involved. Therefore, in a sense, he is also a party to the insanity taking root all over the feature. I found this to be an interesting affair, not only in the conceptual depiction of the insanity feeding upon the soldiers that we find ourselves focused upon, but in the questions the movie poses as it presses onward, showcasing more and more of the perversities by the same forces that label a man like Kurtz mad and yet birth asylums in their own ranks. The stellar casting accents this further, letting forces like a young Larry Fishburne and an equally young Harrison Ford play side by side with the Sheens and Brandos as they showcase a diversity of talents. All to destroy an enigmatically tormented soul.
Even if you've seen the movie before, the DVD is a pristine example of restorative technology can do for movies that deserve preferential treatment. This example is one of the best I've seen, showing its viewers the wonders involved in the art of making a very dramatic example of what warring encompasses. It also has some interesting extras, including the comparisons to Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," letting someone that hasn't been inducted into the work taste some of the symbology buried within those pages. For these reasons and because of other, more addictive loves that encompass the "smells of napalm in the morning," the abnormality of the color spectrum when one chemically bends it in the middle of a battle, and because of the sheer scope of the cinematic equation, I'd have to issue directives for everyone to buy.
on August 21, 2010
In addition to collecting everything from the previous theatrical & redux editions as well as including the "Hearts of Darkness" documentary and many other extras, this blu-ray edition corrects the poor decision to tamper with the aspect ratio on the previous DVD releases. Vittorio Storaro, the acclaimed cinematographer of this and many other films, has, in recent years, gone on a crusade to advocate 2.00:1 as the most desirable widescreen ratio. Because he was the original cinematographer he was, unfortunately, allowed to carve the previous DVD release transfer down from its original 2.35.1 ratio to 2.00. This meant cropping off portions of the original image. Criterion also allowed him to do it with the recent reissue of "The Last Emperor" to similarly poor effect. I'm glad that the producers of this edition heeded the concerns of film fans and restored the movie to its original format. It's on my Christmas list!
on November 11, 2014
I'll admit -- I'm very stingy when it comes to "deluxe editions", etc -- they very rarely seem to be truly worth it, at least to me.
This edition, however, is worth every penny.
Let me tell you why...
Well firstly -- and this will be true of all Blu-Ray editions...the picture is light-years better than the DVD editions. Typically blu-rays do look 'better', but this is vastly better to a degree that few blu-rays have impressed me to. Ironically, one of the other blu-ray movies that do the exact same thing is Bram Stoker's Dracula, another Francis Ford Coppola film. Both are films I have seen many times on DVD, and the difference between DVD and blu-ray was stunning.
This is just speaking of picture quality -- the fact that blu-ray is the first time that we have the full & correct aspect ratio is a worthy reason for purchase in-and-of-itself.
On to why this "Full Disclosure Edition" is actually worth it, though...
Hearts of Darkness is likely the most fascinating movie "making of" documentary I have ever seen, as it is not a studio-produced advertising tool...it's a dark, gritty, and striking view behind the 'veil' of how chaotic this movie actually was to make -- for everyone involved. I had only seen it once years ago on VHS in the library at my art school -- and the impact of it never wore off.
And none of it has been lessened by a second viewing.
With how chaotic the shooting was, it is only fitting that the editing was equally chaotic -- with so much raw footage, there was hordes of it to narrow down to...and its story is legendary in its own right. You get a lot of information about it, which I find fascinating...the movie we ended up with could have been drastically different, considering all the footage they had to choose from.
Another thing (that I hinted at earlier) that has always impressed me about this movie is the color -- and so it's nice & fitting that they have a section specifically dedicated to the color.
There is literally way too much in this edition than I could talk about in this review -- but suffice to say...this is a "deluxe edition" that is actually worth your extra money. Having the two editions (theatrical & redux) on blu-ray is already reason enough, but the extra content makes this exceptional.
As a side not, I really enjoyed the booklet that came with it -- fun & interesting to see "original" papers, photos, etc from the actual shoots & such.
I was glad to hear that Francis Ford Coppola had joined into the Hollywood cottage industry of reissuing classic films with new directorial re-editing and added footage. In what can only be described as a psychedelic adventure of the century, the newest version of Coppola's "Apocalypse Now Redux" reverberates the very screen it is being shown on, in this case my new 53 inch Sony projection TV set. It was a joy to spend more time with the ensemble of memorable characters populating this film, from the shockingly violent portrayal by Martin Sheen as the young captain sent as an assassin on a mission to terminate a renegade Colonel's command with "extreme prejudice", to Robert Duvall's stunning performance as a gung-ho warrior whose comical fascination with surfing along the Mekong Delta numbs him to the carnage swirling around him. He appears to be immune. When men question his taking a ridge to facilitate someone trying to ride the waves, he quips, "Charlie can't surf!"
There is Lawrence Fishburne in one of his first roles, and Frederick Forsythe likewise turning in a key performance. There is, of course, Dennis Hopper, as a burned-out news correspondent turned acid freak turned court fool, and even a very young and taciturn Harrison Ford as a young Colonel's assistant in the opening scenes in Saigon. Trying to describe Marlon Brando's turn as the psychotic renegade Colonel is difficult, other than to say that it seems inspired, a chilling portrait of a man whose life seemed to suddenly lurch off the highway of life careening recklessly into the volcano lurking within. What we see here are men trying to survive the random madness of war, trying to cope in whatever fashion as they can muster to hold back the hands of fate, knowing all the while that they will likely not succeed. And so we venture as Sheen and the crew of his patrol boat take a journey up the river into the heart of darkness. This is a ride well worth taking, and an even more unforgettable movie in its new and extended re-edited version. I highly recommend it. Enjoy!