Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier (Apocalypse Now / Apocalypse Now Redux)
Special Edition, Collector's Edition
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Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, this classic and compelling Vietnam War epic stars Martin Sheen as Captain Willard, who is sent on a dangerous and mesmerizing odyssey into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade American Colonel named Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost. Also stars Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford.
I love the smell of a collector's edition in the morning. Everyone's favorite Joseph Conrad adaptation gets the fancy packaging and extras treatment with this release of Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier. Both the original theatrical cut and the 2001 Redux version are included, with enough extras to keep one occupied on a long boat trip. Calling this the "complete" dossier is sure to raise hackles among fans who insist that Eleanor Coppola's lauded documentary, Hearts of Darkness, which chronicled husband Francis's harrowing experience making the film, should have been included. (As of this review, Hearts of Darkness has yet to be released on DVD, so battered VHS copies will have to suffice.) Packaged in a cardboard "dossier" sleeve, the two-disc set includes Marlon Brando reading T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men," new production featurettes, and cast member interviews. Owners of previous editions of either of the cuts might consider how much they want all the officially sanctioned information on this edition. For newcomers to the Vietnam epic, this is an edition worth going crazy for. --Ryan Boudinot
In the tradition of such obsessively driven directors as Erich von Stroheim and Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola approached the production of Apocalypse Now as if it were his own epic mission into the heart of darkness. On location in the storm-ravaged Philippines, he quite literally went mad as the project threatened to devour him in a vortex of creative despair, but from this insanity came one of the greatest films ever made. It began as a John Milius screenplay, transposing Joseph Conrad's classic story "Heart of Darkness" into the horrors of the Vietnam War, following a battle-weary Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on a secret upriver mission to find and execute the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has reverted to a state of murderous and mystical insanity. The journey is fraught with danger involving wartime action on epic and intimate scales. One measure of the film's awesome visceral impact is the number of sequences, images, and lines of dialogue that have literally burned themselves into our cinematic consciousness, from the Wagnerian strike of helicopter gunships on a Vietnamese village to the brutal murder of stowaways on a peasant sampan and the unflinching fearlessness of the surfing warrior Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), who speaks lovingly of "the smell of napalm in the morning." Like Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, this film is the product of genius cast into a pit of hell and emerging, phoenix-like, in triumph. Coppola's obsession (effectively detailed in the riveting documentary Hearts of Darkness, directed by Coppola's wife, Eleanor) informs every scene and every frame, and the result is a film for the ages. --Jeff Shannon
Apocalypse Now Redux
Digitally remastered with 49 minutes of previously unseen footage, Apocalypse Now Redux is the reference standard of Francis Coppola's 1979 epic. A metaphorical hallucination of the Vietnam War, the film was reconstructed by Coppola and editor Walter Murch to enrich themes and clarify the ending. On that basis Redux is a qualified success, more coherent than the original while inviting the same accusations of directorial excess. The restored "French plantation" sequence adds ghostly resonance to the war's absurdity, and Willard's theft of Colonel Kurtz's beloved surfboard adds welcomed humor to the film's nightmarish upriver journey. An encounter with Playboy Playmates seems superfluous compared to the enhanced interplay between Willard and his ill-fated boat crew, but compensation arrives in the hellish Kurtz compound, where Willard's mission--and the performances of Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando--reach even greater heights of insanity, thus validating Redux as the rightful heir to Coppola's triumphantly rampant ambition. --Jeff Shannon
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So chalk it up to a fictional tale in a convincingly real and harsh environment, during a very real war-time. Now I was able to enjoy the realism of the setting and felt a genuine attempt to capture the authentic backdrop of the Vietnam War. I felt the real horrors and believed all the battle scenes could be true reenactments of real battles (or slaughters), as well as the unsettling results of human casualties. I did enjoyed the filmmakers perspective and noticed little things you don't necessarily see in other war movies. There was almost a hidden camera effect for me -- as if I wasn't meant to see what I just saw, but caught it accidentally when someone left the camera rolling by mistake! That made the movie compelling and unpredictable for me. Yes, I found this movie unpredictable due to nearly every character's mental instability, even though I watched this 35+ years after it was made.
If I may continue to ramble -- Amazon practically begged me to ramble about this movie ;-) -- Mr. Coppola was very consistent between scenes with his cinematography. He used a blending technique (I don't know what it's called) but there were basically two different shots fazed or faded or blended into each other, but either shot would linger and not resolve, like you might normally see in a transition between scenes. These shots, I believe, were there to show us the audience a physical representation of the character, while also showing the mind of the character, or perhaps an unseen trait of the character. This technique was used basically in the first shots of the movie, down to the very last. It was distracting at first, but I thought it gave Mr. Coppola a character to be played in the movie... a real behind the scenes character you didn’t realize was there. Although there was a spoken narration to the movie, Mr. Coppola added a unspoken narrative that looked past or through what was being said to the audience.
I’m sure film students could dissect this much better than me, and could probably talk more about the poetics of the film, or the colors, some similes, or how each character represented this or that… I was just impressed how this movie has held up against the test of time. Maybe due to the harsh reality and effects of war, since war seems to be a never-ending-story in our lives, but I did feel this was a very real look into the past and how America as whole maybe could not relate to what really was happening during that type war. It really gave you an inside look at the Horror.
Still, it's one of the top 25 films every American should see at least once as both a cultural artifact and an example of masterful film making.
As far as Vietnam movies go, I actually preferred The Deer Hunter for its emotional impact but Apocalypse Now has its own unusual viewpoint, with a different way of looking at the mental illness suffered by the troops who went there. Keep your eyes and ears open for some now famous actors who were very young in this film and only just starting out.
Regarding the streaming, it was good quality with no problems at all.