APOCALYPSE NOW: THE COMPLETE DOSSIER
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Francis Ford Coppola
What's it about
After returning to duty during Vietnam, Captain Willard is requested for a confidential mission. The mission is to terminate an American by the name of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz who has taken the war into his own hands… Terminate, with extreme prejudice.
Is it good movie?
Apocalypse Now is one of the most important films of the 20th Century. Director Francis Ford Coppola made a movie that arguably, has yet to be surpassed by any other Vietnam or “war picture” in general. There is flesh and blood that pulse and rip throughout this flick with outstanding direction, a haunting score and some brilliant performances. There is nothing ordinary about it. Because it is not simply a “war picture”, it is a statement on morality and a journey through time. Based on the Joseph Conrad novella, Heart of Darkness, Coppola brings Vietnam to life by shadow and light which look as it were a dream and a sound design reminiscent of a nightmare. When Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is given the assignment to “terminate” a renegade American by the name of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), he accepts it. After serving his first tour of duty, Willard has found that he has nothing left; he cannot survive away from the war. He is then sent on his mission aboard a Navy Patrol Boat with orders to take him to Cambodia to hunt down Kurtz. Along the way, as Willard learns more about his target, he begins to have an understanding of Kurtz and he begins to question his own ideas.
One thing Mr. Coppola understands is how to direct his actors. Both Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando are impressive here. Mr. Sheen has the huge task of carrying this film on his shoulders and we watch and listen as the war rages on around and inside of him. Brando is mesmerizing as Kurtz. His on-screen moments are captivating and with all his depraved and violent acts, you as the viewer come to understand him. This is a man who was tormented by the sheer brutality of what these soldiers face everyday. There are countless other performances here that are worth mentioning from the ensemble cast, but I was really blown away by Sam Bottoms as Lance. His California surfer boy attitude spirals down as he becomes more like the “savages” that Willard discovers along the journey. Looking back now and seeing such wonderful actors as Robert Duvall and Frederic Forrest in unforgettable roles makes me realize what I love about movies. There are images that I will never forget which stayed with me from my first viewing and probably for the rest of my life.
As for Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier; it really is a must own DVD. It includes the original release and Apocalypse Now Redux which could be called the “Director’s Cut”. The later integrated several cut sequences from the original shoot including the “French Plantation” which they discover on their journey. As a whole I felt much of the forty-nine minutes added enhanced what is already a powerful film. When they arrive at the plantation near the end, I felt it slowed the momentum down, yet it also gave a brand new depth to the final moments. There is an awkward sense of understanding to Willard about what it means to not be a part of the violence. I can understand why this was cut from the original film and as I write this review, I am inclined to say that it’s a fantastic sequence that feels a little unnecessary. It seems to come too late into the film and by this time I think the characters are much too affected by the death that surrounds them. Yet there are several other moments that have been added I feel give more depth and work beautifully yet do not seem to be as oddly placed. Some of it was brilliant but there were some scenes that really didn’t add to an already lengthy film. I still feel the Redux version is in many ways equal to the original.
Video / Audio
Video: Although many may be disappointed that this DVD is a widescreen version “enhanced” for 16:9 TV, it is a beautiful picture. The lighting and color palette are superb.
Audio: Presented in Dolby Digital: 5.1 Surround, the brilliant sound design and score sound amazing.
This uniquely packaged “Dossier” comes with two discs and will disappoint and annoy many by the fact that both features are separated on the two discs and not one movie per disc. But personally, I don’t mind too much changing the disc if the flick is worth it and yes, this one is. Another “horror” for many will be the fact that the brilliant documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse is not included here. Would have been a nice touch, but we still get some awesome extras.
This comes with one of the most impressive Commentaries I’ve heard in awhile. Francis Ford Coppola shares some amazing stories and his commentary covers both films. I recommend listening to the Redux commentary for the additional scenes and the why and the how they were finally cut from the original film. Mr. Coppola describes the hell of making his film under nightmarish conditions. It was a blast to hear how Mr. Brando felt about working with Dennis Hopper. They don’t get better than this.
Disc 1 offers up a haunting, complete reading of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men (16:55) by Marlon Brando (only some of which was used in the film). This is a fascinating little featurette with some fantastic behind the scenes moments. I really dug seeing the “decapitated heads” being made more comfortable.
Next is a deleted scene entitled Monkey Sampan (3:00) which has to be one of the creepiest scenes I have ever seen. They should have put this sucker in, amazing shite.
We have a few more Additional Scenes including, Saigon Streetlife (:45), Military Intelligence Escorts (:41), Intelligence Briefing (Extension 1) (2:16), Intelligence Briefing (Extension 2) (3:14), Willard Meets the PBR Crew (1:01), Letter from Mrs. Kurtz (1:27), Booby Trap (:51), Do Lang Bridge “…That Road is Open” (:54), The Photojournalist (2:28), Colby (1:32), The Tiger Cages (4:27) and ”Special Forces Knife” (6:34). Most of the shorter ones I think could have added a little something to this flick especially the Booby Trap and the Military Escorts. I also dug the “Special Forces Knife” but I think it could have been edited down or changed in some way. You can also watch these scene by scene or play all. Have fun with that.
Finishing off Disc 1 is the A/V Club which includes a couple of mini film courses including The Birth of 5.1 Sound (5:47) and Ghost Helicopter Flyover (3:50) these are both a must watch. And if you want to read a little you can check out ”The Synthesizer Soundtrack by Bob Moog” and Technical Fax which includes answers to some frequently asked questions. Fun times.
Disc 2 is all about Post with a little feature called The Post Production of Apocalypse Now. This set of featurettes include the following:
A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now (17:54) which is a fascinating look on how they managed to make a 153 minute film out of… you guessed it; a million feet of film. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes look at Martin Sheen doing the narration for the film.
The Music of Apocalypse Now (14:43); imagine getting a bunch of well known musicians in the same room and getting them to work together. Not an easy task but it did help create the stunningly eerie score, from the synthesizers to the tribal beat of drums. Coppola had a very cool idea of using synthesized music to represent helicopters, wind and other “natural” sounds.
Then there are a couple more music and sound features under Heard Any Good Movies Lately?. This includes:
The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now (15:19) which is a great look at how they created the sound design which in turn brought us Dolby Digital 5.1. There is a very cool moment where the foley artists create the sound of the boat, on a boat. Apocalypse Now was a movie that was made for sound and this is a great way to see the details behind it.
The Final Mix (3:07) is a quick look at how it all came together. This one seemed a little under whelming after the first few features.
We then finish off the disc with a few short featurettes including PBR Streetgang (4:10) which includes interviews with Laurence Fishbourne, Sam Bottoms, Albert Hall and Frederick Forrest. This is a cool look at the boys and their memories of the Apocalypse. Next we have Apocalypse Then and Now (3:40) which gives us a look at the reason’s behind Redux and how it came to be. And finally we have The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now (4:05) which discusses the color process used to bring Redux to life. All of these are cool but are way too short. They could have spent much more time on all of these.
And finally, if you want to watch Apocalypse Now Redux and find out just what they hell they added you can use the Redux Marker. Fun for the whole family!
Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece is finally available with some terrific extras; except of course the fascinating documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse. While that is VERY disappointing I still really can’t complain too much. The brilliant cinematography, the haunting score and a mesmerizing performance from Marlon Brando (amongst others) are represented well from this 2-Disc collection. Whether you are a fan of the original or you loved the changes made for Redux there is much to love here. While not the “Complete Dossier” that it claims to be; it is still a MUST have for any fan of this brilliant classic. "This is the end... my only friend, the end."