Review for Apocalypse Now: Final Cut. Collector's Edition
Apocalypse Now! is generally regarded as one of the greatest films ever made in any genre. It is also generally pointed to as one of the reasons why the period of Hollywood allowing Director's to call the shots was coming to an end. Coming off the huge success of the two Godfather movies it seemed that Director Francis Ford Coppola could do now wrong, but this film as well as being one of his greatest achievements, also caused the downfall of his independence as a filmmaker. Going over budget, over schedule, filmed over many years, subject to much controversy and at times was jokingly nicknamed 'Apocalypse When?'
When it was finally released it was a monumental success grossing over $150 Million (on a $31 Million Budget). Nominated for Eight Oscars (winning for Cinematography and Sound) also winning Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (For Robert Duvall) at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes (also winning the Globe for Best Original Score). It went on to win the Palm d'Or at Cannes when the version shown wasn't even finished. This was how good this film is. Even if you don't like the general plot everyone will admit that this is one of the most beautifully made films on a technical level ever created.
Captain Willard is a troubled member of the military and during the Vietnam war he is assigned with a special mission. A rogue Colonel Kurtz has become a problem, seemingly gone insane in a Cambodian outpost who see him as a god and now the men in charge want to stop all his vigilante actions. Willard is assigned to 'terminate with extreme prejudice'. Joining a small crew, they head down the river to find Kurtz and complete his mission.
Along the way, they encounter all the madness that the Vietnam war was famous for. This includes the infamous interaction with Kilgore who attacks people from the air to the sound of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries and infamously states 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning.' All of this madness leads Willard on a journey of death, horror and more and more questions about who exactly are the insane ones in this war.
This set comes with three versions of the film the original cut (Two Hours, Twenty-Seven Minutes) the Redux (Three Hours and Sixteen Minutes) and the Final Cut (Three Hours and Two Minutes). I am surprised that there is not more of an explanation of the differences between the three versions. The difference between the Original and Redux was easy as it does feel like a much longer and more over indulgent film, but the difference between the Redux and the Final Cut (which time-wise is only by Fourteen Minutes) I can only presume it was just in regards to lingering shots as they do feel almost the same.
It is only the Redux version of the film that has an Audio Commentary by Francis Ford Coppola. This was an older Commentary and it is odd he did not record a new one for his preferred Final Cut. However, I can understand him maybe not wanting to just repeat the same stories again. As with his commentaries to The Godfather films, Coppola's commentary is fantastic. Usually, solo commentaries do not work because there are lulls and silence and no one to bounce stories off, but this really feels like I have the Director personally telling me the stories about how this film was made and I enjoyed this almost as much as the film itself. If you are a fan of filmmaking or Coppola's work, you will enjoy what he has to say throughout.
Introduction by Francis Ford Coppola is a brief look at the film and why the three cuts exist and it is nice to hear from the Director how when the Redux happened it was just every cut scene thrown back into the film, but with the Final Cut it is really a mix of the 1979 and Redux and is Coppola's preferred version and almost a compromise between the two versions.
There are two individual hour long interviews between Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius and Martin Sheen which is a great talk between the two and it is a shame that they did not just add this on to one of the versions as a commentary. Milius is a fascinating person and his contributions to this film can not be understated. Sheen clearly enjoyed the making of the film in retrospect and both interviews are filled with fascinating and entertaining stories.
Fred Roos: Casting Apocalypse is a short interview with Roos on how they found the actors who starred in the film. This is not as interesting as the first two interviews and maybe if it just been the casting sessions footage that is included it would be fine.
They include the Mercury Theatre on the Air's Radio version of Heart of Darkness which was the inspiration for the film. This was from 1938 and infamous for being created by Orson Welles and many of the actors who later were used in his classic film Citizen Kane. I understand them including it for completest sake, but I don't think it works as well and is visually just a static shot of a radio whereas it really should have been a slideshow of some different pictures to make it more interesting. However, it is an excellent adaptation of the original Joseph Conrad story.
The Hollow Men is a featurette of Marlon Brando as the Colonel Kurtz character reciting the entire poem by T.S. Eliot accompanied by beautiful music and surreal footage from behind the scenes of the making of the film featuring many of the native people in the film. This really could have done with an introduction to explain what it was as I had to check myself whether this was a Deleted Scene or what it was supposed to be.
Monkey Sampan is a Deleted Scene where the team encountered a boat filled with monkeys and a dead man. It is odd that the scene was not cleaned up and add to one of the cuts as it is very effective. Along with this there is over twenty six minutes of extra footage across twelve deleted scenes. When you hear about the millions of feet of film that was produced it is surprising that there isn't a disk just dedicated to deleted or alternative scenes.
The Kurtz Compound Destruction is just the filming of the destruction of the compound. Coppola gives a Commentary over this and it explains that they had to remove the set by law and so they just decided to blow it up and film it. The footage is amazing and it is surprising they did not use it.
There are a number of features which focus just on the sound of the film. Birth of 5.1 Sound is a bizarre featurette about how due to Coppola's desire for the film to be an 'Experience' the way the sound was created which was in Quadrophonic, it had an impact on how the sound was created for film ongoing. This is great if you are interested in sound quality and how this film really started the desire of this. Ghost Helicopter Flyover is a look at how they created the soundscape in the beginning of the film. The Synthesizer Soundtrack by Bob Moog is a slideshow of the article and is not as easy to read on the screen and maybe should have either been an audio reading of the article to go alongside the text or just a link.
Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now is another look at the soundtrack of the film which went on to win the Best Sound Oscar and clearly deserving of this award. The Final Mix again looks at how the music, dialogue, effects and general ambiance of the film are brought together to make the film sound as great as it did. Finally, the Music of Apocalypse Now looks at the music created as a collaboration between Francis Ford Coppola and his father Carmine Coppola. It is always surprising that it was not nominated for an Oscar, though did receive a Golden Globe award and nominations at the Grammy and BAFTAs. Their score is fantastic and though I remember the use of songs in the film such as the opening with The Doors The End, the music throughout is amazing.
A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now is possibly why there are now three versions of this film, plus many more deleted scenes. It is not surprising that Coppola would have footage left over and this really shows why four Editors were needed to create the finished film. One of the fascinating stories is how the opening sequence was culled from some footage left in a bin which Coppola pulled out and viewed and this is one of the most iconic openings of all time. The editing and creation is also looked at in The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now which is a look at how the film was created and also restored to make it look as beautiful as it does.
Apocalypse Then and Now is a look at why the film was shown at Cannes in an unfinished state. The 2001 Cannes Film Festival is an interview between Coppola and infamous film critic Roger Ebert. This is a great interview and look at the film from Coppola, but it does cover a lot of the same stories and thoughts that feature throughout.
PBR Streetgang features a number of short interviews with all the other members of Willard's crew. This could have been longer only lasting less than five minutes, but nice to see how the team worked together.
One of the best things about this set is the inclusion of the Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse documentary. This was created by Coppola's wife Eleanor and there are many who actually find the making of this film far more fascinating and enjoyable than the film itself. It was always a surprise that this did not win an Oscar for Best Documentary or even be nominated for it as it is generally regarded as one of the best documentaries ever created. The commentary by Francis and Eleanor is nice, but felt a little redundant at times when they really were just confirming or elaborating more on some of the stories told in the film.
The Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Coppola and Steven Soderbergh is great. As with all interviews with Coppola he is very eloquent and able to talk with passion about his work. This is great, but I think by this point a lot of the stories had already been told a few times and so there was very little new that it revealed.
The Never-Before-Seen-B-Roll is fine in general and I am still not surprised that there isn't hours and hours of extra cuts, different takes and alternative scenes. The Apocalypse Now Dolby featurette is again a look at the sound of the film. Finally, there is a look at the history of Apocalypse Now on Home Video. This is interesting if you want to see how the film has changed over the years.
There is a mass of photo galleries and marketing archive which are great in general, but only for those who want to watch everything about this film and how it was promoted.
Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is probably going to be the final version of this film, for now. Whichever of the three versions you watch it is still a fantastic film. It is a strange world where you have to say this amazing, fantastic film is the third best film by a Director, but when you consider that Numbers One and Two are The Godfather Part One and Two that is not a bad thing. If you love this film then you will be bowled over by the sheer amount of content on this set. Even if you only watch the 'Making of' features it is still hours of content and something everyone should go out and buy now!