Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
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
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.