DVD Review: Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
Country: United States
Release Date: August 15, 2006
Distributor: Paramount Home Video
· Francis Ford Coppola
· Marlon Brando
· Martin Sheen
· Robert Duvall
· Frederic Forrest
· Sam Bottoms
by Adam Scholtz
Published: August 29, 2006
“Apocalypse Now” has been through many revisions and has been discussed for many years. Francis Ford Coppola’s epic story of a man gone insane from the horrors of Vietnam is one of the most well known war movies in existence. In this new DVD version of the movie, both the original cut from 1979 as well as the “Redux” version which many people have expressed dislike towards make their way into this supposedly complete dossier.
The film begins by showing viewers the ending. Strange, but not completely out of place as it has been done a few times in other films since then as well. Shortly after we are introduced to Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Charlie Sheen), who is stationed in Saigon at the moment, very much away from the action. He is a troubled young man and it is easy to see that he is not tailored for a civilian lifestyle. A group of intelligence officers have him brought up to a base where they offer him a special mission. Apparently a man by the name of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), formerly of the Green Berets has gone insane and converted the locals as well as his own Montagnard troops into his cult deep in the jungles of Cambodia. Strangely, Kurtz quit the Green Berets and to join the Paratroopers. He was a model officer and well on his way to a general before this disturbing occurrence, with proof in a few radio transmissions from Kurtz himself to back the story. Willard takes the mission and is ordered to find Kurtz and "terminate... with extreme prejudice."
During parts of the boat ride he reads over the intel file to find that Kurtz has become a warlord with his own men and the natives worshipping him like a god. Another officer named Colby was sent earlier to slay Kurtz, but it seems he was either killed or has become one of Kurtz’s followers.
Willard starts his trip up the Mekong River on a Patrol Boat, Riverine (Known as a PBR), with a strange group of individuals. The boat captain is Chief Phillips, a black Navy Boat Commander, GM3 Lance B. Johnson, an all-American beachcomber, a Cajun Engineer by the name of Jay Hicks, and GM3 Tyrone, also known as “Mr. Clean”, a young 17 year old kid from a bad part of Bronx. The trip up river takes a good chunk of the film to flesh out, with the PBR arriving to see a mop up operation of an enemy town by one Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, who quickly befriends Lance due to their shared love of surfing. The is well known for using Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" with a massive napalm bombing near the end, with Kilgore saying one of the several famous lines, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like... victory."
The film gets darker as it goes on, highlights being an encounter with a tiger, an inspection that turns into a slaughter, and a stop at an outpost that is busy constructing a bridge, over and over again each day. A couple of main characters are also killed off at this point, further throwing Willard for a loop as his obsession with Kurtz deepens.
Eventually they arrive at Kurtz’ compound, with Willard leaving Chef behind with orders to call an air strike in should he not return. Willard is met by a mental case photographer (Dennis Hopper) who explains all about Kurtz and his greatness as well as how he gets people to follow him. Willard is captured and lectured by Kurtz, eventually he explains why he is doing what he is with a long monologue.
Kurtz ends up killed Chef, and sets his head on Willard’s lap, which finally breaks him fully. Willard and Kurtz seem to develop an understanding about the situation however, with Kurtz wishing to die and Willard there to do the deed. As the natives slaughter a water buffalo outside, Willard finds Kurtz and kills him with a machete. Once he emerges from the building, the natives are silent and let him pass, taking Lance along with him.
The Redux version adds several scenes to the movie, the largest being one which they steal Kilgore’s surfboard, a scene with several Playboy bunnies, an encounter with the French, and Kurtz reading a magazine to some children.
The movie is presented in 1:85 widescreen with the picture pretty much perfect, the transfer even enhancing the original. It doesn’t even show age all that much. Audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 and also done very well, no flaws here.
The features are overall good; with the one glaring part that many are upset about is the lack of the “Hearts of Darkness documentary, which is considered to be one of the best ‘making of’ features to ever be made, due to legal issues. For that matter there really aren’t any featurettes on the making of the movie included, just the four part featurette on the post production. There is a section with Marlon Brando reading .S. Eliot's Poem "The Hollow Men" as well as some featurettes on the development of 5.1 sound and the Technicolor process. The commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola is quite good and well worth a watch through at least once, as is the PBR Street Gang interviews with the actors that played the boat crew. There are also some additional scenes and a cut scene known as “Monkey Sampan”.
The only other annoyance that I can express is the fact that the movies both have a disc change in the middle, instead of one being on one disc and one on the other disc. Apparently this is due to transfer quality being less then perfect if they were done on one disc each, which makes it alright with me, since quality is top priority.
This set is a good bargain for all the features provided, including two different versions of the movie. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the film or enjoys this type of movie in general.