The heart of 'Nam's darkness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 September, 1993, 12:00am

FRANCIS Ford Coppola's humongous war odyssey Apocalypse Now (Pearl, 9.30pm, original running time 153 mins) turns Vietnam into a cross between high opera and a massive acid trip.

The story, based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, is simple: a war-drunk special forces captain (Martin Sheen) is sent up river to wipe out renegade colonel (Marlon Brando, totally incomprehensible) who's set himself up as god to the jungle natives and is waging his own war in Cambodia.

But, the film is more complex - a mind-bending journey into mesmerising, surreal encounters. Witness, the lunacy of Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) who enthuses ''God I love the smell of napalm in the morning'', while leading a helicopter fleet into battle to the thunderous strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyrie ; or the USO show, with its over-blown, sex-leaden atmosphere as Playboy bunnies gyrate in a steamy jungle location.

Then, there's the eventual encounter with Kurtz and his skeletal subjects, and the heart-stopping (if confusing) climax, when Coppola inter-cuts the pulsating drum crescendo of a sacrificial dance with the Sheen/Brando showdown.

The nightmare of making such a movie is revealed tomorrow in Eleanor Coppola's documentary film Hearts of Darkness (11.50pm, ORT 96m).

AFTER a two-week delay for translation into Cantonese for NICAM viewers, the CBS news magazine Eye to Eye with Connie Chung (Pearl 8.30pm) will definitely begin today, we are told.

Chung, who co-hosts the CBS evening news with Dan Rather, will head a team of investigative reporters, delving for the real stories behind America's news headlines.

IN the last of the current series of the Movie World spin-off, Look for a Star, (World 9pm), Paul Fonoroff interviews internationally renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou, whose biggest successes abroad - and the only Chinese productions to garner Oscar nominations - are Raise the Red Lantern and Judou. He also talks to Zhang Fengyi, the star of Farewell to my Concubine, about the effect the film had on his career.

SATURDAY'S edition of Inside Story (World 7.30pm) is usually a repeat of the previous Monday's programme. But, with the big Olympic decision being made on Thursday, Sally Round and the team have produced a special edition on Beijing's bid to host the 2000 Games.

To do so, they took an Australian film crew to Beijing to gauge views for and against. The second part of the programme considers Hong Kong's role in Beijing's campaign.

HAROLD Young's 1934 version of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel (STAR Plus 2.30pm) concentrates more on heroism and romance than any aristocratic idealism mid-revolution.

Leslie Howard plays a schizophrenic Pimpernel, who parades as an effeminate fop, cleverly disguising his schemes to save upper-class necks from the blade of the guillotine. Merle Oberon's the raving beauty of the piece and Raymond Massey the villainous Chauvelin.