Apocalypse Now

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 August, 2006, 12:00am

FROM THE VAULT: 1979/2001

Apocalypse Now

Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

The film: Previous DVD editions of Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now Redux have been light in the extras department, so at first glance The Complete Dossier - despite the rather childish 'confidential' stamp on the cover - looks appealing. What's inside, however, is a less than-complete-selection of extras, but one that still offers a fairly substantial reward for those who have been awaiting this long-anticipated Coppola-produced package.

Extras aside, the most obvious problem is that both versions of the film are spread over two discs, which, even if you have a multi-disc player, means an annoying mid-movie break. Both running times (153 and 202 minutes respectively) would fit with a high bit rate onto a single disc, as would the extras, but everything is crammed onto two DVDs instead of three.

The release in 2001 of the Redux version divided the film's ardent fanbase apparently unevenly in favour of the original. Added to Coppola's original reworking of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness were about 50 minutes of scenes that many saw as superfluous at best, detrimental at worst.

The main addition is a long scene in which the boat carrying Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, et al heading upriver to locate Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz, stops at a French rubber plantation. This is also the most heavily criticised segment, with purists crying foul for its changes of pace, mood and Sheen's characterisation. Other viewers find it an interesting sidebar, containing as it does some political exposition and background information on the Vietnam war.

Coppola claims such pockets of French colonialists existed at the time, but this one seems rather too ethereal, and too well stocked up on French food and wine, to be very convincing.

The other significant Redux addition is a follow-up scene to the Playboy stage show, with the boat crew finding the stranded pin- up girls at a medical base in the middle of nowhere. They exchange a couple of barrels of fuel for downtime with the girls - a scenario almost as unlikely as the French plantation.

Viewers familiar with neither film have a treat in store, especially with the original, and anyone who has seen both can look forward to enough extra features to last them until someone puts out a DVD of the 51/2-hour bootleg rough-cut that's still out there somewhere in a jungle of its own.

The extras: First up, what's missing. The earlier DVD release of Apocalypse Now included one spectacular deleted scene showing the destruction of Brando's jungle compound. This is not included here (although a very limited three-disc edition, apparently not for international release, does have it).

The most obvious omission, though, is Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, a film on the making of Apocalypse Now, which was directed by Coppola's wife Eleanor, and is even more highly rated by some than its subject. Legal wranglings prevented its inclusion. Theatrical trailers are also absent.

Commentaries on both films are advertised on the cover in such a way that we're led to believe Coppola does a different one for each, but the Redux commentary is the same as that on the original version, with added comments for the extra scenes.

Twelve short deleted scenes (the longest is just over three minutes), a cast reunion, Brando reading T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men over behind-the-scenes-footage (17 minutes), an hour of post-production documentary footage, a 'lost' scene (three minutes) and three items on the film's pioneering use of 5.1 sound round out the supplements. A nice touch is the optional 'Redux Marker': a small subtitle notice that comes on during Redux, letting viewers know when additional footage brought to that version is on screen.