Apocalypse Now Redux on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review

Apocalypse Now Redux

Apocalypse Now Redux: Bizarre and captivating are two words I can use to describe this film.

Francis Ford Coppola‘s contribution to the Vietnam war films which has neither opening, nor official closing credits. In fact, when I first saw the film, at the Keele Film Society in the early 1990s, the print we saw had the “apocalyptic end sequence”, with the closing credits played over the top. This version was later released on video, but in this package, both versions of the film just come to an end without them and that is exactly how those who saw the original 70mm cinematic presentation the film, ending with Willard sailing off into the distance and a 1979 copyright notice appearing onscreen. As the customers left the cinema they were handed a brochure with printed credits.

Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is back in the jungle for another tour of duty. He learns that the demented Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) is about to be arrested after he ordered the execution of some Vietnamese intelligence agents who he believed were double agents. Willard’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to kill Kurtz but the guy is a law unto himself and it’s not going to be a walk in the park. However, we learn that Kurtz was an exceptional Colonel, so why did they want him put out of their misery? This question will be answered when you watch it.

There’s many a poigniant scene here such as when hard-nosed Sgt. Kilgore (Robert Duvall) takes to bombing the Vietnamese by organising the gunships to charge to the strains of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries to a scene a little later where he utters the memorable phrase of “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. Dennis Hopper takes the role of a American photojournalist on the side of Kurtz and there are appearances for a much-younger Harrison Ford and Larry Fishburne, who lied about his age to get the part – he was 14 at the time of filming when production began in 1976.

Songs of the era are included as is the controversial sacrificing of a cow as Kurtz is murdered. This scene was left in because it’s part of a real-life ritual, despite the BBFC’s tendancy not to portray cruelty to animals. In addition, I only found out relatively recently that Marlon Brando never read his lines or the source so made it up on his arrival on set. No wonder he was terrible!

Sheen is superb in his role with able support coming from his boat crew (Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Laurence Fishburne and Sam Bottoms, the latter of whom, I noted after watching this, sadly died in 2008 from brain cancer).

Apocalypse Now is still a remarkable film, 32 years on, although as I’ve always thought when I’ve watched this, it’s a fabulous film right up until Willard’s meeting with Kurtz, at which point it all slows down to a crawl and Brando slurs his words, which doesn’t make for fascinating viewing. Still, the rest of it is wonderful.

Both the original 1979 and the 2001 Redux versions are here, but having now watched them both, I would only go back to the regular version as while there’s one or two small scenes that are nice to see added back into the film, like the ones documented below, there’s an overlong segment involving some French colonials which goes on far too long and didn’t need to be included.

Of the scenes put back into the film, the following were ones that were good to see included, most of the first ones featuring all of those with Kilgore:

  • In the original version, Willard first meets Kilgore when asking a fellow officer who simply replies, “He’s over there, you can’t miss him”. In the Redux, the officer now says “There’s the Colonel coming down”. We later learn that Kilgore is arriving (via helicopter) to the scene. When he arrives, he tells an officer riding with him, “Lieutenant, bomb back that tree line ’bout a hundred yards, give us some room to breathe”. He later asks another for his “Death Cards” (which he uses in the original version).
  • During the raid, Kilgore looks over some of the wounded and dead. He then walks away, simply replying “Damn”.
  • After Kilgore has ordered an air strike, a Vietnamese mother, with her wounded child in hand, runs to Kilgore. Kilgore immediately takes the child and tells his men to rush the child to a hospital (mother as well) on his chopper.
  • After the helicopter carrying the wounded child leaves, Kilgore hands Lance a new pair of shorts to go surfing in (Note: Throughout the original cut, Lance is wearing them, but it is never explained how he got them).
  • After giving the famous “Napalm” speech, Kilgore soon learns that the napalm has changed the wind current, ruining the perfect waves. Willard immediately uses this as an excuse to leave. He and Lance run back to the boat. Before they leave, Willard steals Kilgore’s surf board.
  • Before Willard and Chef go to search for mangoes, there’s a scene wherein the crew is lying around in a river. Chef asks Chief if he can go get some mangoes and Willard goes with him. The Redux version contains a new scene before this, in whichit is clear that the crew are hiding from Kilgore, who is trying to get back his surf board. A helicopter soon flies by, carrying a recording by Kilgore, asking Lance for the board back. Chief then changes the subject by asking how far they are going up the river. Willard says it’s classified. Chief later asks Willard if he likes it like that, “hot and hairy” (to which Willard replies: “Fuck. You don’t get a chance to know what the fuck you are in some factory in Ohio”). Chef later asks Chief if he can get some mangoes.
  • One point during their travels, the crew stop at a destroyed Medevac. The area is completely wrecked, with no real Commanding Officer (much like the Do Lung Bridge sequence). Willard tries to find someone in charge, but later learns that the Playboy bunnies’ helicopter has landed there. Willard then negotiates two barrels of fuel for an hour with the bunnies (along with the rest of the crew). Chef spends his time with his idol, Miss December (now Miss May). Lance also spends his time with the Playmate of the Year. Clean constantly interrupts, trying to get his turn. During one such interruption, a large cooler is upended, revealing the corpse of a soldier, which visibly upsets the Playmate of the Year.

And the one scene which really didn’t need to go back in:

  • The longest addition to the film is a sequence that takes place after Clean’s death. The crew find themselves in a French plantation in Cambodia. Willard tells the head of the plantation (Christian Marquand) that they lost one of their men. He tells Willard that they will bury him (to pay respects to the fallen of their allies). What later follows is a funeral for Clean. Following the recital of a poem by one of the French children (played by Roman Coppola and watched by older brother Gian-Carlo), the crew then has dinner with the new arrivals. Willard, sitting with the family, asks when they are going back to France. The family soon go into a long and lengthy argument over the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War. There is a dispute over “traitors at home” (e.g., the famous Henri Martin Affair) and most of the family leaves in anger. After they all leave, one, Roxanne (the only one not in the conversation, played by Aurore Clément), apologizes for her family’s behavior. She and Willard later talk, smoke opium, and she later explains the conflicts her deceased husband had faced with himself during the Indochina War. After she undresses and approaches Willard, she tells him, “There are two of you, can’t you see? One that kills, and one that loves.” We later see the crew back on the river continuing the mission.

Go to page 2 for a look at the presentation and the extras.

Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.


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