A few words about…™ Apocalypse Now Final Cut — in 4k UHD Blu-ray

This edition is huge, and a technical marvel, with the very best of scans, color, clean-up and audio. 4 Stars

Thoughts bouncing around.

They begin with a confused public reception, as this is without a doubt, the Best Picture of 1979.

Not that it wasn’t nominated. It was.

Along with seven other nominations: Film Editing, Sound, Cinematography, Screenplay based from Another Medium, Art/ Set Direction, Director, Supporting Actor.

It won for Sound and Cinematography.

This is another of those films for which I’m jealous of those seeing it for the first time. So if you fit into that category, make certain that you see it (if not theatrically) on the best possible 4k system, with Atmos – and LOUD.

My initial exposure was in early September of 1979, returning to New York with a French friend, who spoke little English, from Telluride. We saw it at the Ziegfeld, and he was bowled over by the audio and the visuals. He didn’t need no dialogue.

And he understood wide screen. Boy, did he ever!

I was going to note that it’s one of the most important films of the 1970s, and realized that I’d be giving Apocalypse short shrift, as it’s one of the finest films ever made.

Lionsgate’s new edition is probably also the best buy on the market for an important film, in a top quality restoration – and a restoration it is. Probably less than 10% sold as such are, in reality.

I’ll get into that in a separate piece.

I picked up a copy at Target. It wasn’t yet displayed, so a young lady was kind enough to find one in the back for me. While waiting, I looked around at other 4k films, and their prices. The Toy Story series, runs$30. Wonder Woman runs $37, Dumbo $35, Iron Man films $30, Avengers Endgame $35. They’re all up there.

Which makes Apocalypse, in a six-disc set, with two 4k discs (Final Cut & Redux), the bargain of the season, at $25.

For those hiding beneath a rock by the river, the film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, written by John Milius, and Mr. Coppola, photographed by Vittorio Storaro (yes, it’s presented in 2.35), with production design by Dean Tavoularis. The Final Cut was edited by Walter Murch, who also gave us sound design.

The basic cast, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper, G.D. Spradlin, Scott Glenn, a very young Laurence Fishburne, and Marlon Brando as Kurtz.

The film is based upon a novel that some might consider unfilmable – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, first published in 1899, and which had little to do with the Vietnam conflict.

Those who know the film don’t need to be sold on it.

This edition is huge, and a technical marvel, with the very best of scans, color, clean-up and audio.

Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, and I’ll answer the big question right up front.

No.

The subs in your home cannot handle the low frequency information on the film.

But you can give it a try.

Do I believe this is the best version?

Probably, although I also appreciate the longer Redux.

Image – 5 (Dolby Vision)

Audio – 5 (Dolby Atmos)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from Blu-ray – You’d better believe it!

Extremely Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

63 Comments

  1. Saw this as a DCP at the Cinerama Dome, Hollywood. I got the impression during the temple scenes with Brando that the projector system there didn't really do HDR, as the blacks around Brando were milky.

    In furtherance of my education in color processes, what kind of film was used in the primary Mitchell cameras on this one? Was it multipack film w. separation layers? I'd imagine so with color this vivid.

  2. The downside is that this is one of those films – along with Lawrence of Arabia and 2001 – that no home cinema can do justice. These films need to be seen on the largest screen possible.

  3. BornOfAJackal

    In furtherance of my education in color processes, what kind of film was used in the primary Mitchell cameras on this one? Was it multipack film w. separation layers? I'd imagine so with color this vivid.

    IIRC a handful of prints of Apocalypse Now were the last ones done using Dye Transfer from Technicolor Italy.

  4. One that made me nervous so far was the opening shot. As much as the video on this is being praised, I think the opening shot looks pretty lousy, the sky reminded me of the snow on old television sets that weren’t receiving a signal. And the when all the smoke came in that looked problematic as well. I was worried there was something wrong with my display (LG OLED, Oppo UHD player). Checked it on my Samsung 4K display and looked the same there as well, so I was somewhat relieved. But anyone else noticing this?

  5. "They begin with a confused public reception, as this is without a doubt, the Best Picture of 1979."

    Yes.+++

    Thanks for the great review. I will be picking this up, even though I just saw it in IMAX twice only a month ago.

  6. WillG

    One that made me nervous so far was the opening shot. As much as the video on this is being praised, I think the opening shot looks pretty lousy, the sky reminded me of the snow on old television sets that weren’t receiving a signal. And the when all the smoke came in that looked problematic as well. I was worried there was something wrong with my display (LG OLED, Oppo UHD player). Checked it on my Samsung 4K display and looked the same there as well, so I was somewhat relieved. But anyone else noticing this?

    I’m seeing zero problems, in projection. Looks like an EK print, as what you’re seeing is the camera neg. Keep in mind, that there are Opticals.

  7. WillG

    One that made me nervous so far was the opening shot. As much as the video on this is being praised, I think the opening shot looks pretty lousy, the sky reminded me of the snow on old television sets that weren’t receiving a signal. And the when all the smoke came in that looked problematic as well. I was worried there was something wrong with my display (LG OLED, Oppo UHD player). Checked it on my Samsung 4K display and looked the same there as well, so I was somewhat relieved. But anyone else noticing this?

    If I remember the story correctly, that opening shot was never formally planned and was found footage. Coppola saw it in a bin of discarded shots, pulled it up, and came up with the idea of using it. Perhaps it was discarded due to its poor quality.

  8. Robert Harris

    I’m seeing zero problems, in projection. Looks like an EK print, as what you’re seeing is the camera neg. Keep in mind, that there are Opticals.

    Lots of opticals, especially during the opening scene, and as I recall, the grain spikes and flows a bit. I can testify the film has always looked like that, as I was sitting in the front row center at the Ziegfeld for the first show on opening day. Those were the only seats that were left. It happened to be my birthday, and I wasn't going to miss seeing this, no matter how close to the screen I was. In fact, since this was a 70mm blow-up (for the multi-channel mag sound) the grain was even more pronounced.

    And yes, the color was unlike anything I've ever seen before or since, making FANTASIA look positively glum by comparison. I particularly remember the scene in the jungle with the tiger, where the greens and yellows and blues seem to take on a life of their own, overpowering the actors in the scene as well as the narrative. And no, all the other iterations I've seen on home video, and including the screening in IMAX of REDUX back in the early 90's I think, which I believe was also a 70mm blow-up, didn't come close.

    Going back to that first screening at the Ziegfeld, I will say that sitting in the front row, the surround sounds, in particular that synthesizer-treated helicopter, seemed more pronounced. There were stereo surround speakers on both ends of the screen, and it was really loud, yet dynamic for you could hear the quieter background noise of the jungle mixed in. A magnificent track, and if this 4K looks and sounds half as good as Mr. Harris says it does, this is going to be quite a treat.

  9. owen35

    If I remember the story correctly, that opening shot was never formally planned and was found footage. Coppola saw it in a bin of discarded shots, pulled it up, and came up with the idea of using it. Perhaps it was discarded due to its poor quality.

    Yeah its B-Roll from the Napalm Drop. That opening shot's looked lousy on every home video release. Its deficiencies exist on a film level.

    BTW — can anybody answer if they restored the 5.1 sound to the Complete Dossier extras that had them originally?

  10. Robert Harris


    Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, and I'll answer the big question right up front.

    No.

    What do you mean by with No?

    Also, what's the Dolby 2.0 track for? Is it the original theatrical mix, especially for the theatrical cut in this set or merely for compatible reasons?

  11. EnricoE

    What do you mean by with No?

    Also, what's the Dolby 2.0 track for? Is it the original theatrical mix, especially for the theatrical cut in this set or merely for compatible reasons?

    Compatibility. Orig mix was 6-trk 70mm, baby booms, split surrounds

  12. BornOfAJackal

    Saw this as a DCP at the Cinerama Dome, Hollywood. I got the impression during the temple scenes with Brando that the projector system there didn't really do HDR, as the blacks around Brando were milky.

    The blacks in the Kurtz scenes were deliberately milky — both to enhance the mystique of Kurtz, and to obscure the fact that Marlon Brando arrived on set out of shape and morbidly obese.

  13. My OPPO 203 does not play the 4K discs properly. All blacks show up as crimson. I had to watch the digital copy to see Dolby Vision, but lost the Atmos in the process, as my TV does not pass Atmos. This seems to be a problem with all Paramount 4K discs, as A Star Is Born had the same problem. Is anyone else with an OPPO experiencing this?

  14. 6

    Larry Geller

    My OPPO 203 does not play the 4K discs properly. All blacks show up as crimson. I had to watch the digital copy to see Dolby Vision, but lost the Atmos in the process, as my TV does not pass Atmos. This seems to be a problem with all Paramount 4K discs, as A Star Is Born had the same problem. Is anyone else with an OPPO experiencing this?

    Do you have the latest firmware?

  15. Larry Geller

    My OPPO 203 does not play the 4K discs properly. All blacks show up as crimson. I had to watch the digital copy to see Dolby Vision, but lost the Atmos in the process, as my TV does not pass Atmos. This seems to be a problem with all Paramount 4K discs, as A Star Is Born had the same problem. Is anyone else with an OPPO experiencing this?

    Correction. I know its Lionsgate now (and WB). I was living in a Paramount past, but I have this problem with both of those 4K discs, regardless of label

  16. Lord Dalek

    Yeah its B-Roll from the Napalm Drop. That opening shot's looked lousy on every home video release. Its deficiencies exist on a film level.

    Noticed a similar look in the sky on the morning after shot of the USO show when the stage was being cleaned up

  17. lark144

    Lots of opticals, especially during the opening scene, and as I recall, the grain spikes and flows a bit. I can testify the film has always looked like that, as I was sitting in the front row center at the Ziegfeld for the first show on opening day. Those were the only seats that were left. It happened to be my birthday, and I wasn't going to miss seeing this, no matter how close to the screen I was. In fact, since this was a 70mm blow-up (for the multi-channel mag sound) the grain was even more pronounced.

    And yes, the color was unlike anything I've ever seen before or since, making FANTASIA look positively glum by comparison. I particularly remember the scene in the jungle with the tiger, where the greens and yellows and blues seem to take on a life of their own, overpowering the actors in the scene as well as the narrative. And no, all the other iterations I've seen on home video, and including the screening in IMAX of REDUX back in the early 90's I think, which I believe was also a 70mm blow-up, didn't come close.

    Going back to that first screening at the Ziegfeld, I will say that sitting in the front row, the surround sounds, in particular that synthesizer-treated helicopter, seemed more pronounced. There were stereo surround speakers on both ends of the screen, and it was really loud, yet dynamic for you could hear the quieter background noise of the jungle mixed in. A magnificent track, and if this 4K looks and sounds half as good as Mr. Harris says it does, this is going to be quite a treat.

    I had another thought on this opening shot–could it be a blow-up of the negative? The framing of it seems odd to me, in the sense that if I was actually shooting it, I probably would've gone wider, especially if it was b-roll. The way it is framed now it does have a very surreal look to it. So, if it was a blow-up of the original footage, that would explain the very noticeable grain. Just a thought after watching it again last night.

  18. There is no mystery to the grain in the opening shot – it is simply a byproduct of the stocks at the time and the opticals, as confirmed by Mr. Harris. That rust coloured grain was also present in the original prints of The Empire Strikes Back, during the opening scenes in the snow which were also full of opticals. I believe this anomaly was also present in the earliest video versions as well.

  19. I recently had an issue with a couple of Paramount 4K discs on my Panasonic $k player. When I popped them in, the blacks were looking grey, and the whole picture was looking washed out. This was despite other 4K discs looking rich and full of contrast.

    After messing around with player settings, it was only when I changed the picture profile on my Sony TV that it all popped back into normality. I switched from the 'Standard' picture profile to one of the others ('Cinema Pro', I think), and it all looked wonderful.

  20. Robert Harris

    I’m seeing zero problems, in projection. Looks like an EK print, as what you’re seeing is the camera neg. Keep in mind, that there are Opticals.

    Most of the opticals including the opening shot are 5243 Kodak IN stock, though some are 5249 Kodak CRI. The opening shot looks rather unremarkable on a large format screen like IMAX. The rest is nearly flawless.

    Scanned at 16 bit 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director 4K. 2720 hours of restoration. First time the audio was captured from the 6 track print master at 24bit 96k. Every other home video release prior was heard at 16 bit 44.1k. The higher fidelity allows sound effects such as rain to sound crisper than before. Color corrected on a Sony X300 monitor in Dolby Vision. All deliverables were derived from the 1000nit Dolby HDR grade. DCI and IMAX at 48 nits, Dolby Laser at 108 nits, and BluRay at 100 nits.

  21. I had to go into my receiver and set the audio delay to 200ms to compensate for extreme lip-sync issues. Coppola’s introduction looked like a bad chop-socky movie, and the feature itself was no better. My receiver was set to like 60ms or so up to this point.

    No crimson/pink issues my with my Oppo 203, though it did substitute The Doors with Katy Perry…

  22. As am I, but I may pick it up since it also includes the BD versions.

    My problem is that I saw Final Cut and I like it the least of the three versions so I don’t have an immediate incentive to purchase. And the previous Blu-ray was still pretty good.

  23. I saw this at the Ziegfeld opening week ( the line was wrapped around 6th Avenue from 54th st to 55th St- in its original cut without the explosions over end credits. The theater gave out a beautiful glossy one fold hand out that had the credits. Unfortunately I had put the hand out in the soundtrack LP and got rid of all my vinyl in the late ‘90s.
    I went back to see it 2 more times. I must admit that this was a very “trippy” film experience much like 2001 as many were smoking weed outside before entering- myself included. The only other film I saw 3 times in its original run was The Empire Strikes Back.
    I didn’t really care for the Redux version as the pacing dragged but thought it was informative. Looking forward to seeing it- arrived Saturday- Amazon.

  24. noel aguirre

    I didn’t really care for the Redux version as the pacing dragged but thought it was informative.

    I concur. My first viewing of the film was the Redux version. When I saw the original theatrical cut years later, it was a revelation–briskly plotted and dynamic. Of course, knowing what was in the Redux version probably increased my satisfaction with the original, given that some of the plot points are glossed over. In any case, it's a shame that we couldn't have a 4K version of the original.

  25. Jonathan Perregaux

    I had to go into my receiver and set the audio delay to 200ms to compensate for extreme lip-sync issues. Coppola’s introduction looked like a bad chop-socky movie, and the feature itself was no better. My receiver was set to like 60ms or so up to this point.

    No crimson/pink issues with my Oppo 203, though it did substitute The Doors with Katy Perry…

    I’ve only checked a few scenes on the Theatrical Cut on the 4K Blu-ray and I did not notice any lip sync issues. This is on a Panasonic DP-UB820 with separate HDMI cables to a LG 65C8 OLED and a Denon AVR-3808CI A/V Receiver.

    It sounds like you are watching The Final Cut? I’ll check it out at some point and report back, but it may be a while before I spin that disc.

  26. I saw the film at the Ziegfeld also. It was literally overpowering. I thought it was a masterpiece. But I found it so disturbing I realized this was a film I could only experience once.

  27. My copy finally arrived today from Amazon. I sampled the discs to make sure everything was in obvious working order, then redeemed the digital copy on iTunes, as I had done disc to digital on Vudu a few years ago. Anyway, at least when you redeem on iTunes, yu do get all three versions in UHD, DV, and Atmos.

    One thing that did disappoint me somewhat was that the Blu-ray of the original theatrical and Redux are Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and not Atmos like the UHD discs of the same films.

  28. Todd Erwin

    My copy finally arrived today from Amazon. I sampled the discs to make sure everything was in obvious working order, then redeemed the digital copy on iTunes, as I had done disc to digital on Vudu a few years ago. Anyway, at least when you redeem on iTunes, yu do get all three versions in UHD, DV, and Atmos.

    One thing that did disappoint me somewhat was that the Blu-ray of the original theatrical and Redux are Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and not Atmos like the UHD discs of the same films.

    I have not actually had a chance to pop in my discs to check, but all 4 discs of the films (two 4K, two BR) have Atmos labeling on them.

  29. Todd Erwin

    My copy finally arrived today from Amazon. I sampled the discs to make sure everything was in obvious working order, then redeemed the digital copy on iTunes, as I had done disc to digital on Vudu a few years ago. Anyway, at least when you redeem on iTunes, yu do get all three versions in UHD, DV, and Atmos.

    One thing that did disappoint me somewhat was that the Blu-ray of the original theatrical and Redux are Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and not Atmos like the UHD discs of the same films.

    After redeeming that code, are you sure the Redux version is Dolby Vision and Atmos on iTunes?

  30. Todd Erwin

    My copy finally arrived today from Amazon. I sampled the discs to make sure everything was in obvious working order, then redeemed the digital copy on iTunes, as I had done disc to digital on Vudu a few years ago. Anyway, at least when you redeem on iTunes, yu do get all three versions in UHD, DV, and Atmos.

    One thing that did disappoint me somewhat was that the Blu-ray of the original theatrical and Redux are Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and not Atmos like the UHD discs of the same films.

    Vudu also gives you all 3 cuts in UHD, DV, and Atmos. https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/details/Apocalypse-Now-Final-Cut-Triple-Feature-Bundle-/1230270

    You can redeem the code here: https://www.vudu.com/content/redeem.html#selectPromo/_/_/1230270/_/_/_/_/_/false/_/

  31. Considering how this forum complains about the lack of "original mixes" every chance it gets, color me surprised over seeing moans about the lack of height channels in a film that never had them in the first place.

  32. Lord Dalek

    Considering how this forum complains about the lack of "original mixes" every chance it gets, color me surprised over seeing moans about the lack of height channels in a film that never had them in the first place.

    Atmos can be used for height, but its purpose is to create more of a "bubble" of sound that allows for audio placement in a more-realistic soundfield, rather than the ring of sound we've been used to with older surround sound formats. Honestly, while the original sound mix was fantastic, the Atmos track is superior. It doesn't fundamentally change the original audio placement. It just, for lack of a better phrase, fills it in.

    This new UHD set is astonishingly beautiful.

    The packaging is awful, though. It's like it was designed for a slipcover, but they decided to leave it out at the last minute to save on costs. The contents are so exhaustive and well-presented, however, that you absolutely get the maximum bang for your buck. If you're a fan of the kind of thoughtful, auteur-driven cinema that is all-too-rare these days, you owe it to yourself to get hold of it. I wholly concur with Mr. Harris: play it on the biggest screen you have with the sound system cranked. It's a transformative movie-watching experience.

  33. Lord Dalek

    Considering how this forum complains about the lack of "original mixes" every chance it gets, color me surprised over seeing moans about the lack of height channels in a film that never had them in the first place.

    This goes to the extreme in the "Oz" 4K thread. There people complain it might not have Atmos and also complain it might not have the original mono! <_<

  34. Saw this on opening day at The Ziegfeld as well. I will never forget that thwack thwack thwack sound slowly coming into clarity, then the Doors, and then the napalm. No opening or closing credits, but we did receive a printed program that is somewhere in my attic in a box. Glorious all around, I prefer the original theatrical cut.

  35. lark144

    Going back to that first screening at the Ziegfeld, I will say that sitting in the front row, the surround sounds, in particular that synthesizer-treated helicopter, seemed more pronounced. There were stereo surround speakers on both ends of the screen, and it was really loud, yet dynamic for you could hear the quieter background noise of the jungle mixed in. A magnificent track, and if this 4K looks and sounds half as good as Mr. Harris says it does, this is going to be quite a treat.

    I also saw this at the Ziegfeld and yes, it was in 70mm Dolby split-surround, the first film (aside from one reel of one print of Superman, experimentally) to be so. However, there were NOT surround speakers on both ends of the screen. On both ends of the screen were left and right channels. The surround speakers at the Ziegfeld started about a third of the way back from the screen, which was the standard setup at the time.

    They did add extra b-chain equipment at the Ziegfeld for this run, as they did for the original run of Close Encounters. I'm not sure what the equipment added was, but for CEOTTK, they added Baby Earthquakes.

    I may have told this story here before, but as we were waiting for the film to start, my wife turned to me and inquired as to whether it was worth the hassle of getting a baby sitter and finding parking in Manhattan to come to the Ziegfeld. Before I had a chance to answer, the film started with the sound of The Doors, "The End", which sounded spectacular – better than it ever sounded on the original LP. She turned to me and said, "it's worth it!" The sound mix on the Blu-ray that included the Redux version sounded quite different to me and had nowhere near the same impact.

  36. For those that redeemed the code from this set what does it give you?
    I know you get all three versions of the movie but what are the extras that you get on digital?
    Does it include the Heart of Darkness?

  37. TonyD

    For those that redeemed the code from this set what does it give you?
    I know you get all three versions of the movie but what are the extras that you get on digital?
    Does it include the Heart of Darkness?

    The Heart of Darkness is only available for purchase on iTunes and Vudu.

  38. Lord Dalek

    Considering how this forum complains about the lack of "original mixes" every chance it gets, color me surprised over seeing moans about the lack of height channels in a film that never had them in the first place.

    But we are also getting HDR with a movie that never had it 😉

    The good thing about audio is that one can have multiple mixes with one video stream so as long as I get something reasonably close to the best original sound mix I am happy if 3D sound aficionados get their fix with a 3D sound mix with the maximum number of channels possible.

  39. I received my copy of Apocalypse Now from the US a few days ago. I have not watched it, but I did check it out on my SONY X800. When I checked out the Dialogue Norm setting…on a Yamaha 1030….it was reading as -3! (Reference, or no Dial norm, reads as +4)

    I have not seen any comments about low volume on the discs, unless I missed them, just comments on the great sound. This value shows a volume 7dB lower than reference, so I would think an increase in volume would be required. I have noted most new Disney Atmos discs have a dial norm value of 0 on the Yamaha……which means 4db below reference……and everyone refers to needing volume increases on these discs.

    I was wondering if the volume level on Apocalypse Now is actually that low…..or is the Yamaha reading it incorrectly?

    Thanks,
    phannon

  40. My version arrived late yesterday evening and it is a bit differently packaged to the US set. For a start, all 6 discs are in a long cardboard fold out and all discs have the same Sheen/Brando reflection. The back has the same 'temple style head' on one side whilst the other has a sunset with a swarm of helicopters. Our set is missing the boat images.
    [GALLERY=media, 5810]IMG_2392 (2) by KeithDA posted Sep 15, 2019 at 9:02 AM[/GALLERY]

  41. Interesting find over at Blu-ray.com concerning dialogue that was altered for Redux and shows up on the Atmos mix of The Theatrical Cut and The Final Cut: https://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=16841794&postcount=2920

    Long story short, looks like this alteration was also present on The Full Disclosure Edition, and the original line is only on the Blu-ray copy that comes with The Final Cut cut because it has an option for the Original 1979 Restored Audio Track. It puzzles me why that track is only on the Blu-ray and not an option on the 4K Blu-ray.

Leave a Reply