Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: R (Disturbing violent images, language, sexual content and some drug use) Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays Audio: English DD 5.1 Subtitles: English, Spanish Time: Apocalypse Now: 153 minutes; Apocalypse Now: Redux: 202 minutes Disc Format: 2 DVD-9’s Case Style: Collector’s packaging Theatrical Release Date:1979; 2001 DVD Release Date: August 15, 2006 It’s the mother of all Vietnam pictures, and it may be the best war picture ever filmed. It is a chronicle of a man’s decent into madness and personal hell, and I don’t know if I mean the lead character or the director. In watching Apocalypse Now: Redux on Paramount and Zoetrope Aubry Productions excellent new two disc set, I found myself thinking, “What else needs to be said about this movie?” After the viewing, as well as doing a little research into the history of the picture and the past video versions, I came to the conclusion I really didn’t have anything new to add to what’s already been said in the past 27 years. So, I’ll make it brief: Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on a mission to kill a renegade American Colonel, William Kurtz (Marlon Brando). As Willard makes his way up a potentially deadly river on his way to Cambodia, he is put into situations that make him question his loyalties and the reason for wars. Once he meets Kurtz, Willard is forced to decide if he will follow his sense of justice or his sense of duty. Either way, he will find himself irrevocably changed. Featuring perhaps Brando and Sheen’s best performances, and only enhanced by the strength of the supporting roles, Apocalypse Now is a masterwork of American cinema. It is a thinly veiled adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and it contains the work of a director, Francis Ford Coppola, in his prime but also on the verge of his own mental breakdown. The production of Apocalypse Now was so traumatic for not only Coppola but the whole production team that it generated it’s own movie, which, unfortunately, is not in this new release. In 2001, Coppola went back and re-cut and added in several scenes to the original release and titled it, Apocalypse Now: Redux. This new version was expanded by 49 minutes to expand on several already existing scenes and add some new ideas. Personally, now having seen both versions, I prefer the original version over the Redux mainly due to the pacing. You must own at least some version of Apocalypse Now in your library, and I believe The Complete Dossier should be the one. Some information on the layout of Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier: Both versions of the movie are spread out over the two discs and they share the same breaking point (right after Willard and the crew of the PBR Streetgang encounter the villagers on the fishing boat). Redux is not a seemless branching version of the theatrical version, but its own entity on the disc. The disc gives you the option of having a “Redux Marker” pop up on the screen when a Redux edit is happening. This is an excellent feature for those of us who are not scholars of this picture and want to know where the new footage is inserted. Packaging: I usually don’t comment on packaging, but Paramount and Zoetrope Aubry Productions have made a very creative package that looks similar to Willard’s dossier he is given containing info on Kurtz. The outer, cardboard package has a Velcro clasp that looks like the wax seal and “confidential” is stamped on it. Once you open it up, the tri-fold digi-pack opens to show a sepia image of Sheen with the information about all the extras written out. The front of the digi-pack has a great painting of Kurtz in the shadows dripping water over his head, which is also seen on the paper insert on the back of the package. Video: The picture of both versions of Apocalypse Now is framed at 2.0:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. The film was presented theatrically at 2.35:1, but Coppola and his cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, reformatted the picture to 2.0:1 for home video releases. I am not going to get into the debate over the change to the OAR, just know this release is 2.0:1. Both versions of the picture are very close in terms of video quality. Contrast is exceptional and there is good saturation in the flesh tones. Redux exhibits a little more saturation, but it is very minor. Edge enhancement is barely noticeable, but you will see it occasionally. I noticed some minor compression artifacts and video noise, but there was no film dirt. This edition is a huge improvement in video quality over the 1999 DVD of the ’79 theatrical presentation. In comparing the ’99 version to this ’06 version, the ’99 disc suffers from heavy video noise and very noticeable film dirt and damage. Color and black levels are similar, but you will think you are watching the movie on TV as opposed to the more film like appearance of this new release. The ‘99 version also lacks the sharpness and detail the ’06 version, and it too is framed at 2.0 with the black bar planted at the bottom of the image. I do not have, nor was I able to find the previously released version of Redux, so I could not compare those two versions. Audio: I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged since it is the only available option. The ’99 disc contained what sounds to be the exact same track as the one here, but that earlier DVD also had a French surround track which is now gone. Redux shares the same track as the ’79 version and the audio to the added scenes blends right in. ADR is very noticeable in this movie and I could pick it out many times as lip sync would misfire. There is a lot of activity in the surround mix, with the surrounds opening up for music cues and environmental effects to produce an enveloping sound field. The battle sequences, especially the bombing and attack of the village with Kilgore’s platoon, exhibit a good midrange of sounds and exciting panning effects. The bass tracks engage primarily in the battle sequences, but they’re a little thin. Bonus Material: Paramount was kind enough to put in descriptions of the bonus material, so I will quote and summarize that here and add in some of my own comments. Most of the features are anamorphic. Disc One Watch the film with Francis For Coppola: Coppola introduces both versions and he recounts the obstacles he faced during the original film’s production while describing the “definitive version” in ’01 – a film closer to the one he envisioned. Both versions of the film have the same audio commentary, and the new scenes in Redux have commentary as well. The Hollow Man (16:55): “A complete reading of T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem by Colonel Kurtz, excerpts of which are used in the picture. This complete rendition has never before been seen outside the Zoetrope cutting room.” The readings are accompanied by footage of what appears to be the background extras. The footage also contains some behind the scenes shots. Monkey Sampan (3:00): “An unusual lost scene from the original shooting.” 12 Additional Scenes (26:00): Saigon Streetlife, Military Intelligence Escorts, Intelligence Briefing Extension 1 and 2, Willard Meets the PBR Crew, Letter From Mrs. Kurtz, Booby Trap, Do Lung Bridge “…that road is open.”, The Photojournalist, Colby, Tiger Cages, “Special Forces Knife.” There is nothing too amazing here; everything has already been covered in the feature. A/V Club Featurettes: “A special section of bonus extras for young filmmakers, techies and passionate Apocalypse Now fans! Enjoy a detailed look at the film’s remarkable achievements in sound and image:” This is a great feature I wish was about three times as long. The Birth of 5.1 Sound (5:47): ”Apocalypse Now was the first advertised feature film to use a then new six-channel “Stereo Surround” process pioneered by Dolby Laboratories and the filmmakers at Zoetrope. The film won an Oscar for Best Sound and there is also a brief history of film sound.” Murch mentions Coppola’s original idea on how the film was going to be presented. Ghost Helicopter Flyover (4:00): “An audio demonstration of the three-dimensional ‘stereo surround’ effects used in the film.” The Synthesizer Soundtrack by Bob Moog: “An in-depth article by the late inventor of the Moog synthesizer and renowned electronic music pioneer, from the January 1980 issue of ‘Contemporary Keyboard Magazine,’ that spotlights Apocalypse Now’s groundbreaking, Oscar nominated synthesized score. Technical FAQ: “Six of the most frequently asked questions about the film…with answers!” Questions about 70mm, the 2.0 aspect ratio, longer versions of the film, and more! Disc Two The Post Production of Apocalypse Now: “Much has been said about Francis Coppola’s tortured cinematic undertaking, amidst disasters both natural and personal. But also consider the incredible, less-publicized three-year journey of post production. These four featurettes cover the fascinating stories of editing, music and sound through the eyes and ears of Coppola and his team of artists and technicians; show the collaboration of star Martin Sheen, writers John Milius and Michael Herr, and drummer Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead chronicled on film by Eleanor Coppola and her team; and culminate in the amazing final sound mix that took over nine months to complete in the tiny basement studio of Coppola’s San Francisco HQ” A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now (17:54): Murch describes his editing process, likening it to brainwashing. Coppola discusses the 5 ½ hour cut and how the film evolved during the editing process. Some of the scenes from the film that are shown here are in there original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, just to annoy us. The Music of Apocalypse Now (14:43): This doc provided some background on a revelation about The Doors “The End” and the rest of the score. Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now (15:19) The Final Mix (3:07) Apocalypse Then and Now (4:00): “Cannes Film Festival, May, 2001: Coppola presents his new, longer version of Apocalypse Now to the Cannes Film Festival – exactly 21 years after he showed his first version at the Palais Croisette as a ‘work in progress’ in 1979 and then garnering an eight-minute standing ovation at the Palais des Festivals when Redux was shown in 2001. Coppola reflects on the reaction to the film, both at the time of its original release and today, while longtime Coppola collaborator, editor and sound guru Walter Murch discusses the re-cutting of a film that took nearly three years (1977-1979) to edit the first time around.” PBR Streetgang (4:00): “The crew of the Navy patrol boat ‘Streetgang’ gathers in the summer of 2001 to celebrate the launch of Apocalypse Now: Redux…as they reminisce about the making of Apocalypse Now. Twenty-four years earlier, this group of young actors…became inseparable during the weeks of Los Angeles rehearsals Coppola had organized in preparation for the storied 238-day shoot in the Philippines.” The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now (4:00): “Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was determined to make the 2001 release prints of the expanded film as vivid and beautiful as he had envisioned when he photographed the film 25 years earlier, winning an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Coppola and Storaro discuss a revived ‘dye printing’ process that was used to make all prints for the North American release and emphasize the importance of preserving our aging film legacy.” Missing from the previous DVD releases… The ‘99 version of the DVD contained the theatrical trailer, excerpts from the Theatrical Program, and a presentation of the destruction of the Kurtz compound with commentary by Coppola. The destruction of the compound footage was released as a bonus disc from Circuit City when The Complete Dossier was released. The original Redux release only had a theatrical trailer for that release. This is not included on The Complete Dossier Conclusions: Paramount and Zoetrope Aubry Productions have gone out of their way to make an exceptional two disc set of this important picture. They played fair and gave us both releases in the set with a generous amount of extras, most importantly, a commentary from Coppola. My main complaint is that the Hearts of Darkness documentary is not on here, or this may have been the release of the year. In looking at this week’s ads, this set is on sale for less than $15.00, which makes it a great deal.