[box cover]

Apocalypse Now

Paramount Home Video

Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall,
Frederick Forrest, Dennis Hopper, and Laurence Fishburne

Written by Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius
Adapted frrom from the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

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Review by Gregory P. Dorr                    

Director Francis Ford Coppola once claimed, somewhat arrogantly, that Apocalypse Now was not about Vietnam — it was Vietnam. Many bridled at his bald, likely drug-induced, pomposity; but there is no question that this film is indeed a transcendent work of art and a movie of unparalleled physical beauty.

Based loosely on Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, Coppola's film is an expressionist masterpiece, bothering not so much with the minutiae of war, but rather the surreal absurdities and horrors such cruel situations can exact on a man's mind.

Martin Sheen stars as deeply scarred U.S. Army Special Forces Capt. Willard, whose mission to locate and terminate AWOL renegade Army hero Col. Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) takes him on a picaresque journey from the madness of Saigon upriver to the forbidden jungles of Cambodia. As Willard and the young Navy crew escorting him encounter the various harrowing events of warfare, Kurtz' murky philosophical motives for desertion become all the more clear. When the two finally meet, they are two halves of the same soul, transcending morals and structure to become the pure warrior.

On this ride, Coppola stages some of the grandest, most riveting and aesthetically well-wrought set-pieces on film. From the massive Wagnerian helicopter assault led by the invulnerable Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall), to the remote and chaotic Playboy pageant, and finally to Kurtz's haunting Cambodian cult compound, Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro fashion a series of indelible moments and images on an awe-inspiring, epic scale. That this production was fraught with trauma (Sheen had a heart attack during filming, the Philippine locations were politically unstable, and Coppola was reportedly in a paranoid coke frenzy, to name a few) only makes the magnitude of the end result all the more incredible.

Co-written by Coppola with John Milius. Also starring Robert Duvall, Frederick Forrest, Laurence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper as Kurtz' manic acolyte, with Harrison Ford in a brief cameo. Presented in a crystal-clear Storaro-supervised (and approved) 2.0:1 anamorphic widescreen and a terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. Includes trailers, excerpts from the original theatrical program (the 70mm print was shown without credits), and bonus scenes from the destruction of the Kurtz compound with a commentary by Coppola (which, regrettably, isn't very insightful).

— Gregory P. Dorr

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