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Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Francis Ford Coppola
Martin Sheen
Marlon Brando
Robert Duvall
Frederic Forrest
Laurence Fishburne
Bottom Line: 

Apocalypse Now is one of the very best films from a decade of amazing cinema. To stand out from a crowd of gems ranging from Annie Hall to...well, Z (not to mention director Coppola's other little contributions to motion picture history, The Godfathers One and Two!) a film had to be cut from an almost ethereal cloth. Originally released in 1979 at a rather stout 153 minutes, Coppola's epic "war movie" was already as bloated as Brando at a pig roast, but, while the film doesn't exactly make for breezy afternoon viewings, its running time was never much of an issue for me. When it was announced that Coppola was assembling a director's cut with over 43 minutes added to the existing print, however, I began to wonder just how much of the apocalypse I was willing to sit through before I threw in the towel and kicked up my feet with Will and Grace.

The good news was that, at just shy of 200 minutes, Apocalypse Now Redux was not only endurable, it was downright enjoyable. The "extra stuff" Coppola reinstated into this director's cut was some fantastic stuff that not only built on an already brilliant film, but added tremendous dimension to the characters, and in some cases, actually changed the perception of a character we'd thought we had figured out completely.

Previously available separately, with little (ie; nothing) by way of extra material, both versions of Apocalypse Now are being packaged in a new, two-disc set dubbed The Complete Dossier.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Apocalypse Now (and if you aren't, you may want to also learn about things like fire and the wheel) Captain Ben Willard (Sheen) is sent on a mission to assasinate rogue American Colonel Walter Kurtz, who has taken up residence with the local natives in the Cambodian jungle. As Willard get's closer to Kurtz, he begins to doubt the wisdom and motives of his superiors, as well as himself.

The original version of the film is nothing short of a masterpiece, and will go down in history as one of the greatest “war movies” of all time. Coppola's Redux is Apocalypse Now on steroids. While some of what is added is purely expository stuff, most of it goes a long way toward fleshing out the characters of the supporting players, and even introducing new plot threads and characters, like the inhabitants of a French plantation, where the crew stops for an extended rest. This dialogue heavy segment of the film accounts for the lion's share of reinstated footage and provides for a much more gradual incline to Willard's decline. The tense confrontations between the soldiers and the French colonists who are opposed to the war lend a great deal of credibility to Willard's actions later on, and once you see the film with these scenes in place you'll wonder how the film got on without them.

Both films are presented in wonderfully remastered digital anamorphic transfers, 5.1 soundtracks, and, for the first time, both featuring optional commentary by Coppola. There are also loads of deleted scenes (including one scene thought “lost”), four featurettes, interviews, and lots more. It was rumored that this set might feature the excellent documentary, Heart of Darkness, but, sadly, legal red tape made its inclusion next to impossible. Still, much of what was featured in that film is covered in great detail by Coppola over the course of his two commentary tracks, leaving few stones unturned.

This is an essential purchase for both fans of the film, and fans of cinema in general, as the presentation here affords viewers with fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and materials that offer an unprecedented look into one of the greatest films ever made. Highly recommended.

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