Blu-ray Review: APOCALYPSE NOW Three-Discs Full Disclosure Edition

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
October 19th, 2010

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

Release Date: October 19, 2010
Official Site:
Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Ratings: Film – 5/5, Tech specs – 5/5, Packaging and extras – 5/5, Overall – 5/5

APOCALYPSE NOW is regarded as one of, if not the greatest war movies in history. It's one that also encourages debate among cinephiles as to whether or not this is actually director Francis Ford Coppola's best work.

It's made on a much bigger scale than any of his other works, and the quality of this film goes way beyond the easily tangible things like performances, picture and sound quality, and writing. The first thing that jumps out at you is that this film is, in a word, beautiful. Coppola makes great use of color in this film, where the most brutal of brutal violence amongst men happens and you can't help but get caught up in the landscape of the jungle and river where the bulk of the story takes place. He manages to make what should be an almost colorless world of green trees and a brown river a very vividly colored world.

The cast is fantastic, and is led by Martin Sheen playing Captain Benjamin L. Willard. It also features performances from Dennis Hopper playing a strung-out American photojournalist, Robert Duvall as an overly enthusiastic lieutenant who loves the smell of napalm in the morning, and of course the incomparable Maron Brando playing Colonel Walter Kurtz as the man Willard is sent to find in the jungle. There are smaller parts of some recognizable stars early in their careers. Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburne (who was 14 years old at the time), Albert Hall, and Scott Glenn also have roles in the film.

Martin Sheen turns in a performance that is incredibly believable as a man who wasn't very far from the edge due to his military history, only to get closer to succumbing to the madness that the jungle is capable of inflicting. Dennis Hopper is far and away the most quotable of anyone in the film, and his portrayal of a photojournalist is extremely entertaining as he rattles off speech after speech about whatever it is that is on his mind. Marlon Brando is, not surprisingly, quite effective for a character who you could technically say has a small role in this film.

Tech Specs:
As stated earlier, this film looks amazing. The transfer was supervised by Francis Ford Coppola, and it is so vividly clear that it seems as if this were a movie that could have been shot today. The great thing about it is, it’s never overdone, and doesn’t take away from the film at all, which is a mistake that’s been seen on some digitally remastered films from the 80’s re-released on Blu-ray this year. The only scene that retain some of the original grain is the first appearance of Marlon Brando. This is easily one of the better-looking classic films on Blu-ray.

Packaging and extras:
The set is packaged beautifully in a three-disc set inside a box accompanied by a 48-page booklet containing set photos and memos to the crew regarding safety and drug regulation in the Phillipines. It even includes some of the production notes written by Francis Ford Coppola. It is an absolutely fascinating inclusion in what is already an amazing Blu-ray box set.

The biggest extra in the set is the feature-length documentary HEARTS OF DARKNESS, packaged for the first time with the original cut of the film. It is a wildly fascinating documentary that is incredibly in-depth, and really provides a fly-on-the-wall perspective of what it was like shooting this extremely taxing film. The documentary opens with footage from the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and Francis Ford Coppola stating “My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. It’s what it was really like. It was crazy. The way we made it is very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much, and little by little we went insane.” It featured footage shot and narrated by Francis’ wife Eleanor, and she captured some of the most amazing behind the scenes footage that really illustrated how difficult the circumstances shooting in the Philippines were. To see what not only Coppola went through to make this film, but the entire cast and crew, including the toll it took on Coppola’s family is incredible.

The documentary goes over the process of replacing Harvey Keitel after one week of filming, the troubles with Marlon Brando and who might have replaced him, had he quit as he once intended. The chapter that details the opening scene alone may be worth getting this entire set. If you’ve ever been curious to see the Harvey Keitel footage, the behind the scenes footage of the opening scene will ensure that you will stop caring. Martin Sheen was born for this role, and that chapter details it. There is so much information in this documentary, it is an essential watch for anyone purchasing this disc because it isn’t very often that a viewer can get this perspective on a film as amazing as this one.

This is one of the most comprehensive Blu-ray sets to be released this year, and it is an absolute must have. As amazing as the film is, the comprehensiveness of the set completes the experience and puts you in the mind of the director and the cast like no other set will do. Absolute. Must. Have.

Official synopsis:

Often hailed as “one of the greatest of all films” (Chicago Sun-Times), the timeless cinematic masterpiece from Francis Ford Coppola Apocalypse Now arrives in stunning high definition for the first time when it premieres on Blu-ray Disc, Digital Download and On Demand this fall from Lionsgate. Directed and co-penned by the Academy Award® winner, the iconic film about the hell of war that has captivated audiences for decades features an all-star critically acclaimed cast that includes Marlon Brando (The Godfather), Martin Sheen (TV’s “The West Wing”), (Crazy Heart), Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider), Harrison Ford (The Indiana Jones series) and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix Trilogy). This highly anticipated Blu-ray Disc premieres in 1080P High Definition Widescreen in two deluxe-edition releases: a 3-Disc Full Disclosure Edition and a 2-Film Set. Also for the first time, these movies will be presented for home entertainment audiences in their original theatrical aspect ratios (2.35:1). Nominated for eight Academy Awards® (1979) including Best Picture, Apocalypse Now is also a highlight on the AFI's list of 100 Years...100 Movies.

In addition to Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now Redux there are more than nine hours of bonus material including new interviews with on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent. The 3-Disc Full Disclosure Edition also includes the acclaimed making-of feature documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse – packaged with the original film for the first time – as well as even more brand new bonus features. In addition, this version features a 48-page collectible booklet with a special note from Francis Ford Coppola, never-before-seen archives from the set, behind the scenes photos and more! The Full Disclosure Edition will be packaged in a keepsake case featuring archival poster images designed by Japanese artist Eiko Ishioka.  Exploding onto shelves on October 19, 2010, the Apocalypse Now 3-Disc Full Disclosure Edition will be available for $59.99

In the Vietnam War epic, Martin Sheen stars as Army Captain Willard, a troubled man sent on a dangerous top-secret mission into Cambodia to assassinate a rogue Green Beret, Col. Kurtz (Brando), who has barricaded himself in a remote outpost. As Willard ventures deeper and deeper into the wilderness of the jungle, he embarks on a strange journey that leads him to Kurtz – but also forces him to come face to face with the terrifying vision of the heart of darkness in us all.

Technical specifications:

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

English, English SDH, French, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
Three-disc set (3 BDs)

Special features:

• Apocalypse Now - The 1979 Cut and Apocalypse Now Redux are presented for the first time in Hi-Def!
• New 1080p transfers supervised by Francis Ford Coppola - first time ever in original theatrical aspect ratio (2.35:1) in home entertainment release!
• Exclusive to Full Disclosure edition: Hearts of Darkness, the feature-length making-of documentary with optional audio commentary from Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola
• Exclusive to Full Disclosure edition: 48-page printed collectible booklet with letter from Francis Ford Coppola, never-before-seen archives from the set, behind-the-scenes photos and more!
• Exclusive to Full Disclosure edition: 52-page John Milius script excerpt (onscreen) with handwritten notes from Francis Ford Coppola
• Exclusive to Full Disclosure edition: Storyboard Gallery
• Exclusive to Full Disclosure edition: Marketing Archives
• New "A Converation with Martin Sheen" interview by Francis Ford Coppola
• New "An Interview with John Milius" by Francis Ford Coppola
• Never-before-included Complete 2001 Cannes Film Festival: Francis Ford Coppola interview by Roger Ebert
• Audio Commentary by Francis Ford Coppola
• Monkey Sampan "lost scene"
• Additional Scenes
• "Destruction of the Kurtz Compound" - with audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola
• "Heart of Darkness" - 1938 Mercury Theatre audio recording with Orson Welles
• "The Hollow Men" - video of Marlon Brando reading T.S. Eliot's poem
• "The Birth of 5.1 Sound" featurette
• "Ghost Helicopter Flyover" sound effects demonstration
• "A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now" featurette
• "The Music of Apocalypse Now" featurette
• "The Synthesizer Soundtrack" article by Bob Moog
• "Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now" featurette
• "The Final Mix" featurette
• "Apocalypse Then and Now" featurette
• "PBR Streetgang" interviews with the boat crew actors
• "The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now" featurette

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