Call it fate or just sheer coincidence, but the same week that Bullz-Eye announced the newest class of its Directors Hall of Fame, Lionsgate is releasing “Apocalypse Now” for the first time on Blu-ray. So what’s the connection? Well, the film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, was one of our five inductees, and his work on “Apocalypse Now” played a huge role in him making the final cut. Obviously, the first two “Godfather” films are what Coppola is best known for, but his 1979 Vietnam War epic isn’t far behind. I’ve never really been a fan of the director apart from these three films, but while his career has certainly had more flops than successes, there’s a lot more to the man than his formative years behind the camera.
Although I have a deep respect for “Apocalypse Now,” if I had to sum up my feelings about the film in just one sentence, it would probably go something like this: It’s a great film, but it’s a flawed film. That might sound a bit harsh considering my four-star review of the movie, but it’s true. Of course, even for as good as it is, the story about the making of it is even better, and that’s where the new Blu-ray comes into play. Despite a 2006 special edition DVD called The Complete Dossier, the new three-disc Full Disclosure edition is a lot closer to the ultimate “Apocalypse Now” collection. For starters, it includes the 1991 documentary about the making of the film, “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” which Bob Westal calls “both a cautionary tale and an inspiration.” Much like “Lost in La Mancha” – the 2000 documentary about the act-of-god collapse of Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” – this first-person account (captured by Coppola’s wife, Eleanor) of the trouble-plagued production is one the most interesting films about the moviemaking process ever released, and it’s a must-have for any diehard fan or student of cinema.
In addition, both versions of the film – the original theatrical cut and the 2001 director’s cut, “Apocalypse Now Redux” – have been digitally restored in high definition with excellent results, delivering a sharper picture without making it look glossy like some of the other classic movies recently released on Blu-ray. There are also hours of bonus material to enjoy, including a pair of new interviews with actor Martin Sheen and writer John Milius that are loaded with anecdotes about their experiences working on the film, as well as a casting featurexte on the supporting actors that made up the PBR Street Gang. But while it contains some never-before-seen footage of Nick Nolte’s audition (who was ultimately never cast in the film), there’s no video or photographic evidence of Harvey Keitel’s two-week stint as Willard before he was replaced by Martin Sheen.
The recasting situation is mentioned briefly, but after last week’s Internet-fueled brouhaha over the Eric Stoltz footage that was released on the new “Back to the Future” Blu-rays, they could have at least included a few shots of Keitel in costume. I’m not sure if any even exist, but I have to imagine they do, so there’s always a chance that something from Keitel’s work on the film will pop up in the future. Of course, that means that “Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure” isn’t as complete as it could be, but it’s still one of the best releases of the year, and worth upgrading to Blu-ray for if you haven’t already.
Tags: Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Blu-ray, Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure, Directors Hall of Fame, Francis Ford Coppola, Harvey Keitel, Hearts of Darkness, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, John Milius, Lost in La Mancha, Martin Sheen, Nick Nolte, Terry Gilliam, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote