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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Apocalypse Now can be found here.
Yes, Apocalypse Now is based on Heart of Darkness (1906), a novella by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad [1857-1924]. The screenplay was written by American filmmakers John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola (who also directed the movie). The script also draws elements from (1) Lord Jim (1965), the film version of a novel of the same name, also written by Joseph Conrad, (2) Dispatches (1977), a memoir of former war correspondent Michael Herr, and (3) the film Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes [ Aguirre, Wrath of God ] (1972).
Yes. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is in the public domain in the U.S. and may be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg.
No. The water buffalo was slaughtered by the Ifugao people you see on film for their own (ritual) purposes. They are a tribe that were used as the extras in the Kurtz compound. The crew claims that Coppola gave directions to the Ifugao people and brought them many buffalo to slaughter but only used one of the takes. Coppola tries to downplay his involvement in the event, The idea of using it in the film was brought to Coppola by his wife, Eleanor, who witnessed the ritual amongst the Ifugao prior to the scene's filming.
The differences between the Redux and the original version can be found here. A detailed comparison with pictures can be found here.
Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier is a special DVD release of Apocalypse Now containing both the theatrical and Redux versions of the film. It was released August 15, 2006, five years after the Redux edition debuted in theatres. In October 2010 the film was re-released on blu-ray DVD in a 3 disc "Full Disclosure" version which includes both versions of the film plus the documentary on the making of the film Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.
In the film, the photojournalist's ultimate fate is left ambiguous. He is last seen telling Willard that Kurtz has started to go too far and that he is running away. There is a deleted scene available on the Complete Dossier DVD in which the photojournalist tells Willard that he took a picture of Kurtz and that everyone will soon kill him. He is immediately found by Colby and shot.
The actual fate of the dog that Chef found in the river boat is left ambigous. The most logical explanation is that the dog was knocked off the boat and swam to shore. It's possible that, given the young age of the pup, it was not able to swim, but its fate is left to the viewer.
The exact reasons for Chef's decapitation are never actually made clear. Chef is last seen on the boat either trying to call for an air strike (for the Army to firebomb Kurtz' compound) OR simply conducting a radio test. One explanation could be that Kurtz knew this and killed him to prevent him from succeeding. Note that later on, just before Willard leaves to kill Kurtz, and at the very end, someone can be heard on the radio trying to contact the boat, implying that the previous conversation had been cut off abruptly, most likely because Chef was attacked and killed either by Kurtz himself or a native following his orders. If this was the case, then Kurtz presumably wanted to make an example of Chef, and dropped his head on Willard's lap as a warning. A second interpretation is that Willard finds Kurtz's notebook in which Kurtz wrote a note for Willard that says "Drop the bomb, kill them all!" so he killed Chef because he assumed Willard would tell Chef to order the strike if Willard did not return to the boat in a certain amount of time, which would kill Kurtz, Willard, and everyone else. Kurtz wanted to die honorably, hand to hand by a fellow soldier, but a bombing death wouldn't fulfill that wish. Willard even states that he believes this to be the case. A third interpretation is Kurtz wanted to show Willard the face of the horror.
"The End" by The Doors. It's from the band's 1st, self-titled album, released in 1967. The song is nearly 12 minutes long. Interestingly, the version heard in the film is the original, uncensored version where Morrison can be heard chanting the word "fuck" several times. This original version can be found on Legacy: the Absolute Best compilation. The track is also used at the end during the scene where Willard kills Kurtz.
When Kilgore orders the jungle near the village to be napalmed, it creates a wall of heat that disrupts the breeze coming in from the ocean. Since the breeze creates the waves necessary for surfing, the waves die out. Essentially, the firebombing Kilgore ordered has altered the weather conditions themselves.
No precise date is given however, Chef receives a care package late in the film that contains a news clipping about the Manson Family murders, which took place in August of 1969. We can therefore assume that the article was sent to Chef within a few weeks of it being clipped.
Kurtz reads from two Time Magazine articles. The second one has no date but the first one does: September 22, 1967. That article, titled "On the Horizon" is a real article. When Kurtz reads from it, he gives the title "War on the Horizon", but the original title does not have the word "war" in it. Without a date attached to it, the validity of the first article can't be confirmed.
Willard's mission had priority over any other operations the crew of the PBR might have. The mission was to get Willard close to Kurtz' compound and drop him off -- though, because of the top secret nature of it, Willard didn't tell Chief Phillips what the parameters were. When Phillips spotted the sampan and stopped it for an inspection, it was a routine action. However, Willard, having been on many secret missions before, objected thinking that it would cause him & the crew trouble, which it did.
There are several possible interpretations, and certainly many more:1. She was dying and Willard shot her knowing they'd never get her to a medical facility in time.2. If it was possible for her to live, there are likely not enough provisions (food, water) on the boat for anyone else in addition to the crew. Another movie where this theme is addressed is Das Boot. In that film, after firing torpedoes at a British cargo ship, the U-boat captain leaves the survivors of the British ship in the water even after hearing their cries for help. He knows that a U-Boat simply cannot accommodate prisoners.3. (Most probable) Willard's mission had priority over everything else and he'd warned the Chief of that before they inspected the sampan ("You wouldn't even be in this part of the river if it weren't for me"). Through much of the film Willard and the Chief lock horns over Willard's mission vs the duty of the boat crew, which is a minor theme of the story. Willard's mission does indeed have priority, but the Chief still feels his duty is to the duties set forth by his own superiors, which include patrolling the river for any enemy forces or those suspected of assisting them. Phillips does say very quickly when they see the sampan that boats like these have been supplying the enemy. Willard staunchly disagrees but the Chief still goes ahead with the inspection.Additionally, like Willard says in his overprice shortly after the sampan incident, "Those boys were never gonna look at me the same way again." It's likely that Willard wanted just that; to make the crew & the Chief realize that Willard is not simply one of them, but a man charged with a top secret mission. To do the job, he has to be a cold-blooded killer & felt the crew needed to know it.
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