It is the height of the war in Vietnam, and U.S. Army Captain Willard is sent by Colonel Lucas and a General to carry out a mission that, officially, 'does not exist - nor will it ever exist'. The mission: To seek out a mysterious Green Beret Colonel, Walter Kurtz, whose army has crossed the border into Cambodia and is conducting hit-and-run missions against the Viet Cong and NVA. The army believes Kurtz has gone completely insane and Willard's job is to eliminate him. Willard, sent up the Nung River on a U.S. Navy patrol boat, discovers that his target is one of the most decorated officers in the U.S. Army. His crew meets up with surfer-type Lt-Colonel Kilgore, head of a U.S Army helicopter cavalry group which eliminates a Viet Cong outpost to provide an entry point into the Nung River. After some hair-raising encounters, in which some of his crew are killed, Willard, Lance and Chef reach Colonel Kurtz's outpost, beyond the Do Lung Bridge. Now, after becoming prisoners of Kurtz, will...Written by
Harvey Keitel was initially cast as Willard. Two weeks into shooting, Francis Ford Coppola replaced him with Martin Sheen. According to Coppola, one piece of film with him made it into the final cut; a shot from the distance of the river boat as it is moving through the water. See more »
When Willard and his crew meet Kilgore and the cavalry for the first time and walk onto the beach, long shadows (caused by the setting sun) of the camera and its crew are visible where the soldiers walk. See more »
Saigon... shit; I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle.
When I was home after my first tour, it was worse.
[grabs at flying insect]
I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room...
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There are four different treatments of the end credits, all four are available in different VHS, laserdisc, DVD and TV prints of the film...... When the film premiered in a limited 70mm format, it had no beginning or end credits, nothing but a one-line Omni Zoetrope copyright notice at the end. Programs were passed out to theater goers in lieu of any credits. When the film went into its wide release its format was 35mm. This version included end credits rolling over surrealistic explosions and burning jungle, showing the Kurtz compound being destroyed. When Coppola heard that people were assuming that the explosions during the end credits of the 35mm version meant that an air strike had been called in on the Kurtz compound (which is not what he wanted audiences to think) he quickly re-edited the 35mm version to have the end credits rolling over a simple black background and a slightly altered musical score. The "Redux" version also has the end credits over a black background but in different screen fonts and including additional "Redux" inserted cast members. See more »
A 289min long workprint version exists. It has never been officially released but circulates as a video bootleg. The bootleg contains the following extra material not included in either the original theatrical release or the "redux" version.
A longer opening montage, the entire 10 minute song "The End" by The Doors is heard.It intercuts longer helicopters/jungle images with Willard in the hotel room in a drunken rage, as well as a scene where he is with a prostitute. There are various shots outside depicting the streets of Saigon.
When the two soldiers pick up Willard in the hotel room there is a brief conversation while they help him shower and shave. They notify him that his wait for his new mission is now over.
The scene where Willard is given his assignment is longer and contains much more dialogue. The general informs Willard that the mission is purely voluntary and he can decline it. The general also offers Willard a promotion to major upon completion of the mission. For some reason Colonel Kurtz is referred to in this scene as "Colonel Leevy". There are some external shots of the military base.
A brief scene where Willard is introduced to the crew of the Navy P.B.R.
Carmine Coppola's score is not present in this version. Many more songs by The Doors are played throughout the film instead.
None of the narration or dossier voiceovers are in this version.
There is no audio dubbing in this version. All the audio is from the sound recorded during the actual filming. Much of Robert Duvall's dialogue is unitelligable due to the sound of the helicopters in his scenes.
A much longer first cavalry "Ride of Valkyrie" attack scene (30+ mins)showing much unused footage and alternate takes.
A much longer playboy bunnies performance.
Various extended scenes on the boat, and alternate takes and shots.
A scene where a miniature toy boat passes the Navy PBR. Lance tries to grab it out of the water. The Chief yells at him to leave it alone claiming it's a booby trap. To prove it the Chief fires some shots at it to which it explodes.
When the P.B.R. reaches Do-lung bridge, the soldier that greets them gives a more detailed explanation of the chaos around the bridge.
When Lance is reading his letters on the boat, he suddenly stops to machine gun a water buffalo on the shore. The Chief yells at him to stop.
The sequence where Clean is killed is omitted.
A slightly longer French plantation sequence. After the French woman strips she crawls into the bed with Willard and they begin kissing.
The sequence where the Chief is killed is omitted.
More dialogue between Willard and the photojournalist when they first reach the Kurtz compound. The Journalist reveals that it was HE who was able to get the montangnards to break off their attack on the boat in the previous scene. Willard repeatedly asks the Journalists name but he refuses to answer.
The character of Colby, (the soldier who was sent before Willard to kill Kurtz, played by Scott Glenn) has a much more substantial role in this version. As Willard inspects the compound, Colby tells Willard that the night before, NVA soldiers had attacked (which explains all the bodies laying about the compound). Willard then enters Kurtz's house, much to the dismay of the journalist. Willard sees Kurtz empty bed and his medals, also his journal with the inscription "Drop the bomb, exterminate them all" (many of these scenes were in the final version but re-inserted in different places).
The scene where Willard talks to Chef about the air strike on the boat is omitted.
In this version. The first time Kurtz appears is the scene where a mud caked Willard is tied up (seated) to a pole in the rain. Kurtz appears with camouflage face paint, Willard asks...."Why he is being mistreated?" and tries to bluff his way past Kurtz by telling him that he had just completed a secret mission in Cambodia, and only stopped for supplies. Kurtz says nothing to him, but plants Chef's head in his lap. (Only a portion of this scene was in the original version).
The scene where Willard meets Kurtz in his bed chamber contains more dialogue....as Kurtz makes it clear that he knows why Willard is there.
A scene where Kurtz talks to Willard in the bamboo cage while two children sit on top of the cage and dangle insects in Willard's face. He tells him that Willard is "like his colleagues in Washington, master liars who want to win the war but don't want to appear as immoral or unethical".
A lengthy scene where the montangnards in a ritualistic display pick up the bamboo cage (with Willard inside) and poke him with sticks (Lance and Colby participate in this). The natives dance around the bamboo cage, chanting and singing while a squealing pig is tied up and killed.
A 10 minute version of the scene where Kurtz reads the poem "The Hollow Men", intercutting between his reading and the journalist talking with Willard.
A scene where the journalist meets Willard to tell him that he thinks Kurtz is about to kill him because he took his picture again. During which Colby comes behind the journalist and shoots him three times, killing him. Willard throws a knife at Colby's stomach to which he falls, but before he dies he asks Willard to talk to his family for him and asks him to kill Kurtz.
Kurtz speech about the horror and the children vaccination are omitted.
During the assassination scene at the end, before Willard enters Kurtz' home, one of the guards confronts him. Willard picks up a spear to defend himself as the guard picks up a child to shield himself. Willard runs the spear right through the child and into the guard. The final scene with Willard and the montangnards after Kurtz assasination are omitted.
My favourite movie of all time. This was a flawed piece of work by Coppola and seeing the documentary 'Heart of Darkness' made it even more compelling. Coppola at this point was king of Hollywood after making 'the Godfather' and 'GodfatherII' and had developed the ego necessary to even dare try to make a movie like 'Apocalypse Now'. Through sheer arrogance he went to the Phillipines with a partial script and thought he would know what he would do when he got there. Just as Captain Willard thought he would know what to do once he got to Col. Kurtz's compound. And just like Willard, he DIDN'T know what he was going to do once he got there. This is such a masterpiece of American cinema, beautifully photographed and the river is such a perfect metaphor and backdrop for the story. What I like most about 'Apocalypse Now' is that it offers no answers or conclusions. Consequently, because of this open-endedness, it infuriates some viewers who like their movies to be much more obvious.
This movie defies categorization. Some call it a war movie which it isn't at all, really it is more of a personal study of man. The best pic about Vietnam is 'Platoon' in my opinion and if a viewer is seeking a retelling of the Vietnam War go there first for answers.
Coppola should be commended for his take on the bureaucracy of war which he conveys quite effectively with the meeting with Gen.Corman and Lucas (Harrison Ford) and the Playmate review. The sheer audacity of Kilgore makes him an unforgettable character and the dawn attack will always be a Hollywood classic.
It is an almost psychedelic cruise to a very surreal ending which makes it a movie not accessible to everyone. Very challenging to watch but rewarding as well. I could offer my explanations on each scene but that would be totally pointless. This movie is intended for interpretation and contemplation as opposed to immediate gratification.
A little footnote, definitely if your a first-time viewer of Apocalypse Now, watch the original version first, the 'Redux' version is, I think, more intended for the hardcore fan and is more of a curiosity than a 'new and improved' version of the movie
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