4K Blu-ray review: “Apocalypse Now – Final Cut” (1979)

“Apocalypse Now – Final Cut” (1979)

Drama/War

Running time: 153 minutes

Written by: John Milius and Francis Coppola

Directed by: Francis Coppola

Featuring:  Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne and Dennis Hopper

Kilgore: “Charlie don’t surf!”

Recently re-released on 4K Blu-ray the timeless classic now known as “Apocalypse Now – Final Cut” (1979) looks and sounds as great as ever with new special features, an incredible audio and video transfer that does it justice for home theatres in 2019, in fact there have been few older titles released on 4K that look this amazing.

In truth there has been much written and talked about in terms of this movie so I will be addressing the two subsequent cuts since its initial released and some of the differences from cut to cut. Needless to say “Apocalypse Now” is not only a true classic but a highlight in film of the past one hundred years.

“Apocalypse Now” is more of a narrative driven film than a plot driven one as pretty much the object of the main character is the plot, so it is set in 1969, during the Vietnam War, United States Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz has apparently gone insane; at an outpost in Cambodia, he commands Montagnard troops who see him as a demigod. Colonel Lucas and General Corman, increasingly concerned with Kurtz’s vigilante operations, assign MACV-SOG Captain Benjamin L. Willard to “terminate” Kurtz with “extreme prejudice”. From here it is a plot driven film that acts like a “Wizard of Oz” (1936) in a war zone that sees Willard interact with various people on his way further into the jungle and of course madness.

Different Cuts:

“Apocalypse Now Redux” (2001)

In 2001, Coppola released “Apocalypse Now Redux” in cinemas and subsequently on DVD. This is an extended version that restores 49 minutes of scenes cut from the original film. Coppola has continued to circulate the original version as well: the two versions are packaged together in the Complete Dossier DVD, released on August 15, 2006 and in the Blu-ray edition released on October 19, 2010.

The longest section of added footage in the Redux version is the “French Plantation” sequence, a chapter involving the de Marais family’s rubber plantation, a holdover from the colonization of French Indochina. Around the dinner table, a young French child recites a poem by Charles Baudelaire entitled ‘L’albatros’. These scenes were removed from the 1979 cut, which premiered at Cannes. In the scenes, the French family patriarchs argue about the positive side of colonialism in Indochina and denounce the betrayal of the military men in the First Indochina War.

Other added material includes extra combat footage before Willard meets Kilgore, a humorous scene in which Willard’s team steals Kilgore’s surfboard, a follow-up scene to the dance of the Playboy Playmates, in which Willard’s team finds the Playmates stranded after their helicopter has run out of fuel and a scene of Kurtz reading from a Time magazine article about the war, surrounded by Cambodian children.

A deleted scene titled “Monkey Sampan” shows Willard and the PBR crew suspiciously eyeing an approaching sampan juxtaposed to Montagnard villagers joyfully singing “Light My Fire” by The Doors. As the sampan gets closer, Willard realizes there are monkeys on it and no helmsman. Finally, just as the two boats pass, the wind turns the sail and exposes a naked dead Viet Cong (VC) nailed to the sail boom. His body is mutilated and looks as though the man had been flogged and castrated.

“Apocalypse Now Final Cut” (2019)

In April 2019, Coppola showed “Apocalypse Now Final Cut” for the 40th anniversary screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. This new version has a runtime of three hours and three minutes, with Coppola having cut 20 minutes of the added material from “Redux”.

Technical Review

Video

“Apocalypse Now – Final Cut” is sourced from a 4K scan of the original camera negatives, finished in a 4K DI, and then graded for both Dolby Vision and HDR10.

As a background it seems that the Final, Theatrical, and Redux cuts were all treated to the same restoration and grading processes. In terms of the transfer grain remains filmmic, and does effect sharpness. Overall detail takes a noticeable jump over the previous Blu-rays (and slightly less over the newer, included Blu-rays). Where the older HD transfers are muddy at times, the new 4K scans are crisper and clearer.

Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) slightly boosts color accuracy, revealing bolder green leaves, blue skies, and red-orange explosions and fire. Black levels achieve crude-oil darkness and while there is some crush in certain shots it seems inherent to the original photography. 

Regarding the included Blu-rays, they too appear to be sourced from the new 4K scans and restorations. They lack the high dynamic range and wide color gamut, of course, and they lack the overall clarity and detailing available on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, but they’re a step up versus your older iterations.

Audio

Compared to the previous Blu-rays, the new Dolby Atmos mix feels generally fuller and more impactful. There’s a lot of activity that plays in both your front channel and your front height speakers.

Still, despite what is, in my humblest opinion, an overly successful audio upgrade, there are a few flaws when we compare this track to the best mixes. LFE is one aspect. “Apocalypse Now – Final Cut” lacks full dynamic range. A few of the sound effects themselves also lack a certain clarity and fidelity we’ve come to expect from modern audio recordings.

Special Features

  • An Interview with John Milius (49:45)
  • A Conversation with Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola (59:29)
  • Fred Roos: Casting Apocalypse (11:44)
  • The Mercury Theatre on the Air: Hearts of Darkness,  November 6, 1938 (36:34)
  • The Hollow Men (16:57)
  • Monkey Sampan Lost Scene (3:03)
  • Additional Scenes (26:28)
  • Kurtz Compound Destruction with Credits (6:09)
  • The Birth of 5.1 Sound (5:54)
  • Ghost Helicopter Flyover (3:55)
  • Apocalypse Now: The Synthesizer Soundtrack by Bob Moog
  • A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now (17:57)
  • The Music of Apocalypse Now (14:46)
  • Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now (15:22)
  • The Final Mix (3:06)
  • Apocalypse Then and Now (3:44)
  • 2001 Cannes Film Festival: Francis Ford Coppola (38:35)
  • PBR Streetgang (4:09)
  • The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now (4:06)
  • Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Includes optional audio commentary by Francis & Eleanor Coppola. (96:00)
  • (NEW) Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Francis Ford Coppola & Steven Soderbergh (47:34)
  • (NEW) Super 8 Behind-the-Scenes Footage (21:39)
  • (NEW) Dutch Angle: Chas Gerretsen & Apocalypse Now (31:44)
  • (NEW) Apocalypse Now: Remastering a Legend in Dolby Vision & Dolby Atmos (2:50)
  • (NEW) Apocalypse Now: A Forty-Year Journey (2:21)
  • (NEW) Sensual Sound Technology from Meyer Sound (3:52)
  • John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Ford Coppola
  • Storyboard Collection
  • Photo Archive 
  • Marketing Archive
    • 1979 Teaser Trailer (1:29)
    • 1979 Theatrical Trailer (3:59)
    • 1979 Radio Spots
    • 1979 Theatrical Program
    • Lobby Card and Press Kit Photos 
    • Poster Gallery

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