APOCALYPSE NOW – REDUX – 2000 – movie - A Classic Review - This version of the 1979 movie is the result of a collabora-tion between Francis Ford Coppola and the editor Walter Murch with whom he has worked for many years. They’ve added another 49 minutes that were left on the cutting room floor first time around. Bringing you up to date: Mr. Coppola and John Milius wrote the original screenplay - Japanese history advisor, Helene Shizue Fukuya. The players are: Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall), “Chef” Hicks (Frederic Forrest), Lance Johnson (Sam Bottoms), Colonel Lucas (Harrison Ford), Chief (Albert Hall), Clean (Larry Fishburne), Photographer (Dennis Hopper), Roxanne (Aurore Clement).
Here are a few statistics, provided by the primary editor Walter Murch, to brighten your day. I can't find reliable info on how much film was actually exposed, but there were 1,250,000 feet of printed takes, and as many as 8 editors worked on the film at various times. A normal film may have 350,000 feet of printed takes. Francis Ford Coppola had a shooting ratio of 100/1 on this movie. Mr. Murch worked for over a year on his part of the film and an additional year editing and mixing the sound track. With all these editors working to finish this project the number of cuts per day averaged 1.47.
Mr. Coppola’s movie is one of the most devastating, sad, and powerful anti-war movies ever made. It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being historically and aesthetically significant.
I served in the US Army in the early 60s but fortunately, was not sent to Viet Nam. Immediately upon discharge in California I left for New York City. The City became the epicenter of the war protest movement. At that time our country’s view of the world was heavily influenced by the oligarchy that Eisen-hower called “The military-industrial complex”. With their eye on stock-holder profits, corporate members of this group, in collusion with the US government, amplified the threat from communist controlled nations for what could only be, increasing sales to the military. History has now proven that the fantasy of the omnipotent communist threat was a lie. But it served their purpose at the time and the government stepped up the draft and began sending our sons and daughters to replace the French as the invading army in Viet Nam.
The politicians supporting this effort relished endorsing these troops as the forefront in our fight against com-munism, and the threatened consequences of the dreaded “domino effect”. What they and our govern-ment knew but didn’t tell us, was that communism was failing at an increasing pace… with most of their budget going to the military, the Soviets were incapable of building even a reliable refrigerator that could satisfy the demands of their growing middle class.
This movie takes place in 1969 – Kennedy had been assassinated several years earlier leaving us with Lindon Johnson. Johnson’s job (given to him by those holding the reigns of power) apparently was told to keep the fears of communism first and foremost in the minds of Americans. Marching forward with his orders, he reported
to the American people that on August 2, 1964 the destroyer Maddox had suffered an unprovoked attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. History has proven that this incident was a lie. It was fabricated to bolster and justify the escalation of the war. As early as 1965 Johnson began conducting secrete bombing mission into Laos and Cambodia. It was this action that ended Johnson's political career and set the stage for Richard M. Nixon to authorize, Operation Menu, the thoroughly illegal invasion of eastern Cambodia. In one, two month period during this covert campaign the US conducted 13 major operations in Cambodia. In the aftermath Johnson was quoted in the New York Times as saying: ''When we got through with all the firing,'' Johnson said ruefully to his secretary of defense, Robert S. McNamara, ''we concluded maybe they hadn't fired at all.''
This is how Coppola’s apocalypse begins. Colonel Kurtz, has been sent, illegally, into Cambodia to disrupt the North Vietnamese supply lines. Kurtz is appalled by the deadi-
cated ruthlessness of the NVA commitment and has responded with his own version of their actions.
He has engaged in many unauthorized missions and the Army command feels he is out of control. They’ve sent an alcoholic loser, Captain Willard up the river to kill Kurtz. He’s in a gun boat with a crew that does not know what his mission is… they’re job is just to get him there.
The striking disparity between Vietnamese civilians and US soldiers is dramatically illustrated by separate incidents as they make their way up the Nung River.
It is a night time gathering of the local troops when a helicopter lands with a bevy of
Playboy Bunnies aboard. Without the slightest consideration for the on-looking villagers this gross display of western values exemplifies our doomed roll in this pointless war. In the Redux DVD, a softcore porn, Playboy bunny sequence has been pointlessly re-inserted; it adds nothing to the story.
The warrantless slaughter of an entire
family of boat people is an example of
what can happen when drugged-up
18 year old kids, lacking the maturity
of rational thought, with little training,
no discipline, and no understanding,
are subjected to the other-worldly
stress of war.
The interlude with the French plantation owners, which was left out of the first cut, is now
back. They had yet to accept that the cost of their imperialism exceeded the benefits. It is here, laboring under the delusions of France’s own miss-adventure in colonialism and during a dinner discussion with the family, that the warrantless futility of American involve-ment is succinctly stated: “Why can’t you Americans learn from our mistakes. When my grandfather came here, there was nothing … we worked hard with the Vietnamese to make something… we want to stay because it’s ours and belongs to us… now you Americans are here and fighting for the biggest nothing.”
When they arrive at Kurtz’s encampment they find the landscape decorated with hanging bodies, skulls and human heads scattered about the landscape. Kurtz is surrounded by his Montagnard warriors. Colonel Kurtz, a highly decorated war hero, is no dummy and immediately has Willard bound and put into a bamboo cage. His Montagnards then kill Chef and throw his severed head into Willard's lap.
During one of Kurtz’s monologues he tells the story of the pile of little children’s arms, which he uses to illustrate the source of his creed: “If you do not make Horrors your friends, they are enemies to be feared… they are truly enemies.” Kurtz has met the enemy on his own ground. His final solution…. “Drop the bomb! Kill them all!”
As the movie ends, Willard has morphed into Kurtz.