An Audio-Visual War Poem
Apocalypse Now (Redux)
Review by Ross Anthony

Shredded American flag undecidedly unfurled.
End of the world.
End of the river.
End of the line.
Bullets fly clean, piercing like diamonds.
Captain Sheen's eyes seem clean, keen, tragically apathetic.
Antiseptic, narrating behind the mission, man, the scheme:
Track down the lone ranger, despite the danger, stranger than fiction,
Warrior/poet, mustang breaking reins, officer breaking ranks.
Assassinating reigns.
Winning the war alone, but exiled inside its belly.
Napalm peanut butter and jelly,
Beer and beach gear, USO Playboy Bunnies chopper out of the sun,
dance on Vietnam.
"Charlie don't get no USO,
Charlie's idea of R&R is cold rice and rat meat."
Can't cheat death with birth.
Scenes roll across the screen like storm clouds, like emotions through towns, like malaria through mosquitoes. Torpedoes underwater, courage falters, exploded altars quiver and cry, shiver and lie, young men die in the weeds like ants under a stampede, blurring the line with ended lives between the sane and the blood-stained. No richer, no poorer just horror, the Horror.
Organ tying scene to scene, with dissonant melody, a melancholy medley.
This masterpiece of film, survived too well the edit room. Long across borders, especially the French quarter, indulgence, stalling too, at times, but never meek, making Ryan look like a movie of the week. Always commanding, Always huge, A three-hour tour, three-hour tour...
Charlie don't Surf, man! Charlie don't surf!

Director's Statement:

When I started with "Apocalypse Now," my intention was to create a broad, spectacular film of epic action-adventure scale that was also rich in theme and philosophic inquiry into the mythology of war.

But by the spring of 1979, we were terrified that the film was too long, too strange and didn't resolve itself in a kind of classic big battle at the end. We were threatened with financial disaster. I had mortgaged everything I owned to personally cover the $16 million overage. And the press kept asking, 'Apocalypse When?' So we shaped the film that we thought would work for the mainstream audience of its day, keeping them focused on the journey up river and making it as much a 'war' genre film as possible.

More than 20 years later, I happened to see the picture on television. What struck me was that the original film - which had been seen as so demanding, strange and adventurous when it first came out - now seemed relatively tame, as though the audience had caught up to it. This, coupled with calls I received over the years from people who had seen the original 4-hour plus assembly, encouraged me to go back and try a new version.

Over the course of six months, beginning in March 2000, we edited and remixed a new rendition of the movie from scratch. Rather than returning the 'lifts' taken out of the film during the original editing, we re-edited the film from the original unedited raw footage - the 'dailies.'

This time we weren't working out of anxiety, so we were able to think more about what the themes were, especially about issues related to morality in war. I feel any artist making a film about war by necessity will make an 'anti-war' film and all war films are usually that. My film is more of an 'anti-lie' film, in that the fact that a culture can lie about what's really going on in warfare, that people are being brutalized, tortured, maimed and killed, and somehow present this as moral is what horrifies me, and perpetuates the possibility of war. One line in John Milius' original script suggest this, "They teach the boys to drop fire on people, but won't let them write the word 'f*ck' on their airplanes." In the words of Joseph Conrad: "I hate the stench of a lie."

This new, complete definitive version extends this idea to all young people, boys and girls, who are sent out to function in an established immoral world expected to function in a moral way. The result is a film that has 49 minutes of never-before-seen footage; is more attentive to theme, and is sexier, funnier, more bizarre, more romantic and is more politically intriguing. The new material is spread throughout the film, and highlighted by the addition of the French plantation sequence, an expanded Playboy playmates sequence, new footage of the navy patrol boat near the start of is journey up river, and a new Brando scene - one that perhaps couldn't be shown twenty years ago as it provides clear facts as to how the American public was lied to.

Ultimately, my with "Apocalypse Now Redux" was to achieve a richer, fuller and more textured film experience that, as with the original, lets audiences feel what Vietnam was like: the immediacy, the insanity, the exhilaration, the horror, the sensuousness, and the moral dilemma of America's most surreal and nightmarish war.

Francis Ford Coppola, May 2001

  • Apocalypse Now (Redux). Copyright © 2001. Rated R.
  • Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, G.D. Spradlin, Harrison Ford.
  • Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Written by John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Based loosely on the novella by Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness."
  • Redux released by Miramax in (C)2001 of the (c) 1979 production.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:21:33 PDT