It has got to be one of the most eagerly anticipated Blu-ray releases of all time and finally, almost 5 years since the hidef format launched, Apocalypse Now has been released almost a year to the day after The Godfather: Coppola Restoration collection. The Full Disclosure package is every bit as impressive, if not more so, as it includes both the original cut and the ‘Redux’ extended version of the film plus Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse which I saw when it was released at the Cinema in 1991 and then wore out the VHS tape, but this is the first time it has ever been released in a digital format in the UK.
Firstly, let me confirm that all 3 discs included in the Full Disclosure edition are Region Free and boast full 1080p resolution and a DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. The first disc contains both the 1979 theatrical cut (153 mins) and 2001’s controversial ‘Redux’ version that restores the 49 mins of cut scenes, including the lavish French Plantation sequence. I think both cuts of the film are valid, on balance I prefer the ‘Redux’ version although I agree that it changes the pacing of the film but it also helps expand it beyond the confines of the Vietnam war and leans more towards the source material of Joseph Conrad’s story, Hearts of Darkness, on which the film is based. The 2nd disc is packed full of additional material, most notably two recent hour long filmed discussions by Francis Coppola with writer John Milius and star Martin Sheen, an interview by Roger Ebert at the Cannes Film Festival premier of the ‘Redux’ version, Orson Welles’ Mercury Radio production of Hearts of Darkness and Marlon Brando reading the full version of T.S. Elliot’s poem The Hollow Men.
The 3rd disc features the hidef version of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse which is superb. I had worried because there were rumours that it might be cut to remove some of the more uncomfortable moments of anguish that Coppola had to endure whilst making, what many beleive to be, his masterpiece; instead there is an audio commentary track, featuring both Francis and his wife Eleanor who made the documentary, providing a wistful, fresh perspective to some of the insanity that transpired whilst shooting in the Philippines. This is one of the most engaging documentaries ever made about the cinematic process and worth the price of ownership alone! Also included are numerous photos, storyboards, posters and other marketing material, along with a 57 page extract of the first draft by John Milius containing Coppola’s hand written notes which (if you sit close enough to the TV!) makes interesting reading.
To complete the package is a 48 page book containing an introductory letter from Francis Ford Coppola outlining the contents in detail. My only criticism so far, as I’ve yet to wade through all of the supplements, is that there is no discrete chapter list for the ‘Redux’ version, which means you can’t go straight to the restored sequences; a forgivable oversight to an otherwise perfect collection. I have owned more versions of this film than I care to remember and this is, without doubt, the best I have ever seen Apocalypse Now look on the small screen. Let’s just hope that Coppola’s American Zoetrope cohort takes heed and releases the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies on Blu-ray in the near future.