WolfmanOz at the Movies #9

This is The End

Jim Morrison’s lyrics are the first words you hear in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 seminal and epic psychological Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now as US helicopters strike in the jungle with a napalm attack whilst Captain Willard hallucinates in a drunken haze in his Saigon hotel.

Willard is then dragged from his drunken stupor to a briefing at headquarters in Nha Trang where he is ordered on a mission to assassinate one of his own officers, Colonel Kurtz, who he is told has gone renegade with his own local army and is presumed to be insane. The briefing climaxes with one of the most chilling lines in movie history “Terminate with extreme prejudice”.

And now the film has been set for one of the most mesmerising journeys into a modern day hell ever committed on film as Willard joins a US navy river patrol boat which is to navigate up the Nung River to Kurtz’s outpost.

The movie is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart Of Darkness written back in 1899 and despite, or because of, the many difficulties experienced during the filming, it has entered into movie folk-lore with original leading man Harvey Keitel being replaced by Martin Sheen who then had a breakdown and a heart attack on location; Marlon Brando turning up on the set grossly over-weight; severe weather destroying sets and numerous postponements of the film’s release.

The patrol boat rendezvous with a helicopter air assault unit commanded by Colonel Kilgore (memorably played by Robert Duvall) which then escorts the patrol boat through a Viet Cong held coastal mouth attacking the Viet Cong at dawn whilst memorably playing Ride Of The Valkyries on loudspeakers.

It is all totally appalling but it is also utterly compelling cinema at it’s most majestic and operatic.

There are numerous adventures the river boat experiences on the way up the Nung River but the sense of foreboding of approaching Kurtz (Brando) hangs over the journey.

Willard finally reaches Kurtz’s compound and he is bound and bought before Kurtz where he tells Willard about his theories of war and life. He then implies to Willard that he will accept his death at the hands of him.

There are 3 versions of Apocalypse Now – Theatrical, Redux and Final Cut; of which I have always preferred the theatrical cut version as IMO the longer versions simply add more padding to a film that is already at the right length at 147 minutes in it’s original release length.

Today, a film like Apocalypse Now would never get made where the artistic vision of an obsessive film-maker would never get financed in the woke-drenched excuse that was once a great movie-making industry.

It’s now generally acclaimed as one of the greatest films of all-time and is one of my top 20 favourite films.



25 responses to “WolfmanOz at the Movies #9”

  1. Anchor What Avatar
    Anchor What

    Started to revisit this some years back with my son. We’ve both done a bit of martial arts, and the antics of Martin Sheen in his bedroom were comical.
    It’s a film with a few quotable lines, but ultimately it’s questionable whether it deserves its status. The anti-war vibe of the time no doubt helped it along.
    He did a lot of better work – The Godfather, Patton, and The Cotton Club are all great.

  2. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Coppola was on an amazing hot streak in the 1970s . . . The Godfather (in my top 10), The Conversation, The Godfather Part II (in my top 50) and Apocalypse Now (in my top 20).

    IMO he never reached those heights again from the 80s onwards.

    Oh and Coppola co-wrote the script for Patton (great film) – it was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (who directed the original and best Planet Of The Apes).

  3. Anchor What Avatar
    Anchor What

    The only shortcoming of Patton was that it concentrated on WW2, which I guess is fair enough. There’s enough material on him to do a complete series – or two. He was a cavalry officer from before WW1, and close to General Pershing. In fact he went with the Pershing punitive expedition into Mexico in search of Pancho Villa. Mexico had some nasty crooks way back.
    Patton had become a master swordsman after representing the USA in the Pentathlon at the Olympic Games, 1912, redesigned the cavalry saber, and wrote a book on how to use it.
    He wanted nothing more than to be in the thick of any war that came along. I’m just about to read the section on WW1, where once again he wangled his way into the first group to go to Europe, again with Pershing.

  4. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Very true Anchor What re Patton . . . he was an incredibly fascinating individual.

    Although his voice wasn’t close to what Patton actually sounded like, George C. Scott’s performance was absolutely brilliant – one of the great performances.

  5. Rabz Avatar

    Willard is then dragged from his drunken stupor

    His first words being, “What are the charges?”.

    So many legendary scenes, although one has always intrigued me – anyone know what the music is playing when the black soldier blows up the VC with the loudspeaker at the bridge? I’ve always assumed it was Hendrix.

  6. Rabz Avatar

    Oops – total format fail there.

  7. Tony Taylor Avatar
    Tony Taylor

    Add The Rain People into that hot streak.

  8. lotocoti Avatar

    The theatrical cut is the best, the bloat of the Redux version sucks the life out of it.
    The nightmarish Bridge at Do Lung vignette remains a favourite.
    (If you were a Cadet Midshipman in 1979, having access to Janes’ All the World’s Ships
    and Sea Boat 33s made “Let’s play PBRs*” inevitable.
    *Not being completely irresponsible, no smooth-for-day-knurled-for-nights were misused.)

  9. Roger Avatar

    … anyone know what the music is playing when the black soldier blows up the VC with the loudspeaker at the bridge? I’ve always assumed it was Hendrix.

    Pretty sure it’s Randy Hansen, a Hendrix tribute artist.

  10. WolfmanOz Avatar

    I’d also like to add my sincere thanks to those Cats who have supported my YouTube channel.

    Just over 3 months ago when I first started in earnest, I asked Cats if they’d like to subscribe when the channel was in its infancy i.e. 400-500 views per day and with 20 odd subscribers. I got approx. 12 Cats who subscribed on that day which I was very appreciative of.

    Now the channel has hundreds of subscribers; views per day now range from 4,200-4,700 per day; total views on the channel exceed 275K and I am constantly responding to emails and comments.

    I have quite a number of clips which are at the top or very near to the top in YouTube searches with 2 clips now having over 25K views.

    Interestingly my market is 90%+ from the USA where activity peaks during the day Oz time (night time over there) Thanks God !

    It’s also been quite a bit of work to manage and maintain the channel, actually far more than I envisaged: I spend close to 6-8 hours a day working on it in one way or another, but as I’m retired I have the time and inclination to make that daily commitment. I schedule at least 3 new clips every day, whilst I also find the stats and analytics endlessly fascinating.

    I’m under no illusion that the channel is tiny compared to so many others but it’s a lot of fun.

  11. Rabz Avatar

    Thanks Rog.

  12. Shy Ted Avatar
    Shy Ted

    And there was me thinking it was all about jellybeans.

  13. Miss Anthropist Avatar
    Miss Anthropist

    Watched the finalcut on foxtel classics the other night. I enjoyed it.
    Though it has been a while since I’ve seen it.
    Also on Classics watched Ulzana’s Raid the other night while readingThe Apache Wars by Hutton. Improved my enjoyment of both film and serious history book.

  14. WolfmanOz Avatar

    I also watched Ulzana’s Raid on Foxtel the other night as well – Fox Classics I assume – an under-rated western.

  15. Miss Anthropist Avatar
    Miss Anthropist

    Yep. Classics 1. Also has Father Ted on after midnight.

  16. jupes Avatar

    Martin Sheen wears a Seiko 6105 dive watch during the film, a very popular watch among US soldiers during the war. The uniquely shaped watch has recently been reissued with updated specs as the Captain Willard SBP153 to great acclaim.

  17. johanna Avatar

    A fine film, memorable for sure.

    It reminds me of one of my favourite films, Fellini Satyricon (1969).

    In both cases the film-makers have taken a literary work which is relatively short but full of oomph and turned the sensations up to 11. And, both are essentially a series of vignettes rather than a story in the conventional sense.

    BTW, the book is well worth reading. Joseph Conrad was a Polish man who learned English as an adult and went on to become an extraordinary writer in English. IIRC (my books are in storage) it is about 100 pages and very accessible to the modern reader.

  18. Tom Avatar

    Francis Ford Coppola is a film artist, but turning psychopathy into art is still psychopathy. Ceremonial slaughter of humans and animals is depraved with no redeeming features. For me, Apocalpyse Now is little different from one of Quentin Tarantino’s snuff movies.

  19. Rt41Rebel Avatar

    The saw AN for the first time at my university theater midnight show. My friends and I had dropped purple microdot shortly before. You know how there are about a dozen or so things you’ve done in your life that you will always remember as one of the most fantastic experiences you’ve ever had?

  20. Pedro the Loafer Avatar
    Pedro the Loafer

    Interesting how tastes in films differ.

    Apocalypse Now is one of the very few films I have walked out on before the finish.

  21. yarpos Avatar

    Heart of Darkness gives a framework. There is a book called Dispatches by Michael Herr which details the madness of frontline Vietnam. Many of the scenes in Apocalypse now are lifted straight from that book IMHO

  22. Diogenes Avatar

    The last time I watched AN on the big screen (as opposed to digging out the DVD for home viewing) was at a Sunday movie night held by the Macquarie Uni Student Union around 1982. It was with most of my platoon who just come back from a weekend ARes exercise.

    The longhairs cheered every time a US soldier got hit, we out cheered them every time a NVA or VC got hit

  23. Roger Avatar

    Thanks Rog.

    You can google him, Rabz.

    He’s pretty good.

    Then think to yourself…but he’s only copying music Hendrix came up with 50+ years ago. Amazing.

  24. dopey Avatar

    Every man and his dog wanted to tell you about ‘I love the smell
    of….’ It became unbearable.

  25. Louis Litt Avatar
    Louis Litt

    I don’t know why it’s an anti war film, like so many others like Platoon etc.
    It showed endurance, courage and after that what do you do suffer PTSD.
    It made me want to join the SAS – you can achieve anything once you did the trading and actual field work.

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