Apocalypse Now appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While usually quite good, the transfer didn’t offer the slam-dunk I anticipated.
My main complaint stemmed from print flaws. Although not heavy, the movie suffered from more than a few instances of specks and marks. These cropped up throughout the film and created occasional distractions.
Sharpness was also erratic, though usually strong. The majority of the flick showed nice clarity and delineation, but some exceptions occurred, and occasional bouts of softness materialized.
Still, those were the exceptions to the rule. No issues with jagged edges or shimmer appeared, and edge haloes were absent.
Throughout the green-dominated palette, the colors were strong. When other hues appeared, they came across as vivid and vibrant. Check out the detailed orange tones viewed in many of the Kilgore scenes to witness what I mean.
I observed a great variety of greens, and they all seemed quite accurate. The colors consistently came across as bright and distinct.
Black levels were also deep and strong, and shadow detail seemed fine, though low-light shots tended to be soft. Overall, the occasional softness and the print flaws left this as a “B”; while it often looked stellar, those concerns became too persistent to be overlooked.
On the other hand, I felt consistently happy with the terrific DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The soundstage was broad and each of the five channels got a nice workout.
The forward spectrum showed strong stereo separation for the music, while effects were placed appropriately in the logical locations and they also blended together quite well.
Images neatly surrounded you and immersed you in the sound. The "Ride of the Valkyries" scene served to demonstrate this well, as did a late segment in which our protagonists were attacked by wooden arrows. Even during quieter moments, the soundtrack always offered some sort of auditory reminder of the war, and it did so in a natural and seamless manner.
The quality of the audio was also strong. Early in the film I felt a little concerned about the dialogue.
During Willard’s briefing, speech seemed somewhat processed and artificial, a concern that seemed to stem from some dodgy looping. Happily, that problem vanished after the one scene, and the rest of the movie displayed natural and distinct dialogue that betrayed no problems related to intelligibility or edginess.
Music seemed clear and dynamic, with bright highs and deep lows, and the effects followed along the same lines. Now gave my system a nice little workout, as the effects showed fine accuracy and clarity, and they packed a neat little punch when appropriate, which was much of the time.
Bass response appeared very positive throughout the film, as the many loud battle sequences blasted in a logical way. Overall, I thought the soundtrack of Apocalypse Now provided thoroughly fine material that made it hard to believe it accompanied such an old movie.
How did this 2016 “Triple Feature” Blu-ray compare with the 2010 release? As far as I could tell, both were identical, as it appeared the 2016 disc simply reused the 2010 transfer.
As noted earlier, this set includes both the 1979 theatrical (2:27:17) and 2001 Redux (3:16:09) cuts of Apocalypse Now. Links to long discussions of both can be found above, though the simple overview is “1979 good, Redux bad”.
On Disc One, we hear from director Francis Ford Coppola during his audio commentary. He presents a running, screen-specific chat that can be viewed with either the 1979 or Redux cuts.
Actually, we get the same commentary for both versions, as the discussion with the 1979 cut simply edits out the parts that relate to Redux. It does so surprisingly smoothly.
I listened to both tracks independently and screened the 1979 edition first. At no point did I notice any awkwardness that made it clear the commentary had been cut down from a longer version.
That said, I’d recommend you listen to the Redux commentary instead of the 1979 one. Even though I dislike Redux, I enjoyed the extra information provided by Coppola. You lose no notes from the 1979 track if you listen to the Redux commentary and you gain good remarks, so you should go with it.
For both, Coppola starts with notes about the creation of the movie’s opening sequence. From there he gets into cast, performances and working with the actors, character and story issues, set dressing and props, shooting on location and connections with the Philippine government, and his cameo.
Coppola also covers the project’s origins and development, music, cinematography and editing, alterations to – and eventual abandonment of – the script, weather problems, and many specifics about the different scenes.
The Redux commentary differs solely in that it brings extra material. All of this falls into the categories I just described. Coppola offers plenty of remarks about the added scenes. He lets us know why they weren’t in the 1979 cut and tells us why he wanted to restore them for Redux.
The majority of the most interesting material relates to problems finding an ending for the flick and the issues connected to Marlon Brando. I also like the notes about why Harvey Keitel was dropped from the project after shooting began.
Another compelling tidbit comes from an issue I mentioned earlier: Coppola’s desire to create a big, sweeping Hollywood project. He even mentions that he tried to lease the Sensurround patent from Universal!
If forced to gripe about this commentary, I’d mention that a few lulls occur. However, not many of these pop up, as Coppola remains quite chatty given the film’s length.
I don’t really want to complain about this piece, though, as I really like it. Coppola provides a consistently informative and fascinating glimpse of his film.
On Disc Two, the main attraction comes from Hearts of Darkness, the 1991 documentary about Apocalypse Now shot by Coppola’s wife Eleanor. A well-regarded piece, you can find my full thoughts about it via this link.
To summarize, Hearts deserves its reputation. An engrossing documentary, it becomes a fascinating look at the film.
Alongside Hearts, we find an audio commentary from Francis Coppola and Eleanor Coppola. Both sit separately for this piece.
Eleanor discusses how she became the film’s documentarian, some technical aspects of her work, her experiences on the shoot, aspects of creating the documentary, and why it took so long for the material to come together.
Francis tells us a little about the decisions he made on the film as he attempts to convey his mindset at the time. He also lets us know what parts of the documentary bother him.
I really looked forward to this track, since I figured Francis would finally give us his side of the story. Everyone knows that parts of Hearts upset him, so this was his chance to provide his interpretation and clarification.
And he blows it. Francis doesn’t say a lot here, and while he tells us some scenes come out of context, he doesn’t often spell out what the original context was.
We get some minor insights into his personality as he discusses how the ease with which he becomes embarrassed affected him, but Francis doesn’t tell us much. At least he does throw out a cool alternate title for Hearts: he views it as Watch Francis Suffer.
Eleanor proves considerably more informative, though she doesn’t give us quite enough to make this a good commentary. Still, her moments prove much more useful than Francis’s, especially since she essentially covers all the same territory about his tendency to get embarrassed easily. It can be fascinating to hear how Francis would grant her and the other documentarians freedom to show what they wanted – and would inevitably regret it.
While Eleanor offers some nice notes, a lot of dead air can slow this track to a crawl. Occasionally the commentary went so long without remarks that it startled me to hear Eleanor or Francis speak.
I think the track has some very good info, but a 15-minute interview featurette probably could have summed up everything we learn hear. To stretch these details across a more than 90 minute movie makes this one a bit of an endurance test and a disappointment.
On Disc Two, we also get John Milius Script Excerpt. This presents 54 pages of Milius’s screenplay accompanied by handwritten notes from Francis Coppola. It offers a fun look behind the curtain.
Next comes a Storyboard Collection. It covers 223 frames and shows art created to assist with the production. Expect a nice collection of materials here.
Two subdomains appear under Photo Archive: “Unit Photography” (22 images) and “Mary Ellen Mark Photography” (11). Both offer satisfying elements from the set.
Finally, we get a “Marketing Archive” that includes the film’s 1979 trailer and four radio spots. We also find a 1979 theatrical program - presented via 17 stillframes – plus Lobby Card and Press Kit Photos (72) and a Poster Gallery (10). All offer useful materials.
Without question, I recommend Apocalypse Now to all movie fans. Despite my continued disdain for the third act, it deserves its status as a classic. The Blu-ray provides excellent audio and supplements; picture disappoints a little, but the movie still looks quite good. This ends up as easily the best home video representation of the film to date.
Note that you can also buy a three-disc “Full Disclosure Edition” of Apocalypse Now. On its second platter, it features a slew of bonus materials that fail to appear here. It’s the ideal version of the Blu-ray.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of APOCALYPSE NOW