The new two-disc set of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film Apocalypse Now is rewarding and disappointing, comprehensive yet incomplete. No film fan’s DVD collection is complete without one version of Apocalypse Now, and since The Complete Dossier contains both the theatrical release of the film and Apocalypse Now Redux in the same set along with several hours of special features, this is the perfect time to add the movie to your collection. However, anyone who is looking for the brilliant behind-the-scenes documentary, Hearts of Darkness, will be very disappointed to find the film missing from this set, rendering the Dossier feeling somewhat incomplete.
Apocalypse Now has always been a masterpiece with some obvious flaws. The movie has some of the greatest scenes ever committed to film, as well as some of the most pretentious and confusing. The first two thirds of the movie, which chronicles Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) journey down river to kill renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) is one of the most gripping descents into madness ever filmed. One of the best scenes in Apocalypse Now is the massive helicopter attack on a Vietcong village led by Lt. Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), a scene both riveting and disturbing at the same time. However, the film gets way off track when Marlon Brando’s character starts spouting ambiguous goobledegook like a whacked-out hippie at a poetry reading.
Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier includes both the original film and Apocalypse Now Redux, released in 2001 and containing 49 minutes of previously unreleased scenes. Some may feel that the additional 49 minutes make the film long-winded, but it’s great to have both versions so that the viewer can form his or her own opinion.
The only thing keeping this set from being complete is the fact that Hearts of Darkness is not part of the package. The story behind the making of Apocalypse Now is just as fascinating as the film itself. According to Kim Aubrey, The Complete Dossier’s extras producer: “I would have loved to put it in, but the copyright owner had issues with the film being out right now and we weren’t able to clear it for use.” If you are able to pick up a used copy of Hearts of Darkness on VHS, go ahead and do it; the documentary will only increase your appreciation for Apocalypse Now.
In terms of the DVD quality, the overall picture quality is outstanding. However, neither version of the film is presented in its original aspect ratio. For some reason, the film has never been released on home video or DVD as it was shown in theaters. The aspect ratio is 2.0 with slight cropping. The sound is crystal clear in 5.1 digital.
Despite the fact that Hearts of Darkness isn’t included, The Complete Dossier is full of extras. Best of all are Francis Ford Coppola’s commentaries on both films, which are entertaining, informative, and detailed. Several deleted scenes are included, along with Brando’s 17-minute reading of T.S Eliot’s poem, “Hollow Men,” multi-chapter post-production information, and features on the film’s excellent sound design (for which the movie won an Oscar). “The Apocalypse Now A/V Club” is a multi-part feature that covers some technical aspects of the film, “Apocalypse Then and Now” is a short feature that covers the release of the original cut. “PBR Street gang” features some cast members during the 2001 release of Redux, who discuss the film’s production. “The Color Palette” features Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro discussing their efforts to restore the original film and extra footage to Redux.
While some may consider bypassing Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier because of the exclusion of Hearts of Darkness and the 2.0 aspect ratio, this is still the best version of Apocalypse Now available. For cinemaphiles, the extras make this a worthwhile purchase. For those of you who don’t have Apocalypse Now in your DVD collections, what are you waiting for?