D.J. Haza presents the next entry in his series of films to watch before you die…
Apocalypse Now, 1979.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Sam Bottoms, Frederic Forrest and Harrison Ford.
Apocalypse Now is Francis Ford Coppola’s epic tale of the Vietnamese War. The story follows US Army Special Operations Officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Sheen) as he is sent into the Cambodian jungle to track down and kill the presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Brando).
As Willard and his small crew make their way through the remote jungle and passed many dangerous areas they meet with a variety of interesting characters. When being escorted to the opening of the Nung River by air cavalry attack helicopters controlled by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Duvall) they witness several of Kilgore’s men surfing amidst enemy fire.
As Willard navigates his way upstream he encounters a tiger, reaches a supply depot and watches a USO featuring Playboy Playmates. He and his crew also mistakenly kill all civilians aboard a boat and are fired upon by unseen enemies in the trees as some of them are killed.
When Willard finally reaches the Buddhist temple that serves as Kurtz’s camp he comes across a hoard of people who follow the crazed and philosophical soldier. After being tied, bound and lectured on Kurt’s theories of war, humanity and civilisation Willard is asked to tell Kurtz’s son all about him once he is gone. When Willard butchers Kurtz with a machete his final words are, ‘the horror… the horror’.
Apocalypse Now has become an iconic film that is hailed by many as one of the greatest films of all time and a masterpiece of New Hollywood cinema. The film is rated highly in all of the major movie polls and Kilgore’s speech, ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’, is amongst the greatest move quotes of all time.
Apocalypse Now is a film you must see before you die because it is one of the greatest films of all time and on so many occasions it almost didn’t happen as the production of the film was hit with so many set backs. Within a few days of shooting in Manila, using Harvey Keitel in the role of Willard, Coppola was unhappy and retuned to Los Angeles. He soon replaced Keitel with Sheen. Typhoon Olga then destroyed several expensive sets and shooting was shut down for several weeks. They also employed a host of bodyguards to keep watch over the sets and locations, but still one day the entire payroll was stolen.
When Brando eventually arrived to film his parts he was well over weight and Coppola had to shoot only his face, dress him in black and use stand ins for any full length shots of his character Kurtz. Two years after filming began Coppola returned to the Philippines to shoot more for the film and in doing so Sheen had a heart attack and had to struggle for a quarter of a mile in order to get help. So many times the film came close to disaster and the rumours are that the ending changed several times as Coppola struggled to find its conclusion. Never the less, what resulted was a masterpiece.