Apocalypse Now Workprint
By Joshua Cornelius
When you shoot a million feet of film, you can probably edit any movie you’d like from it. I’m certain there’s a way that, with the proper voiceover, Captain Ben Willard’s harrowing journey could have been recut as the story of a family man fighting his way for home. Outside of Willard’s briefing on Kurtz at the beginning of the film, exposition for Coppola’s film happens primarily off-screen through narration. Various editors, including the prolific and talented Walter Murch, helped shape the film into its final theatrical form, and then eventually into Coppola’s 2001 “Redux” version of the film.
Apocalypse Now‘s extended editing process produced this extremely long (4 hours, 49 minutes) cut of the film that features sequences that have either been removed entirely or severely truncated for the theatrical release of the film. Some were added in for Coppola’s extended edit.
Apocalypse Now – The 5-hour WorkprintMy copy of the Apocalypse Now Workprint runs some 5 hours and came as a 2-DVD set. TheWorkprint is a distillation of the masses of footage Coppola shot for Apocalypse Now, and should be considered a rough draft of theOriginal Cut of the film. TheWorkprint features no narration, no dialogue looping, no sound FX and none of the original score. As well as extra footage theWorkprint contains alternative takes, alternative dialogue, a temp soundtrack, and in some cases absent scenes that would appear only in the Original Cut. The quality of the Workprint is very poor but watchable. Note! – the screenshots throughout this post are sourced from the Paramount DVD (not from the Workprint!), and are used to break up the text for the ease of reading.
Opening Sequence / Hotel Room
The Opening Sequence and the Hotel Room sequence are largly the same as what ended up in the Original Cut, but scenes are extended – more Jungle explosions and helicopter shots, more shots of Williard’s hotel room, Willard violently struggling with a Vietnamese prostitute and more footage of Willard in a drunken stupor, smearing himself with with blood. This opening sequence runs almost the entirity of the Doors song “The End” before it cuts out at the point in the Original Cut where Willard says “Saigon… Shit!”
When Willard looks out the hotel window to street below, the film cuts to a montage of Saigon street life. It’s surprising that this shot was cut because it looks like it was hugely expensive to replicate a Saigon street in 1969.
In the scene where the two soldiers call to Willard’s hotel with his orders, we see a quick shot inside the hotel room of Willard slumped on the floor as the soldiers knock on the door. When the soldiers push Willard under the shower, the scene carries on a little longer, with Willard calling the soldiers “Bastards“. The scene is followed by a short scene where the soldiers shave Willard.
The military base, where Willard receives his assignment is longer with additional dialogue. The scene opens with a extended shot of Willard walking thru the base. At the dinner table, Willard is asked about the Special Forces. Major Corman promises Willard a promotion for doing the job, and this is riffed on much later in the film where Willard says “They were gonna make me a Major for this…” Also, this sequence must have been shot early in the shoot because Kurtz is referred to as Colonel Lee. Also, there is some alternative dialogue to that in the Original Cut – instead of the line “He has gone insane“, in the Workprint its heard as “He has gone savage”
G.D. Spradlin as General Corman, named after Roger Corman who produced Coppola’s 1963 film Dementia 13
This scene is bookended by the Doors’ song “I Can’t See Your Face“. In the Workprint, Willard is introduced to each of the crew, as talking head shots superimposed over a long shot of the boat in the dock. A very strange scene. This sequence is much longer than the Original Cut, there’s a montage of scenes of the boat travelling up river, and a dialogue scene where Chef trips over Willard’s bags…
Rendevous with Air Cav.
The sequence where the boat meet with Air Cav is essentially the same as the Original Cut but is much longer. Some scenes were reinstated into the Redux version, but much has been left out. The sequence where Kilgore hands out his “deathcards” is a fragment of a longer scene where he walks thru the conquered villiage surveying the operations and inspecting dead bodies. It’s a shame this scene was not preserved because it shows in greater detail, the devastation the Air Cav have inflicted on the village.
“Just go by like you’re fighting, like you’re fighting!”. Coppola’s confessional cameo as a director struggling to orchestrate the chaos around him.
The beach party scene that bridges the two big Air Cav scenes is extended but not much different. In the Workprint, we hear Kilgore crooning a country song. A small leftover of this scene is in theOriginal Cut. There’s some additional dialogue by Mike From San Diego about the surfing at Vin Drin Dop.
Kilgore, one of those guys who had that weird light around him. Kilgore’s line “Charlie Don’t Surf” is a Charles Manson reference. The phrase came after Manson’s arrest and was to do with Manson’s sour relationship with the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson.