It's frustrating, all these lavish DVD packages of movies that weren't good to begin with.
But that's not a problem with the first-ever Blu-ray release of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 masterpiece "Apocalypse Now." In this overwhelming set (three discs and a superbly designed booklet), a great movie gets the comprehensive handling it deserves.
The result is the best home video release of the year. If you don't have a Blu-ray player, it's worth buying one just to watch this.
"Apocalypse Now" is, of course, one of the great war movies, unfolding in a Vietnam that looks real but is steeped in a dreamlike atmosphere and the madness of combat.
The plot roughly follows that of Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella "Heart of Darkness" (it was set in Africa): An Army special ops officer (Martin Sheen) is sent upriver on a patrol boat into Cambodia to assassinate the renegade Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has gone mad and established his own personal kingdom among the ruins of an ancient civilization.
This package offers the original theatrical cut and "Apocalypse Now Redux," the decade-old expanded version. The high-def images are astonishingly beautiful; both versions come with superb commentary tracks by Coppola, a brilliant raconteur with endless stories to tell.
Aside from its artistry, "Apocalypse" is notorious for the torturous path it took to the screen. During nearly two years of accident-plagued filming, Coppola - perhaps taking his cue from the fictional Kurtz - went a bit bonkers himself. Included here is 1991's "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse," Eleanor Coppola's award-winning feature doc about the hurricane-and-heart-attack-hampered making of the film in the Philippines.
But there's plenty more: nine hours of extras including a 1938 Orson Welles radio production of the Conrad novella, mini-docs on the film's music, editing, sound and casting (talk about a who's who: Sheen, Brando, a 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Sam Bottoms, Dennis Hopper). There are interviews with Coppola, Sheen (who almost died making the movie) and screenwriter John Milius.
There's a gorgeous gallery of production sketches and a load of outtakes and unused footage.
And here's a juicy bit of trivia: At one point Coppola (yeah, his ego was out of control ... he sounds much saner now) proposed showing "Apocalypse Now" exclusively in just one state-of-the-art theater to be built in Kansas. He figured it would play for 10 years with people from all over the world making the pilgrimage to worship his masterpiece.
Happily, you don't have to go any farther than your local video store to bask in the glory of this landmark movie.