FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA 5-Film Collection, Blu-ray (1974-2009/2012)
Apocalypse Now (1979) 2.35:1 153 min.
Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) 2.35:1 202 min.
The Conversation (1974) 1.78:1 113 min.
Tetro (2009) 2.35:1 127 min. (B&W & color)
One From the Heart (1982) 1.33:1 100 min.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Studio: Zoetrope Studios/ Lionsgate 31398 16187 5 [12/4/12] 4 discs
Video: for 16:9 (4:3 for One From) 1080p HD
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM 2.0 (Tetro partially Spanish)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish (also French on Apocalypse Now)
Extras: Interviews, deleted scenes, director’s commentary track, “Making-Of” documentaries, others (differ for each film)
Length: 694 minutes total
Rating: ** (One From the Heart), ***** (other 4)
Interesting that these five films were chosen for a collection on the influential filmmaker. He first came to attention with the Oscar he won as screenwriter on Patton. His best and worst work is in this collection. Each has its own bonus features and is in the aspect ratio in which it was shot—seems strange to go to the 4:3 screen for the ill-fated musical One From the Heart. And all have terrific lossless 5.1 surround soundtracks; especially effective are the tracks for the two Apocalypse Now features, which used dozens of different sound people who contributed a multitude of tracks of every sort of sound, some of which were mixed together for the final tracks.
Apocalypse Now, along with the Godfather series, are probably Coppola’s crowning achievements. The slew of problems he faced shooting the film in the Philappines included typhoons, the firing of Harvey Keitel, nervous breakdowns, star Martin Sheen’s heart attack, Marlon Brando’s huge weight increase, the heat and humidity, and some of the Philippine extras from the military being called out to fight actual rebels during the shooting. Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford also shine in the film, and Robert Duvall is the amazing major who wants to surf next to the Vietnamese village they have just destroyed. (“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”)
If you’ve forgotten (or, heavens, never seen it) the plot is basically a harrowing trip up a river in Vietnam to deliver Captain Sheen on a secret mission to assassinate an insane army officer hiding in the “heart of darkness” in a compound full of bodies and decapitated heads. (“The horror…the horror.”) Coppola is seen a couple times in the film. Amazing images—no wonder the film was nominated for eight Oscars and won five. (An NPR piece recently mentioned over 100 visual errors in Apocalypse Now, and I picked up on one each time I’ve seen it: When the ‘copters fly in to attack the Vietnam village, Duvall has a reel-to-reel deck and big PA speakers playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. The 7-inch reels are rotating at fast-forward or rewind speed by mistake.)
Apocalypse Now Redux of 2001 adds 49 minutes of footage, which makes the film better balanced and more understandable. For example, the crazed Duvall officer is shown actually having some of his men deploy surfboards from the helicopter, which seemed unbelievable in the edited-down version. There is a section of a wild Playboy-sponsored girlie show staged for the soldiers in a combat area (with the SF Fillmore’s Bill Graham as MC), and a whole section on a plantation run by French nationals, protected by their own soldiers, which also brings up Sheen’s one romantic scene. There are also more violent images and tough language than the original release.
The Conversation is a gripping film starring Gene Hackman as a technical surveillance expert. Some of it is set in San Francisco’s Union Square, as a conversation between two people on a park bench is being filmed and recorded surreptitiously. Though the gear used now looks dated, it makes one’s skin crawl to realize how such technology today could and is being used to invade anyone’s privacy. Sound is very important in this film and fortunately is clear and understandable.
Tetro is a recent Coppolla film, shot and set in Buenos Aires, and a mix of black and white and color. (I’m a pushover for any film combining B&W and color ever since The Wizard of Oz.) Reversing the usual structure, Coppolla makes the present time in widescreen B&W with the flashbacks all in 4:3 picture-framed color. It is about rivalries between the poet Tetro and his much younger brother Bennie, both the sons of a famous Italian classical conductor. It has a surprising twist at the end, and some lovely ballet sequences.
One from the Heart is the only one of Coppola’s films which hasn’t been available on DVD previously. And it’s easy to see why. Starring Teri Garr, Frederic Forest, Raul Julia and Natasha Kinski, this fantasy Las Vegas musical had a $26 million budget, was shot entirely indoors at Coppola’s new Zoetrope Studios that he created in Hollywood, and was a big flop. Coppolla had to direct other films for a decade to pay back the huge debts he had built up with this one, and he lost the studio. But he pioneered new video-editing techniques that no other films had yet tried, and inspired George Lucas—on his staff—to carry on some of the advances in making Star Wars. The musical, with everything (including the acting) extremely artificial about it, a dated 4:3 screen ratio when all musicals were widescreen, plus boring music composed and sung by Tom Waits with Crystal Gale, is a bust. Only the scenes with Natasha Kinski as a circus girl kept my interest—even though Teri Garr had all the nude scenes, and Kinski didn‘t have any. The remastering and cleaning up for Blu-ray didn’t appear to have as much effort put into it as with the other four films.
Some of the extras were of interest, but it was a surprise to find no printed booklet of any sort in the set—only the five films. (This is definitely not a Criterion effort.)