Saturday, 14 February 2009

Apocalypse Now - The 5 hour Workprint

My copy of the Apocalypse Now Workprint runs some 5 hours and came as a 2-DVD set. The Workprint is a distillation of the masses of footage Coppola shot for Apocalypse Now, and should be considered a rough draft of the Original Cut of the film. The Workprint features no narration, no dialogue looping, no sound FX and none of the original score. As well as extra footage the Workprint 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 simply to break up the text for the ease of reading.

Opening Sequence / Hotel Room

The Opening Sequence and the Hotel Room sequence are largely the same as what ended up in the Original Cut, but scenes are extended - more Jungle explosions and helicopter shots, more shots of Willard's hotel room, Willard violently struggling with a Vietnamese prostitute and more footage of Willard in a drunken stupor, smearing himself with blood. This opening sequence runs almost the entirety 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.

Military Base

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

PBR Boat

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...

Rendezvous 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 village 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.

Beach Party

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 the Original 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.

Air Strike on Vin Drin Dop

Of all the sequences in the Workprint, the air strike has the more filler in terms of footage. Coppola probably shot hundreds of hours of footage of the helicopters laying siege to Vin Drin Dop, but in the Workprint, the footage is whittled down to maybe 30min. The scene opens with the helicopters emerging out of the golden dawn set to what sounds like an early prototype version of the Apocalypse Now synth score. To my ears it sounds like Coppola used a piece of music by Japanese electronic musician Tomita. It does sound very similar to the finished score so its possible Coppola had Tomita in mind to score the film. The Wagner music is in the Workprint, but is much longer.

Among the mass of footage of the helicopter attack, there are some interesting deletions. The shot of the water buffalo pulling the cart along, seen briefly in the Original Cut is extended, and amusingly the buffalo runs right into the camera (destroying the camera I assume).

Kilgore's chopper with the inscription "Death from Above" 

The brief shot of the footbridge being shot up by the helicopters is seen from alternative angle - we see the bridge being destroyed from a head-on point of view. The most interesting part of this whole sequence is the grenade attack on the helicopter. In the Workprint, we see the grenade thrown into the helicopter from inside the helicopter. Then, there is a spectacular shot of the helicopter taking off, exploding and crashing to the ground some 3 or 4 feet. Then we see the soldiers on board tumbling out engulfed in flames. This sequence in the Original Cut is much tighter, but it's far more visceral in the Workprint.

There is some short expanded footage of the soldiers running into the surf, Big Wednesday-style and trying to "break both ways" amidst the bombs and the bullets, much to Kilgore increasing annoyance. The remainder of the scene with the theft of Kilgore's surfboard was incorporated into Apocalypse Now Redux.

Tiger Sequence

The Tiger sequence is booked ended by the Doors' song "Summers Almost Gone". The tiger sequence is largely the same but in the Workprint the sequence is composed with alternative takes and angles. The version in the Original Cut is more refined and works better - in the Workprint, the tiger appears to walk past Willard with disinterest.

The Playboy Show

This sequence features a few alternative shots of the PBR arriving at the Bunny show. Most of the extra scenes are during the show. The Bunnies are seen talking to the soldiers from the stage, and signing autographs. The "Suzi Q" song in played out much longer like a freeform jam. If you listen closely to the song in the Original Cut you'll hear a jarring edit. The shot of an apprehensive Bill Graham sensing trouble from the crowd is missing from the Workprint.

Legendary rock concert promoter Bill Graham. Look out for his Nixon impersonation
as he makes a quick escape with the Bunnies.

Following the Playboy show is a lengthy sequence on the boat. The Doors song used in this sequence is "My Wild Love". There is extended footage of Lance skiing, and interestingly the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" is replaced by the Otis Redding version of the song. Its much funkier and makes more sense of Clean's dancing around the boat. There's also a short dialogue scene with Chief and Willard about Chief reading Revelations

Rendezvous with the Bunnies

This whole section was resurrected for Apocalypse Now Redux, but in the Workprint, the sequence is edited differently. In the Redux version, Lance and Chef's time with the Bunnies is intercut together, but in the Workprint, Lance's scene follows Chef's scene with no intercutting. Also, Lance's scene is longer than what is seen in Redux. His scene opens with him inhaling some kind gas a la Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet.

Then follows another boat sequence, leading up to the Sampan Massacre. The music used here The Doors' "People Are Strange". There's some extra footage of Chef arguing with Clean, and a scene where Willard reads a letter aloud (from Kurtz's wife it seems). The most significant scene here is a bizarre sequence where the boat passes a booby trap on the river. The booby trap is fashioned to look ornamental, but Chief shoots at it and it explodes.

The swamped Medivac set destroyed by the typhoon that wreaked havoc on the production. Coppola was so anxious to continue shooting that he incorporated the weather in to this scene.

Sampan Massacre

No major differences here between the Workprint version and the Original Cut, besides some alternative shots and a short scene of Chef interrogating the Sampan crew. After Willard shoots the wounded girl, Chef is overheard saying to Willard "Motherfuckers, come and look at it!"

Do Lung Bridge

The Do Lung Bridge sequence is largely the same as the Original Cut. There is some extended exposition dialogue from Lieutenant Carlson about Do Lung Bridge but this dialogue is absent from the Original Cut and something similar is now spoken by Chief ("We build it every night. Charlie blows it right back up again")

The boat scene following Do Lung Bridge appears in both the Workprint and Original Cut but appears to have been reworked for the Original Cut. Clean reads his letter aloud, and Lance burns his letter. Then follows a bizarre scene where Lance guns down a water buffalo (off screen) to the fury of the boat crew. This scene is an interesting intersection of the Workprint and the Original Cut - in the Workprint, the death of Clean is omitted but its Lance's opening fire on the river bank that is the catalyst for the boat coming under attack and Clean's death in the Original Cut.

Colby's letter - "Sell the house. Sell the car. Sell the kids. Find someone else. Forget it. I'm never coming back. 
Forget it !!!

Following on from the French plantation sequence, now incorporated into Redux with no changes from how it appears in the Workprint; there is another boat sequence. There is an alternative scene of Chief and Willard arguing about going onward in the fog, but the bulk of the extra footage here are long surreal panning shots of the jungle crowding in on the river. At this point of the Original Cut, we have the death of Chief, but like the death of Clean, it's omitted from the Workprint.

Kurtz Compound

Of all the various sections of the Workprint, almost all the scenes that take place at the Kurtz compound are alternative scenes or footage that would not survive past the Workprint.

Dennis Hopper as the Photo Journalist has a different introduction in the Workprint. In his first scene in the Workprint, the title of the film is clearly visible painted on a wall ("Our Motto, Apocalypse Now"). The Photo Journalist has many more scenes in the Workprint, and much more dialogue with Willard. There's a telling scene in Hearts of Darkness where Coppola bemoans the fact that he has to work with Brando and "a crazy Dennis Hopper", and watching Hopper's scenes in the Workprint, Hopper does seem crazy - his line readings are loose, edgy and have an improvised feel.

Scott Glen as Colby. Only a fragment of his part is retained in the Original Cut

The Workprint also includes a few scenes with Scott Glenn, playing Colby, Willard's predecessor. Colby explains the bodies lying around the compound as the spoils of a raid on the NVA. Later on in the Workprint, there is a scene where Colby shoots the Photo Journalist four times and then is then killed by Willard.

Inside the compound there's a short sequence where Willard looks over the personal effects of Kurtz and examines his writings on the typewriter. The scene where Willard is shoved face down in the mud is extended. The introductory scene of Kurtz in the Workprint is where Kurtz wearing camouflage, throws Chef's severed head at Willard. Before this, Willard has dialogue where he says that his boat came under attack, and he needs rest.

Almost all the dialogue between Kurtz differs in subtle ways from the Original Cut. In the scene where Willard talks about the Ohio river, Kurtz mentions sailing down the river in a raft a la Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. When Kurtz asks Willard if he's an "assassin", Willard replies "I'm a professional soldier like You used to be" Worth mentioning also is how Kurtz appears in the Workprint. In the Original Cut, Kurtz is filmed in shadows but the Workprint he is more visible. In one daytime sequence he has a long dialogue with Willard, imprisoned in a bamboo cage about "master liars in Washington"

Kurtz's library. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, and From Romance to Ritual, a book about the Holy Grail

The Kurtz compound section features a whole 20min set piece that would not survive beyond the Workprint. In the Original Cut, between the scene of the Photo Journalist taunting Willard in the bamboo cage, and Willard moved into Kurtz's living quarters; there is a brilliant sequence where Willard is paraded around in the bamboo cage, poked with rifles and sticks and then set down before the ritual sacrifice of a pig. Interestingly, in this long sequence there are two scenes where Willard makes eye contact with the water buffalo that is sacrificed at the climax of the film.

The scene where Kurtz reads aloud The Hollow Man, the poem is heard in its entirety. The sequence where Willard emerges out of the water to kill Kurtz begins with The Doors' song "When the Music's Over". This entire sequence is an alternative to the way it's presented in the Original Cut. Willard is seen killing one of Kurtz's bodyguards and smearing himself with blood. There's an odd scene here where a bodyguard picks up a native child to deflect Willard's knife, but Willard drives the knife into both of them !

Last will and testament of Walter E. Kurtz - Drop the bomb. Exterminate them all!

And then, as Willard approaches Kurtz, and after some 5 hours of Apocalypse Now madness the Workprint abruptly ends... somewhere down the crazy river.

No comments:

Post a Comment