26 April 2010

Apocalypse Now (workprint)

Apocalypse Now (workprint)
The original theatrical version of Apocalypse Now (one of my all-time favourite films) was two-and-a-half hours long when it was released in 1979, and a further hour was added when the film was released in a Redux version in 2001. However, there is also a five-hour version (!) which has never been officially released. This workprint is only available as a bootleg, duplicated from six time-coded Betamax tapes, with consequently reduced image quality [as you can see from the photo].

Even though the workprint is double the length of the theatrical version, it is still incomplete: it contains numerous 'scene missing' cards, and some of the familiar highlights from the film (the "snail crawling along the edge of a straight razor" recording; the peaceful schoolyard before the helicopters attack; the buffalo sacrifice; the voice-over narration) are absent.

Much of the additional footage was eventually used in the Redux version, such as stealing Kilgore's surfboard, the French plantation sequence, finding the Playboy bunnies, and Kurtz quoting Time magazine. However, there are some sequences which are unique to the workprint: a prostitute is seen in Willard's bed in Saigon, the boat's crew-members are introduced in a double-exposure shot, Lance kills a buffalo and sees a floating booby-trap, and two boys dangle insects into Willard's cage. Natives taunting the caged Willard with spears, and Kurtz (renamed Leighley) reading The Hollow Men, are the workprint's longest exclusive scenes.

Dennis Hopper has substantially more dialogue, most of it profane and superfluous. His scene outside Willard's cage is an alternate take. He is shot by Colby, and his last words are: "Kill Kurtz! Kill him!". Kurtz himself is first seen wearing war paint, not emerging from the shadows as in the original version. His dialogue scenes with Willard are alternate takes. Also, there is less build-up to Willard's encounter with Kurtz: with no voice-over, and the long digression of the French plantation sequence, Kurtz is somewhat marginalised until he actually appears.

The workprint is also noticeably lighter in tone. Partly, this is because it de-emphasises the foreboding presence of Kurtz but also because there are three romantic scenes and the soundtrack consists of quite upbeat Doors songs such as Summer's Gone, People Are Strange, and When The Music's Over.

Empire magazine printed unofficial screengrabs from the workprint in March 1997 and November 2006, and Peter Cowie wrote an authorised synopsis of it in The Apocalypse Now Book. Clips from the French plantation sequence, and out-takes of Kurtz's monologues, were included in the documentary Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.

An alternate take of the Hollow Men reading is included as an extra on the Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier DVD, along with twelve time-coded workprint scenes and an additional non-workprint sequence in which Willard finds a sampan boat full of monkeys. An alternate ending featuring the destruction of Kurtz's compound, which is not in the workprint, was included as an extra on the original Apocalypse Now DVD.

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