Francis Ford Coppola’s incredible Vietman movie Apocalypse Now hit 1979 cinemas in a version running 147 minutes, then in 2001 he presented us with Apocalypse Now: Redux, which was 196 minutes long and put back in some material he previously removed [he’s had final cut of all of films since The Godfather, but he’s always tried to take suggestions on board]. Many considered it to now be too long, though some including myself loved it – hell, I’d have been even happier if yet more material from that five-hour work print that some have seen had been included.
Anyway, for the film’s 40th anniversary, Coppola has edited a ‘Final Cut’ which sounds like it will be in-between the other two versions in length- though if he wants to follow Oliver Stone’s example with Alexander, he can put together a fourth version called the ‘Ultimate Cut’ after the ‘Final Cut’ in a few years time.
Said Coppola to ‘Deadline’:
“By having a record of all old cuts on Betamax, I was able to see what steps had been made toward the final version released. Interesting, even though I’ve had ‘final cut’ since Godfather‘s success, I always tried to be reasonable about ideas or suggestions made by the ‘finance’ partners, distributors or studios. However, their unanimous comment of ‘too long’ often led to trimming things out, whereas in retrospect the solution can often be to put more in. Also changes often beget other changes and you don’t quite realize then the road you are following.
“Given that the Apocalypse Now original was not only long, but also unusual in style and substance for a film at that time, we tended to cut whenever possible not only in time but also in what then was considered ‘weirdness’. Maybe 15 years later I happened to catch a TV viewing of it in a hotel, and as I always enjoyed seeing the beginning, started watching and ending up seeing the whole film. I realized that just with that time elapsed, that the film was not as weird as I had thought, and had become more ‘contemporary.’ The avant garde art of the present often becomes the ‘wallpaper’ (mainstream) art of the future. That plus many people’s (including distributor’s opinion) that so much great stuff had been cut out, led to what was later called Apocalypse Now Redux, which actually had a successful theatrical distribution thanks to Harvey Weinstein. But that version had all that had been cut out, restored. Later on, once again, when asked which version I personally wanted to be shown, I often felt that the original 1979 was too abruptly shortened, and Redux was too long, and settled on what I now felt was the perfect version, which is what we’re showing at Tribeca later this month, called Apocalypse Now: Final Cut.”
After the premiere on April 28, 2019 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, it will then get a limited cinema release.
It also seems like we’ll be seeing another Coppola film in a new version. His 1984 gangster/musical The Cotton Club was shortened at the behest of financiers and foreign distributors who said that there was not just too much tap dancing but – and I’m not making this up – had too many black people in it. Three decades later, Coppola created his Director’s Cut of the film and showed it at the Telluride Film Festival at the end of 2017 for the first time. 13 minutes were removed from the old theatrical version, but 25 minutes were added, increasing the running time from 127 to 139 minutes, and adding some dance numbers and songs as well as I guess making the black characters more prominent. Cast members joined in to re-record dialogue, and the son of the late Gregory Hines, who starred, also helped.
Since then the complicated legal situation with international distributors has held up the release, but, according to the latest information from ‘Deadline’, these problems have now been resolved and various distributors have already set their sights on the film.
So Coppola fans have a lot to look forward to. Me, I can’t wait to see probably the greatest film about war on the big screen again….for the third time!