I Love the Smell of Validation in the Morning

Image lifted from Amazon.comI tweeted about this yesterday, but figured everyone else should know about it as well: Lionsgate (distributed by Maple up here in has announced the Blu-ray release of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”, in a three-disc “Full Disclosure” special edition that will include both the original 1979 theatrical version and Coppola’s 2004 “Redux” edition, and also throw in Eleanor Coppola’s essential documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”.

The Digital Bits has all the details, as well as confirmation of the one element that makes this release an absolute must-buy for anyone who loves Coppola’s hallucinatory war epic: For the first time on any home-video format, “Apocalypse Now” will be presented in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Previously, all widescreen transfers of the film — the laserdisc, both of Paramount’s DVD releases and the letterboxed television master — were framed at 2:1, the “ideal” aspect ratio cinematographer Vittorio Storaro calls Univisium. The idea of a single universal aspect ratio for television and film isn’t inherently terrible, but Storaro insists on retrofitting his earlier scope films to 2:1 whenever someone asks him to approve a transfer. (The only other one of which I’m aware is Paramount’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream”.) And since “Apocalypse Now” wasn’t shot at 2:1, the image has to be cropped (or panned) to fill the taller frame. That’s insane, someone else needs to stop him.

When I interviewed Coppola last year, he was kind enough to indulge me in a few fanboy/gearhead questions about the restoration of “The Godfather” and “One from the Heart”. Finally, we turned to “Apocalypse Now”, and I’m not ashamed to admit I literally begged him to make sure any future HD transfers were framed appropriately. A year later, it looks like I got my wish — and on October 19, we’ll finally be able to see Coppola’s purest cinematic work the way it was always supposed to be seen.

9 thoughts on “I Love the Smell of Validation in the Morning”

  1. If this turns out to be true (not sure that I trust the press release just yet), and indeed you are responsible for turning Coppola around, then I say a hearty THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! 🙂

    FYI, Storaro also butchered The Last Emperor this way. The Criterion Blu-ray transfer that he supervised is cropped, edge enhanced, contrast boosted, and has a lot of its colors fiddled around with. The man was once a great artist, but he’s clearly gone senile and needs to be stopped.

    Even if Coppola can insist that Apocalyse Now be restored to its original aspect ratio, I doubt we’ll ever get the original color scheme back. Storaro has messed with the colors numerous times over the years. He changes them every time someone asks him to approve a new transfer, from Laserdisc to DVD to the Redux cut. Each time, he insists that, “This was what I always intended.” What he “always intended” is never the same twice.

  2. Also, I don’t suppose you asked Coppola about the goofy colors and obliterated contrast on the Bram Stoker’s Dracula Blu-ray, did you?

  3. We didn’t get around to it … and I’m not taking credit for the “Apocalypse” AR fix, exactly; it’s probably got more to do with Zoetrope’s techs being as dedicated to putting things right. But if I _did_ have anything to do with it, that’ll probably stand as my greatest contribution to American cinema since I shamed Kevin Smith into doing a special edition of “Mallrats”.

    You know, I’m not sure whether to be proud or depressed.

  4. I’d like to know which of those dedicated Zoetrope techs thought it was a good idea to crush the contrast on Dracula so badly that some of the important optical composites and special effects are no longer visible, and then randomly change all the colors in the movie while they were at it.

  5. @ Josh — that one, I think I blame on Sony.

    @ Mike — that’s still less than a dollar a day for a whole year’s HD goodness …

  6. I think Zoetrope’s tech director Kim Aubry was the one responsible for DRACULA looking that way on Blu-ray. At least, something’s gotta explain the Pavlovian flinch I do at his name.

  7. Norm, do you know if Apocalypse Now will also come out in an ordinary DVD edition? I don’t have or intend to get Blu – ray.

  8. @ Shlomo — Lionsgate’s only announced the Blu-ray release at the moment, but I’m sure there’ll be a standard-def edition at some point. Meanwhile, “The Conversation” gets a DVD-only reissue on August 17th …

Comments are closed.