We are still in Vietnam for Phils Thursday retro movie this week, and with the epic Apocalypse Now (1979) which somehow I’d not seen before. Directed, produced and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola. So many class actors in this movie, Martin Sheen taking the lead role, but with Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Denis Hopper, Laurence Fishburn (very young!) and Harrison Ford.
Sheen plays Captain Benjamin L. Willard a Special Forces assassin tasked with sailing up a river to somewhere in Cambodia to locate and assassinate a rogue Colonel, Walter E Kurtz (Brando) who’s gone bonkers waging a successful guerilla war against both the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese army. He has made a community of indigenous mountain people who see him as a demi-god, He’s gone off the army grid and those in charge want him terminated. Willard accepts the mission and sets off on a U.S Navy river boat captained by Chief Petty Officer Philips (Albert Hall) and crewed by Lance.B.Johnson (Sam Bottoms) a professional surfer, Tyrone Miller ‘Mr.Clean’ (Fishburn) and Engineman Jay Hicks, ‘Chef’.
Along the way they meet up with a helicopter-borne air assault unit commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, (Duvall) to discuss safe passage. Kilgore is not really interested in helping Willard until he finds out about Lance’s surfing abilities as he is an avid surfer himself. He agrees to escort them through the Viet Cong held mouth of the River Nung, and organizes a spectacular dawn raid, in the hopes of surfing with Lance when it’s over. Lots of helicopter action and M60 machine guns and a napalm strike. Duvall’s ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’ and ‘Charlie don’t surf’ became iconic quotes from the movie.
The journey takes up a good bit of the movie and many other things happen along the way. There is conflict between Willard and Philips as to who is in charge, they get to a command post where no-one is in charge and receive dispatches i.e. mail for the crew and a dossier on Kurtz for Willard, who studies it along the way. Whilst reading the mail Lance pops some LSD, sends up a flare and Mr.Clean is killed in the ensuing attack by an unseen enemy. They come across another command post where a helicopter with playboy bunny girls arrive to entertain the troops but have to beat a hasty retreat as the troops get out of control, then our chaps come across their helicopter further along and manage to get a good seeing-to with the bunnies.
Eventually they reach Kurtz’s outpost where Willard is captured and tortured, and Lance goes native. This is when Marlon Brando does his thing and I’ve spoiled enough of the plot so this bit I’ll leave for you to find out. It is dark though!
It really is a dark masterpiece of a movie, and the acting in it is superb. Martin Sheen, was top choice for Willard only after Steve McQueen, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood and some other heavy hitters turned it down (didn’t want to leave America for the time it would take to make the movie 🙄 ) Actually Harvey Keitel played Willard at the initial shooting, but Coppola wasn’t happy with his portrayal and Keitel left. Sheen was up next and he gave himself to the role completely, and he narrates some of the movie, (actually he doesn’t, it is Joe Estevez, Sheen’s brother who does the voice overs but was uncredited, incidentally Martin’s son Charlie is an extra somewhere in it but I didn’t spot him. Estevez also plays Willard in some scenes when Sheen had to take 6 weeks off after having a heart attack in the middle of it! Coppola later admitted that he can no longer tell which scenes are Joe and which are Martin.
I did enjoy this, it was different to the usual war films, focusing on the dark side that happens to soldiers in the war. Shot in the Phillipines, the scenery was stunning and Coppola and his cinematographer Vittorio Storaro made the most of it. Coppola’s Dad Carmine was a composer of note and did the soundtrack for the movie which added greatly to the atmosphere, and Coppola’s use of lighting, especially in the scenes with Brando and Sheen was masterful. Brando was acclaimed for his powerful performance, but for me the movie is all Sheen. (And his bro 🙂 )
Fave critic report -Roger Ebert of the Los Angeles Times : “Apocalypse Now achieves greatness not by analyzing our ‘experience in Vietnam’, but by re-creating, in characters and images, something of that experience”
Factoid -The film is credited with having created the Philippines surfing culture based around the town of Baler where the helicopter attack and surfing sequences were filmed.
And so to the Saturday Night movie. After 3 sorties into Vietnam I thought we’d have a fun movie. On researching for my Sunday blog post on the Universe blog, I came across Conan The Barbarian. I had seen the Arnie Schwarzenegger versions back in the eighties and was delighted to find a 2011 reboot, not related to the two 80’s movies. This one was directed by Marcus Nispel and starred Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman. I’m not going to do the plot, well OK I will,
- warrior child’s father is killed by evil man and evil daughter who want to put a magic mask back together that child’s father has (badly) hidden a piece of.
- child grows up to be Conan, a great swordsman and have a 6 pack and never wear a shirt.
- Conan goes on a mission to track down evil guy with a view to killing him and kills a lot of people along the way.
- Conan comes across beautiful girl who’s blood can resurrect the dead sorceress wife of evil man via the mask, and rescues, loses and rescues her again.
Its ridiculous rubbish and even Jason’s six-pack cannot save it. Save yourselves people. You’re welcome!