Rejoice, cineastes! This Tuesday marks another milestone in the ever-spinning Russian roulette of DVD purchases, with the release of Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier. Until now, fans of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 masterpiece—still arguably the best war movie ever made, certainly the best about Vietnam—had two choices, neither of them ideal: a bare-bones version of the theatrical cut, or an extras-packed edition of the 2001 Apocalypse Now Redux director's cut. Now, finally, for those stuck up the murky Nung river of indecision without a paddle, we have a two-disc set with extras that incorporates both the original and extended versions.
Now, we're not saying it's without fault—anything that proclaims to be a complete package of Apocalypse Now really can't back up that claim without including Hearts of Darkness, Coppola's wife Eleanor's outstanding documentary on the spectacularly troubled production and her husband's near-complete breakdown. Of course, there may be rights issues there, so we'll let it slide; less easy to forgive is the odd decision to split each version of the film up, half on each disc, so you've got to disrupt what is one of the most intense viewing experiences you're ever likely to have to switch discs regardless of which cut you're watching. (Sure, it's been done—the Lord of the Rings extended editions practically took three discs. Still, there just doesn't seem to be any reason for it here.)
Yet, complaints aside, it's still a fine presentation, packaged cleverly as a plain brown dossier file with a mock-government seal. The picture looks better than ever (Vittorio Storaro's cinematography is jaw-dropping), and the performances are eternal (the Sheen-Duvall-Brando trifeca is its anchor, but everyone in the movie, from batshit Dennis Hopper to a remarkable 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne, is flawless.). The assortment of extras includes a Coppola commentary, "Redux Marker" option so you can spot the additions to the extended cut and numerous great featurettes. An essential DVD, without question.
Also recommended this week: Heart Like a Wheel: Special Edition; James Stewart: The Signature Series; Masters of Horror: Vol. 8; Rome: Season 1; Safe Men; Sealab 2021: Season 4; The Simpsons: Season 8; The Weird Al Show.