Hearts of Darkness – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com


Fax Bahr
George Hickenlooper
Eleanor Coppola (documentary footage)


Sam Bottoms ………. Himself
Marlon Brando ………. Himself
Eleanor Coppola ………. Herself
Francis Ford Coppola ………. Himself
Robert Duvall ………. Himself
Dennis Hopper ………. Himself
George Lucas ………. Himself
Martin Sheen ………. Himself

The Documentary

Apocalypse Now is a legendary film for many reasons, most of them for the fact that the film is an American classic. Coppola’s masterpiece is also renown for having one of the longest and most tumultuous productions in recent Hollywood history. Based loosely on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the film details the story of a man who has to travel up a river to find another man. In the novel he’s an ivory trader gone mad in the jungles of the Congo; in the film he’s a colonel gone mad in the jungles of Vietnam. Initially set by Orson Welles to be his first foray into films, it was shelved and Welles would end up making one of the great films of all time in Citizen Kane. Coppola used the status he gained from the first two Godfather films as well as the small fortune he gained from it to self-finance Apocalypse Now. While he shot the film, his wife Eleanor was also shooting a documentary about the production. And while Hearts of Darkness was the sole feature that would’ve made the Apocalypse Now double-disc release a perfect set, it’s finally been released for fans of Coppola and the film.

Hearts of Darkness is basically a nearly two hour “making of” featurette about Apocalypse Now. Getting into all the gritty details of the film, it spares no punch to the subject and tackles nearly every issue that came up in the near eight month shoot that developed from what was supposed to be a 16 week shoot. Narrated by his wife Eleanor, the film was shot in the Philippines when it was in the middle of a civil war between the government and radical communists. This caused many delays initially; the film’s big sequence (Kilgore’s attack on the village) was delayed in part because the film-makers were reliant on a Philippine army that was also waging a war because the U.S Army refused to cooperate with the film-makers. Marlon Brando also caused delays and some cinematic revision as well. Initially he was supposed to be rail thin and instead came in grossly overweight, even threatening to take his $1 million advance and not do the film. Seeing Coppola’s reaction to it is amusing, as he rants that if Brando leaves he’ll get someone to replace him and lists off a cavalcade of legends (Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Robert Redford, all of whom had turned the role down initially) as people who could replace Brando. Coppola would get around this by his camerawork.

The documentary goes into some depth about the film-making and doesn’t pull any punches about it, which makes the film interesting. Getting all of the principles together 12 years after the release of Apocalypse Now for comments about the film, as well as having Eleanor’s commentary and footage from the production itself in the late ’70s, it’s fascinating to see the film from beginning to end as the rush to conclude Apocalypse Now is evident by the end.

While Coppola would be proved wrong, as he thought the film was going to be a failure, Apocalypse Now has become one of the great war films of all time and one of the last great films of Hollywood’s boom period of the 1970s.


Presented in a full screen format in a Dolby Digital sound, the film’s audio/visual are a bit enhanced from the original presentation of the film but aren’t very good unfortunately. While everything comes through clearly, the film is noticeably grainy and aged while the audio is a bit off on occasion as it doesn’t come through cleanly or clearly on occasion.

The Extras

CODA: Thirty years later is a look at Coppola’s latest picture, Youth without Youth, which he self-financed out of the studio system in Romania so he could do it exactly the way he wanted to. It’s a rambling piece about making a film independently, Coppola’s background and various shots of Youth without Youth and doesn’t have a real flow or rhythm to it.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Hearts of Darkness
(OUT OF 10)






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