Apocalypse Now: Final Cut Announced
For the film’s 40th anniversary, Francis Ford Coppola presented us with a new version of his anti-war film Apocalypse Now (1979). He himself calls it Final Cut. But if he wants to follow Oliver Stone's example, he can make an Ultimate Cut after the Final Cut in a few years. After Alexander's "final" 3rd version, Stone added a fourth, "Ultimate" version. But this is another story and can be read here in the comparison.
The story of Apocalypse Now starts with a 289-minute workprint version of the film, which was released on VHS a long time ago, but never officially released. It was made before the Cannes premiere in 1979. There, Coppola showed a shorter "work-in-progress" version of the film, which lasted about 3 hours and won the Palme d’or, the highest award of the film festival. Afterwards, the director shortened the film by many scenes and so, in the autumn of 1979, the official theatrical version came to the cinemas with a runtime of only about 147 minutes.
There were also differences regarding the credits. There is a version without credits in the early 70mm version that has only a copyright notice. For the 35mm version there were real credits, which were placed over recordings of explosions and the burning jungle. But when Coppola found out that moviegoers thought that Willard had ordered an air strike on Kurtz's base in the jungle because the scenes suggested it to viewers, he changed the credits and now you can only see classic white text on a black background.
In 2001, the so-called Redux version had its premiere at Cannes. The film reached a runtime of 196 minutes and is therefore even longer than the first Cannes version. Even though Coppola has had the privilege of having final cut for his films since The Godfather (1971), - i.e. in principle he can bring the version to cinemas that he wants to screen there -, he always tried to take suggestions from the studio, the financiers and foreign distributors into consideration. And what did these parties often dislike? Films that run very long. This often diminished the success at the box office due to fewer screenings during the day.
So, the director shortened Apocalypse Now, more than he himself thought was optimal. Coppola also realized that the film wasn't necessarily mainstream and removed scenes for the 1979 theatrical version that seemed a bit stranger to a "normal" audience. But cinema and audience continue to develop and with time crazy ideas become normal. Therefore, many years later, Coppola re-inserted most of the scenes because he didn't consider them to be so strange anymore. But here he exaggerated according to his own statement in the Deadline report linked below and added more than he thinks makes sense today. Details about the Redux version can be found in our detailed comparison.
The latest version, the Final Cut, will have its premiere on April 28, 2019 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The film was rescanned from the original negatives in 4K resolution. In addition, it has been upgraded with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and should look and sound better than ever before. For this version, Coppola was now looking for the optimal film length somewhere between the 147 minutes of the theatrical version and the 196 minutes of the Redux version. We will know after the premiere what has been removed from the film or what other changes were made.