Additional scenes create a mellower 'Apocalypse'
By Mike Clark
In order of importance:
French plantation sequence. The 25-minute riverside encounter, in which the boat crew docks and dines (military grunts together, officer Willard at the main table) with French patrician hosts, is one of the movies' most well-known lost scenes. (Coppola, who kept whittling the sequence down, finally scrapped it altogether. It started to loom, he says, "like a goiter.") The hosts still feel the scars of their country's 1954 defeat at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, and tell the Americans, "We fight to keep what is ours. You fight for the biggest nothing in history."
The scene is also the precursor to i after an exchange of sensual glances at the dinner table i a bedroom encounter between Willard and an opium-smoking French widow (Aurore Clement). It's fabulous to see Clement, one of the movies' great unused actresses, in a second major movie beyond Louis Malle's 1974 Lacombe Lucien (my contender for the greatest '70s movie not on video).
This scene slows down the mostly frenzied narrative and leads to the movie's climax, which, while still not perfect, seems significantly less jarring. Parts of the sequence also appear in the outstanding 1991 documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.
Brando emerges. Brando's Col. Kurtz reads Time magazine's jingoistic lies about the war to imprisoned Willard i a once crucially missing glimpse of Kurtz's disillusionment and, out of curiosity, a chance to see Brando in full view, not immersed in shadows.
Surf's up. Willard and his crew provide a welcome dose of humor after stealing surfing martinet Lt. Col. Kilgore's (Robert Duvall) prized surfboard. He pleads for its return, no questions asked.
Bartering with bunnies. The crew trades gasoline for sex with stranded Playboy bunnies in a rain-swept helicopter. The war is seen as a cruel exploiter of youth, regardless of sex.
These additions tell only part of the story. As the film concludes, we hear Brando utter, "the horror, the horror." Comparing what this onetime August epic offers with this year's summer cinema, we should all mutter, "the shame, the shame."