A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

August 2001/September 2001

Arts of War

Apocalypse Now Redux: The Horror, The Horror, The Horror, The Horror

By Marc Leepson

If you couldn't stand Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War opus, Apocalypse Now, because it had little or nothing to do with the reality of that war, you will not be happy with Apocalypse Now Redux, the expanded and altered version now playing in the nation's multiplexes. If, on the other hand, you thought the original was a surreal, metaphorical gem of a film, you'll be in heaven as you take in the newly edited, three-and-a-half hour version.

Redux contains two extended scenes that were cut entirely from the original, multi-Academy-Award-winning film, which Coppola co-wrote (with John Milius), produced, and directed. The added scenes--no shock here--contain over-the-top characters and situations. The first one involves yet another spaced-out American military outpost along the Nung River. This one is the temporary home of two Playboy bunnies who entertain the troops. The second addition amounts to an extended history lesson about the French involvement in Indochina. It's played out on a French rubber plantation inhabited by a bevy of made-up and totally unbelievable (in the literal sense) French characters.

Those two additions, along with Coppola's other tinkering, fit in perfectly with the Heart of Darkness-inspired river journey of SOG Captain Willard (Martin Sheen in the best performance of his career). The new version is seamless; you hardly realize new footage has been added. That's quite an accomplishment since many Apocalypse Now scenes have become cultural icons.

That includes the bombastic helicopter assault led by Col. Kilgore (the always amazing Robert Duvall), complete with Wagner blaring from loudspeakers and surfers in the water shooting the curl and dodging mortar rounds. Not to mention the opening Saigon hotel room scene and the masterful, sinister set piece in which Willard receives his orders (from, of all people, Harrison Ford) to terminate the command of rogue Green Beret Col. Walter E. Kurtz--terminate, that is, "with extreme prejudice.''

Tuna-sized Marlon Brando seems to mumble less and to make a bit more sense when he lumbers into the action in the movie's culminating scenes. Coppola was especially unhappy with the ending he used in 1979, and the new ending fits in more with what comes before. 

The fact that very little of the action has anything to do with what happened in the Vietnam War and that virtually every character is either insane or on the way to going insane can be interpreted in different ways. You can make a case--and people have--that this work of absolute fiction is not even a "Vietnam War movie.'' Yes, it takes place in Vietnam during the war and the characters constantly talk about the conflict. But an argument can be made that the war is just the setting for Coppola's take on the human condition--the whole "duality of man'' thing, as Private Joker put it in Full Metal Jacket.

Whether Apocalypse is a Vietnam War film or not, it aims high on every level. The screenplay is thought-provoking; the acting is uniformly excellent; the cinematography is memorable.


The stirring Vietnam Veterans National Memorial at Angel Fire, New Mexico, is in financial trouble. The gleaming, white-winged chapel and modern visitors center were built with family funds by Dr. Victor Westphall in 1971 as a tribute to his son, Marine Lt. Victor David Westphall III, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968. Last November, the memorial (now run by the nonprofit David Westphall Veterans Foundation) was about to close its doors because funding had all but dried up. It was surviving, barely, on funds taken from Dr. Westphall's savings. He lives in an apartment on the premises.

There has been a turnaround in the fiscal area, though. It began when Richard E. Ottis, Sr., a former 101st Airborne trooper, who took over as volunteer executive director. Donations have picked up considerably, and the memorial is on its way to achieving its goal of a $1.5 million trust to keep it alive and operating permanently. "Dr. Westphall is now 87 years old, and I would like to have him see his trust in place while he is still with us,'' Ottis told us. "I know of no other man in history who has sacrificed his son, his time, money, property, and life to honor our fallen brothers.'' To find out more, go to www.VietnamVeteransNationalMemorial.org 


Vietnam Helicopter History is an interactive, multimedia CD-ROM produced by the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. It contains audio and super-8 movies taken in Vietnam, 39 printable pages of helicopter photos, more than 4,500 pages of searchable documents on the helicopter war, and much, much more. The CD-ROM is a must-have for anyone with an interest in the helicopter war. For information on obtaining a copy, go to www.vhpa.org 

The hard-hitting documentary Unfinished Symphony: Democracy and Dissent (Northern Light Productions, 59 minutes), has been winning critical acclaim at film festivals around the country. Directed and produced by former Marine Bestor Cram and co-directed and edited by Mike Majoros, the film takes a close look at a Memorial Day 1971 VVAW-led antiwar civil disobedience protest in Lexington, Mass., that ended in the arrests of 410 Vietnam veterans and supporters. To make their point, Cram and Majoros show film clips of the war at its worst and depict veterans against the war heroically. For info, go to www.nlprod.com 

Wing's Castle is a documentary in progress that tells the amazing story of Vietnam veteran Peter Wing, a folk artist in Millbrook, New York, who has been building a medieval castle mostly from recycled materials since returning from Vietnam in 1969. Wing was a jet mechanic on the 7th Fleet Carrier Air Group. The film's project director, Rachel Connolly, is looking for help to complete the project. Her E-mail: rachelhartc@earthlink.net 

Jerry Morris's song "Veterans Hymn'' is a martial tribute he wrote in honor of veterans and their families. For info on this tune on CD, write: 2388 Bloomfield St., Melvindale, MI 48122-1916.

The proposed feature film The Woodcutter, about an alienated Vietnam veteran who lives in the woods, was inspired by the Lee Teter print "Reflections.'' The film's screenwriter, retired U.S. Army Major Ken Miller, who served in Vietnam, saw Teter's famous illustration in an art gallery and immediately was filled with war-related emotions. The independent film will be directed and produced by Gabrielle Savage Dockterman. For information, E-mail: Gabrielle@angeldevilproductions.com 

Last November the state of California awarded $250,000 to the Santa Clarita Historical Veterans Memorial, which will be located in downtown Newhall in Los Angeles County. The multifaceted memorial will include a wall dedicated to Vietnam veterans. For more information, contact Warren K. Johnson, co-chair, at P.O. Box 2538, Santa Clarita, CA 91386-2538; 661-252-5805; E-mail: AWDAWM@aol.com 

VVA chapters in Massachusetts are working with the nonprofit North Shore Music Theatre of Beverly during the September 4-23 world-premiere run of Letters From 'Nam, a musical play written by Paris Barclay. Letters From 'Nam, which features Maureen McGovern, is based on the book Dear America. It "is being presented as a tribute to Vietnam vets and an educational experience for young audiences and the general public,'' said NSMT's marketing director Joseph Amaral. To that end, VVA chapters have donated educational materials that are displayed in the lobby and distributed before the show. For info, go to www.nsmt.org  or call 978-232-7200.

The Prince William County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors in August granted the Freedom Museum in Manassas a lease on 26 acres of county-owned land for the museum's permanent home. The Freedom Museum focuses on American conflicts ("fights for freedom'') from the Spanish-American War through the Persian Gulf War, including the American War in Vietnam.

The supervisors' action, said the museum's Allan Cors, "fulfills a major part of our vision to create a living history center where people will experience real planes, real tanks, and real heroes.''

Jack Cunningham, who served with a Marine Combined Action Program in Vietnam in 1970-71, is heading up an effort to call attention to Hollywood films that misrepresent the American experience in the Vietnam War and stereotype Vietnam veterans. For info, go to www.CapVeterans.com 


Michael Takiff is interested in talking to fathers who served in World War II and their sons who served in the Vietnam War for an oral history book he is putting together. If you and your dad would like to help, contact Takiff at 160 W. 95th St., PH3, New York, NY 10025; 212-866-2738; or mtakiff@earthlink.net 

The creators of the proposed Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Garden in San Jose, California's, Kelley Park are looking for stories, photos, and information about women who served in the Vietnam War. The garden will contain a museum that will have an exhibit on women who served. If you want to help, contact Vicki Tindel at 408-345-8016 or E-mail vicki_tindel@am.exch.agilent.com 

Barbara Pedrotty would like to hear from Vietnam veterans who married South Vietnamese women while in country. She is doing research for a book and needs information about the red tape required to arrange such marriages. Contact Pedrotty at awritetime@aol.com 

High school teacher Jack Lykins, whose father served in the Vietnam War, is compiling a book of letters from Vietnam veterans. If you'd like to help, contact him at PO Box 847, Garrison, KY 41141, or E-mail jlykins12@yahoo.com  If you would like information about the design competition for the Navy Seabee Monument to be constructed in the Veterans Memorial Garden of Antelope Park in Lincoln, Nebraska, go to www.vetsresource.com/design.html 


E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org

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