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Apocalypse Redux: The hot Alka-Seltzer bath for the film


Apocalypse Redux: From simple idea to a complex afterthought
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And then Vittorio Storaro got involved, the cinematographer. And he said, 'Well, if you're going to do that, you're going through all that trouble, then we need to make a new way of storing the negative. And so we're going to use the Technicolour three-strip process which is the best way – and it is – of storing negatives, which is to make black and white negatives from the negative, tuned to three different colours: yellow, cyan, and magenta.' It's kind of like our three trichromatic eyes, yellow, blue and red. And so that added another layer of complexity. So from a relatively modest beginning... 'Can't we just take the French plantation and pull it off the shelf and put it on the film?' 'No.' 'Well, okay, if we can't do that, then we have to do this. And if we're doing that, then let's do this.' And the end result is that [Apocalypse] Redux is a pretty accurate, pretty close example of the screenplay that Francis went to the Philippines to shoot. There's a couple of small scenes left out, but... And the whole ending with Marlon Brando, Colonel Kurtz, that was not really in the screenplay at the time, that was heavily rewritten once Brando was on location. So in that case, there's a caveat there. But if you want to get a pretty good idea of what the screenplay looked like when Francis when to shoot the film, Apocalypse Redux is it. Is it therefore better or different than the 1979 version? It's certainly different, not fundamentally different. The hard question is: we're sending a spaceship to another planet, and there can be only one copy of Apocalypse Now, which copy will it be? I would probably go for the 1979 version, because it was made in the full heat of that original impulse to make the film. And we were very proud of it at the time, it was a big, long struggle. But there was nothing about that 1979 version that made us think, 'Well, wouldn't it be better if we...' So Redux is an afterthought, kind of a glorious afterthought, but it is thinking after the initial impulse of the film.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Redux

Duration: 2 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017