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Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection

Apocalypse Now (1979), Apocalypse Now Redux (2001),
The Conversation (1974),
One from the Heart (1982),
Tetro (2009)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

2.40:1 Widescreen, 1.78:1 Widescreen, 1.33:1 Fullscreen
All: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); Some: 2.0 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Some: French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: December 4, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50s) / Thick Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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In 1980, it must have seemed reasonable to include Francis Ford Coppola on even short lists of the greatest film directors who ever lived. Coppola had only recently turned 40, but boy, what a decade he just had. Shortly after graduating from Hofstra University in 1960 and directing a softcore skin flick, Coppola got his feet wet in the business under the tutelage of iconic schlock producer Roger Corman. Coppola was charged with Americanizing a Soviet sci-fi film and incorporating, at Corman's direction, monsters resembling genitals.
There was no glamor or glory, but Coppola had gotten his foot in the door and soon he was directing his own movies, at first for Corman (Dementia 13) and then for others, while attending UCLA's graduate film program on the side. Coppola's early films -- Finian's Rainbow adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name and his original drama The Rain People -- are mostly forgotten, but he was about to earn several places in cinema's history books.

Coppola's remarkable 1970s began with an adapted screenplay Oscar win for his work on the Best Picture winner Patton. Then, the promise and passion that Coppola had shown, along with his Italian-American heritage, helped him land the task of adapting and directing a bestselling crime novel by Mario Puzo. The Godfather won 1972's Best Picture and continues to be recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. Around the same time, Coppola produced the first feature films of his friend George Lucas, the sci-fi film THX-1138 and the Best Picture-nominated coming of age comedy American Graffiti. 1974 added two directing credits to Coppola's filmography: The Godfather Part II and The Conversation. Each received a Best Picture nomination, with Part II becoming the first sequel to win that highest honor.

Francis Ford Coppola sets the jungle on fire in the iconic opening shot of Vietnam War drama "Apocalypse Now."

The extraordinary success and impact didn't stop there. Coppola would spend the remainder of the '70s hard at work on what he hoped would be the definitive Vietnam War film. Initial reactions to Apocalypse Now were somewhat mixed, though the film was well represented at the Academy Awards. It has long since come to be recognized as another masterpiece, the culmination of a decade beyond comparison by any other individual filmmaker.

Sadly, it's been downhill from there and, really, how could it not be? Coppola's next film, 1982's One from the Heart, was a box office disaster that would force him to sell his studio. Motivated in part by debt, the director continued to keep busy, helming a new adaptation just about every year. Films like The Outsiders (1983) and The Cotton Club (1984) gained notice and accolades, but didn't always make money. Coppola rebounded some with the hit high school comedy Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), which helped elevate his nephew Nicolas Cage to stardom. Still, more flops came.

Going back to the well for 1990's The Godfather Part III brought him more decoration and modest profit, even if the film is considered by all to be the weak link in the trilogy. After that, Coppola became unpredictable, making such random movies as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Jack (the Robin Williams aging disorder comedy), and John Grisham's The Rainmaker. Since then, Coppola has been scarce. His three latest films played in fewer than twenty theaters (one of them skipping domestic release) and drew mixed reviews. Though he'll always remain a legend in the industry, he hardly seems to be a part of it anymore, staying more active as a winemaker than a director. These days, moviegoers conceivably could be more familiar with other branches of his far-reaching family tree, such as his daughter, Oscar-winning writer/director Sofia (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), his son Roman, an accomplished music video director and Wes Anderson co-writer likely to earn his first Oscar nomination for Moonrise Kingdom, his nephew Jason Schwartzman, an actor also known largely for his Anderson collaborations, and, of course, the always-working, oft-ridiculed Cage.

In "The Conversation", surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) fine-tunes the recordings of a couple's private conversation and labors over its meaning.

While all those relatives may be making more significant contributions to the film world today, none of them is likely to get his or her own box set anytime soon. Daddy/Uncle has, though, in this month's Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection, a 4-disc Blu-ray set from American Zoetrope's home video partner Lionsgate. Getting no participation from outside studios renders this an odd collection. You get two of Coppola's '70s masterpieces in Apocalypse Now and The Conversation.
You get two of Coppola's few 21st century efforts in the 2001 re-edit Apocalypse Now Redux and the low-budget black and white Buenos Aires drama Tetro. And you get the infamous One from the Heart, the film that ruined the director financially and some would argue creatively. All of this historic cinema arrives in high definition, One from the Heart for the first time, at a most reasonable list price of $39.99.

While it's not the definitive Blu-ray release of Apocalypse Now (which is available on its own in two and three-disc editions), the other three movies are as well-represented here as ever, their discs identical to those sold elsewhere, safely assuming that One from the Heart gets a standalone Blu-ray release in the near-future.

I requested this collection for review all the way back in late September, when my December schedule was empty, and never expected to receive it, this going through an agency that has often perplexingly ignored my coverage offers. Nonetheless, it arrived a full six days before street date, smack in the busiest holiday season I've ever seen as a critic both of film and discs. As a result, you're getting the succinct, speedy version of this review. I could write at great length about these movies, especially Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, which I have long adored. But in order to hang onto some of my sanity and keep this review reasonably timely, I'm going to be as brief as I can be and hope that the above biography and subsequent concise critiques give you enough both about Coppola and this collection.

Apocalypse Now (1979) movie poster Apocalypse Now / Apocalypse Now Redux

Theatrical Release: August 15, 1979 (original theatrical cut), August 3, 2001 (Redux) / Running Time: 147 Minutes (original theatrical cut), 196 Minutes (Redux) / Rating: R

Director: Francis Ford Coppola / Writers: John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay); Michael Herr (narration), Joseph Conrad (novel Heart of Darkness - uncredited)

Cast: Marlon Brando (Colonel Walter E. Kurtz), Martin Sheen (Captain Benjamin L. Willard), Robert Duvall (Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore), Frederic Forrest (Jay "Chef" Hicks), Sam Bottoms (Lance B. Johnson), Laurence Fishburne (Tyrone "Clean" Miller), Albert Hall (Chief Phillips), Harrison Ford (Colonel "Luke" Lucas), Dennis Hopper (Photojournalist), G.D. Spradlin (General Corman), Jerry Ziesmer (Jerry), Scott Glenn (Lieutenant Richard M. Colby)
Apocalypse Now Redux (2001) movie poster

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Coppola famously told reporters at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, "My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam." And though that appears to be a textbook case of a director's ego growing too large, there is a bit of truth to the statement. Apocalypse Now operates on a different plane than any other war movie I've seen. Rather than come back down to Earth after making his masterful first two Godfather movies, Coppola chose to stay in the clouds and make one other film for the ages.
Apocalypse is more legend than feature film, in everything from its disaster-plagued 17-month shoot in the Philippines to its ambitious use of the conflict in Vietnam to examine the human soul.

Coppola and co-writer John Milius update Joseph Conrad's turn-of-the-century novel Heart of Darkness to tell the story of Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), an Army special ops veteran whose existence has been fundamentally altered by his Vietnam experiences. Longing to get back to the jungle, Willard gets his chance when he is assigned a top secret mission to find and, with extreme prejudice, terminate Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando in perhaps the most built-up role in film history), a decorated American colonel who seems to have lost his mind and is living like a god in Cambodia. Willard takes a long, dangerous boat ride with an eclectic group of four soldiers: the tightly-wound New Orleans saucier Chef (Frederic Forrest), famous California surfer Lance Johnson (Sam Bottoms), the young Mr. Clean (Laurence Fishburne), and no-nonsense skipper Chief (Albert Hall).

Horrors far worse than a scratched cheek await Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) on his top secret mission. Robert Duvall received a Supporting Actor nomination for his turn as unflinching surfing enthusiast Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore.

The film creates and sustains this timeless otherworldly atmosphere, which every once in a while is undercut by something that identifies the period in question, like The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and a USO show featuring Playboy bunnies. Though the Vietnam War is an integral part of the story, that setting is almost just a metaphor for hell as the film plunges into the depths of darkness, this unusual mission ominously looming over the proceedings and fueling Willard's stark narration. Some viewers may find Apocalypse easy to write off as disturbing, trippy, or uneven, but it is as deep, meaningful, arresting, poetic, and haunting as any piece of cinema.

Robert Duvall received a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his turn as the fearless surfing enthusiast Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore, but his is one of many tremendous and indelible performances. Another is given by Dennis Hopper as the chatty philosophizing photojournalist living in Kurtz's camp. In the lead role, Martin Sheen is at his best as well.

This is a film that gets better with every viewing you are compelled to give it. While its uncompromised vision isn't always easy to swallow, very few films rival this one in impact, relevance, and cinematic scope.

Via seamless branching, the original theatrical cut shares its Blu-ray with Apocalypse Now Redux, an extended cut that provided the welcome opportunity to catch this masterpiece on the big screen in 2001, but one that clearly pales in comparison to the theatrical cut to which it adds 49 minutes. The most substantial addition is a scene set on a ghostly French plantation in which Willard and his traveling companions get to talk politics and history with a family. There are also various odds and ends, which are obviously interesting to see, but which do not strengthen the film as a whole. Including this in the collection's 5-film count is a bit of a cheat, especially since this edit has primarily sold as a bonus feature to the theatrical cut since its home video debut eleven years ago.

The Conversation (1974) movie poster The Conversation

Theatrical Release: April 7, 1974 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Gene Hackman (Harry N. Caul), John Cazale (Stanley Ross), Allen Garfield (William Bernie Moran), Frederic Forrest (Mark), Cindy Williams (Ann), Michael Higgins (Paul), Elizabeth MacRae (Meredith), Teri Garr (Amy), Harrison Ford (Martin Stett), Mark Wheeler (Receptionist), Robert Shields (The Mime), Phoebe Alexander (Lurleen)

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The Conversation isn't as well-known or frequently recognized as Apocalypse and The Godfather movies, but it definitely ranks among the best of Coppola and of the 1970s, a decade it embodies in a way that those other period films do not. One of Coppola's rare original works, this thriller stars Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a private San Francisco surveillance technician declared "the best bugger on the West Coast."

Harry is an expert wiretapper and stealth recorder who lives by a firm moral code. Working with a small but efficient team (John Cazale, The Godfather's Fredo whose '70s success closely resembled Coppola's, and Michael Higgins), Harry gets the tapes he's asked to in the best quality possible and doesn't ask questions or worry about the potentially lethal consequences of his efforts.

The film opens around 1 PM on December 2nd, Harry's 44th birthday. He and his associates are fixed on Union Square, a plaza in the heart of the city that is bustling with holiday shoppers and the lunch hour crowd. Using top of the line technology, they capture a conversation between a man (Frederic Forrest) and a woman (Cindy Williams, soon to be Shirley on "Laverne & Shirley") seemingly engaged in an affair. This one encounter pervades the film as Harry utilizes his three sources to create the clearest recording to present to the client.

Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest play the adulterous San Francisco couple whose confidential lunch hour conversation pervades "The Conversation." From a bathroom floor, skilled bugger Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) eavesdrops on the hotel room next door.

A loner who overvalues his privacy, Harry becomes gripped by guilt, paranoia, and fear about this recording, haunted in particular by the line "He'd kill us if he got the chance." We share the perspective of this fascinating protagonist who is fitted with some easily noticed symbolism (his last name, his translucent raincoat) and devout Catholicism. We fear both for his safety and the safety of those seemingly harmless strangers who may now be in danger.

This suspenseful Hitchcockian mystery relies as heavily on technique as any Coppola film. The Conversation makes extraordinary use of picture, editing, and, most of all, sound. The last of those presented the most mind-boggling of the film's three Oscar losses at the hands of the Charlton Heston-headed disaster movie Earthquake. Silent for long stretches save for an entrancing simple piano score by David Shire, this is supremely arresting cinema that demonstrates that it wasn't just the compelling material of The Godfather that made Coppola so effective in the 1970s.

Tetro (2009) movie poster Tetro

Theatrical Release: June 11, 2009 / Running Time: 127 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Vincent Gallo (Tetro/Angelo Tetrocini), Alden Ehrenreich (Bennie Tetrocini), Maribel Verdú (Miranda), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Carlo Tetrocini, Alfie Tetrocini), Carmen Maura (Alone), Rodrigo De la Serna (José), Leticia Brédice (Josefina), Mike Amigorena (Abelardo Vaca Castex), Sofía Gala Castiglione (María Luisa), Érica Rivas (Ana), Francesca De Sapio (Amalia)

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The best-regarded of the three most recent efforts Coppola considers his "student films", the predominantly black and white drama Tetro reunites a pair of estranged American siblings in Buenos Aires. Nearly 18-year-old Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) has run away from military school and gotten a job as a waiter on a cruise ship. When engine problems ground the ship and give Bennie a few days off, he uses them to drop in on Angelo, the older brother he has always looked up to. Angelo is now going by the name Tetro (Vincent Gallo) and is in no mood to answer questions about why he ran away and has never made good on his promise to come back for Bennie.

In Buenos Aires, a young man (Alden Ehrenreich) reunites with "Tetro" (Vincent Gallo), the estranged big brother he's always looked up to.

Tetro has reinvented himself in Argentina. No one knows that he is the son of a revered classical composer (Klaus Maria Brandauer). He practically has a wife in his loving girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verdú) and he has friends, from a local cafe owner to people in theatre, where Tetro likes to operate the spotlight. Tetro has long ago set aside his writing ambitions, but Bennie stumbles upon his unfinished manuscript (paranoiacally written in a code and in reverse by handheld mirror), a thinly-veiled account of the relationship of their egotistical father and his older brother. Bennie transcribes Tetro's story, writes the ending it needs, and submits it to a festival run by "Alone" (Carmen Maura), "the most important critic in all of South America."

A number of interesting motifs run throughout Tetro. For instance, there are color flashbacks of the family tragedy and upbringing that have made the title character the wounded, guarded soul he is today. Coppola credits the verse "Fausta" by Argentine playwright Mauricio Kartun, a seemingly obscure work that apparently has meaning to the director, who stages an unflattering, outlandish version of that within. It is a curious film with good performances, a lot of substance and style, and a final act twist. It doesn't all add up to something satisfying but it has enough going for it not to warrant the hasty dismissal that some of Coppola's other recent movies have.

One from the Heart (1982) movie poster One from the Heart

Theatrical Release: February 12, 1982 / Running Time: 99 Minutes (2003 restoration) / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Frederic Forrest (Hank), Teri Garr (Frannie), Raul Julia (Ray), Nastassja Kinski (Leila), Lainie Kazan (Maggie Levine), Harry Dean Stanton (Moe), Allen Garfield (Restaurant Owner), Jeff Hamlin (Airline Ticket Agent), Italia Coppola (Couple in Elevator), Carmine Coppola (Couple in Elevator)

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Still riding high and somehow undeterred by the challenges of Apocalypse Now, Coppola poured himself into his next film, 1982's One from the Heart. This musical romance boasts much more ambition than commercial savvy. It cost $27 million then, the equivalent of over $60 million today, and featured no major movie stars or real hook. Losing money was inevitable, but opening on Valentine's Day Weekend in just 41 theaters, the results had to be more costly than Coppola could have imagined. Coppola would pull the film after earning just $636,796, making it one of the biggest flops of its time. The film's artistic reputation is far more respectable than that reception suggests.

The movie opens on the Third of July, the eve of the fifth anniversary of the day that Hank (Frederic Forrest) and Frannie (Teri Garr) first met. The unmarried two give each other presents: mechanic Hank offers the deed to the home they share, while travel agent Frannie gives them tickets to Bora Bora. The Las Vegas couple's bliss proves to be short-lived, though, as barbs about his egg physique and her unshaven legs as well as bidirectional accusations of infidelity fly, causing the two to "bust up." They each leave home to stay with their respective friends: Hank with skeevy, permed ladies' man Moe (a memorable Harry Dean Stanton) and Frannie with her co-worker Maggie (Lainie Kazan).

"One from the Heart" looks at the problems of cohabitating couple Frannie (Teri Garr) and Hank (Frederic Forrest). Suave Ray (Raul Julia) hands Frannie (Teri Garr) a matchbook to the club where he is a singer/pianist/waiter.

The parallels continue, with each swiftly picking up a sultry new love interest. Frannie finds the suave Ray (Raul Julia), who is more of a waiter than the singer/pianist he claims to be. Hank connects with Leila (Nastassja Kinski), an exotic circus tightrope walker. As things heat up between the new two couples, a remorseful Hank still pines for Frannie and wants to give them another shot. The film plays out with prominent non-diegetic original songs written by Tom Waits and performed by Waits and Crystal Gayle advancing the story.

It's easy to see where all that money went. For one thing, rather than the hassle of trying to shoot on location in Sin City, Coppola and his crew built their own Las Vegas, a glitzy setting that sometimes serves as mere backdrop and other times is pushed to the foreground. Though the film's first end credit proudly proclaims "Filmed entirely on Zoetrope Studios" as if revealing you to be the victim of an elaborate hoax, you needn't be a Nevadan native or frequenter to spot the unreality of the setting. That seems deliberate, as these artificial sets are designed to free the filmmaker in ways that the real tourist attraction would not.

Teri Garr puts her background in dance to use in a big dance number set on the bright lights of Coppola's Las Vegas. As circus tightrope artist Leila, Nastassja Kinski puts on a little show for Hank (Frederic Forrest) in the junkyard where he works.

Coppola makes impressive use of space, utilizing lights and reflections, nimbly weaving in and out of places, and relying on in-camera effects and spatial transitions instead of easy and logical cuts. The film resembles theatre in some ways and there are even credited understudies (including Rebecca De Mornay, in her film debut just prior to her Risky Business breakthrough).
At the same time, Coppola clearly knows his medium and seizes every opportunity to find challenging new ways of expression. The technique elevates a love story that is sturdy if not all that original.

A quick study of box office trends could have spared Coppola having to sell his 23-acre studio the following year and, after years of trying to pay off debts with commercially-minded movies, declaring bankruptcy in 1990. But it was Coppola's decision to trust his proven instincts and make this movie this way. It's unfortunate that, with the possible exception of The Godfather Part III, he's never been able to be both as ambitious and personal again, his subsequent movies either being adaptations of well-known works or those little "student films" that no one much seems to notice.

The movie was apparently re-edited from its original 107-minute runtime to 99 minutes in 2003 and that, which both gains new scenes and abbreviates existing ones, is the only cut presented on this Blu-ray.

Continue to Page 2 >>
Video & Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed December 16, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1974-2012 American Zoetrope and Lionsgate, 1979 MGM, 1974 Paramount & Directors Company, 1982 Columia Pictures,
and 2001 Paramount Pictures. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.