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Patton (1970) and Apocalypse Now1 (1979) bookend the decade of the 1970s with two very different pictures of the American military at war. The first, a studio epic from Twentieth Century-Fox, gives a portrait of an eccentric general within a generally positive view of the U.S. Army in World War II. The second, made independently and at great expense by director Francis Coppola (though with financial backing—mainly loans—from United Artists), presents a complex and far more negative portrayal of the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Although the films explicitly address different wars, and this is important, they are also about contemporaneous issues of war and foreign policy. From this standpoint, both films could be seen as commenting on the Vietnam War. Patton is a film from the period when the Vietnam War could be addressed only indirectly in American cinema. (The Green Berets, made in 1968, is an interesting exception to the "rule.") Auster and Quart call this period "The War That Dared Not Speak Its Name.''2 Apocalypse Now, on the other hand, is one of the first films to directly confront the American experience in Vietnam. If Apocalypse Now is to some extent confused, this may be because it tries to fit into one film all that had been left out for more than a decade.

Francis Coppola had major creative roles in both films. He was co-screenwriter of Patton, with Edward North; both writers won Academy Awards for their efforts. He was co-screenwriter, director, and producer of Apocalypse Now, and therefore had a much broader influence on this later film. Although Coppola's creative personality certainly had an effect on the two films, my essay purposely does not treat him as an auteur. Instead, it will analyze the representation of the military, and the military hero, in relation to issues of history, of sources, and of collective authorship, for both films.

A key point to consider is the relation of fiction and nonfiction in both films. Patton is a Hollywood biography, a selective, scripted, acted retelling of a historical figure's life. Apocalypse Now is at first glance all fiction, a transposition of Conrad's Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam War. But Apocalypse Now is based on nonfiction sources as well, including Michael Herr's Dispatches and news reports on the case of Colonel Robert Rheault. Col. Rheault, commanding the U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam, was arrested in 1969 for the murder of a Vietnamese agent. The ensuing news coverage suggested that the Special Forces were involved in both espionage and guerilla warfare in Vietnam and neighboring countries, with very little centralized oversight or control. Colonel Rheault is one of the sources for the film's Colonel Kurtz. So, both Patton and Apocalypse Now are mixtures of the fictional and the real. Patton leans towards docudrama, whereas Apocalypse Now is more symbolic and allusive in its construction.

Patton has usually been discussed as a film with a dual meaning. It can be construed as patriotic, pro-Army, pro-war—presenting Patton as a hero. Or it can be interpreted as antipatriotic, antimilitary, antiwar—presenting Patton as a knave, fool, or psychotic. The film appealed to both pro-war and antiwar audiences in 1970, quite a trick given the polarization of the United States at that moment of the Vietnam War. My view is that the film is primarily a pro-war piece, a portrait of an unorthodox military hero. This is the perspective of the film's major source, Ladislas Farago's biography Patton: Ordeal and Triumph.3 However, the points of view of the film's main collaborators are interestingly mixed. Also, in the charged atmosphere of 1970, the film's presentation of Patton's eccentricities could be interpreted as criticism of the military in general.

Vincent Canby, the influential critic of the New York Times, makes the point that Patton is primarily the creative product of its sponsoring studio, Twentieth Century-Fox. Canby notes that Darryl Zanuck, longtime production chief of Fox, ''always has had a soft spot for the military ... and Fox has often had military brass on its board of directors.''4 This orientation explains the presence of Frank McCarthy, producer of Patton, as an executive at Fox. McCarthy, a high-ranking staff officer in the U.S. Army during World War II, joined Fox as an administrator in 1949. He proposed Patton, with himself as producer, to Zanuck in 1951 but had to wait many years to make the film because of opposition from the Patton family. McCarthy, who knew Patton, told Mel Gussow that he wanted ''a balanced script.''5 He added in a press release that Patton ''was pious and profane, brutal and kind—and we show him with all his faults as well as his virtues.''6 But the film limits its criticism to individual eccentricities, singling out Patton and, to a lesser extent, the British General Montgomery. Unlike Farago's book, it never critiques the top U.S. commanders in Europe, Bradley and Eisenhower. Nor does it explicitly question the goals or means of the military enterprise in general—though hints of such a questioning might be teased out of the portrait of Patton.

If Zanuck and McCarthy are the pro-military hawks behind Patton, then Coppola and George C. Scott (who plays Patton) are the closest to being antimilitary doves. Coppola was at the very beginning of his career when he made Patton; he had worked on some Roger Corman pictures but had no reputation in big-budget Hollywood films. Patton was unfamiliar to him (he was too young), but he quickly figured out the parameters of what was required. In 1972, perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, Coppola had this to say about the Patton project: ''Wait a minute, this guy was obviously nuts. If they want to make a film glorifying him as a great American hero, it will be laughed at. And if I write a film that condemns him, it won't be made at all.''7

Coppola's solution was to write a script that allowed audiences to choose whether to empathize with Patton or to reject him. The film he imagined would be something like a Rorschach test, with audiences finding their own ideas within the pattern. Coppola notes that in the process of production his view of Patton's eccentricity was toned down: ''They made it a more conventional war movie.''8

When Francis Coppola wrote the script for Patton in 1965, he was a young writer with no defined political position. George C. Scott, on the other hand, when he acted the role of General Patton, was a major star used to speaking his mind on political issues. Scott's attitude on the Vietnam War had significantly changed from 1965, when he visited South Vietnam and wrote an Esquire article strongly backing the American war effort, to 1970, when he called the war an obscenity.9 Speaking of Patton, however, he said that World War II was a war we had to fight, and that Patton was a complicated man who was respected by his troops.10 Scott insisted that the producers go back to Coppola's script, with its ambivalent treatment of Patton, but his strong support and feeling for the American fighting man put him close to McCarthy and Zanuck. Scott saw the role of Patton as neither a caricature nor an ideological symbol. Scott summarizes the character as follows: ''Patton was a mean sonofabitch, but he was also generous to his men . . . There are still things about him I hate and things I admire—which makes him a human being, I guess.''11 By understanding Patton as a flawed but in some ways admirable character, Scott established common ground with his producer, McCarthy. And by insisting on his prerogatives as star, Scott ensured that the film would focus on Patton's sometimes bizarre behavior rather than reverting to a Zanuck war movie.

Despite the auteur theory's emphasis on directors, Franklin Schaffner's contribution to Patton is difficult to ''read.'' Schaffner, an up-and-coming director with Planet of the Apes (1968) his most recent work, did not have a clear and easily legible connection to General Patton (unlike producer McCarthy, for example). Schaffner seems to have been mainly interested in two things: Patton as a unique character, and the logistical challenges of making a war movie. Schaffner told interviewer Jack Hirschberg that ''The intent here was simply to study the character of an enormously controversial, enormously anti-establishment, enormously provocative, enormously skillful professional.'' Schaffner added that Patton's particular profession, military officer, was ''unimportant.''12 From what we see on screen, we can attribute to Schaffner a very good control of the large-scale war sequences and of more intimate moments. In many scenes, we view both the broad panorama of war (e.g., tanks advancing, planes strafing) and Patton's individual role of encouraging his men, planning a next move, etc. In controlling the mise-en-scene and moving along the action, Schaffner's direction is exemplary. Beyond this, he, like Scott, refrained from obvious editorializing.

It is important to remember that the starting point of Patton is Ladislas Farago's book, and not the overwhelming complexity of history itself. Farago's book has already created a narrative, eliminated inconvenient episodes and observations, and composed a portrait of Patton the man. The film does a remarkable job of condensing Farago's 800-page book into three hours of screen time (approximately 180 script pages), but two points must be stressed:

1. The book is by no means a complete, omniscient, or objective account of Patton's participation in World War II. It is one view of General Patton.

2. The film has no choice but to deviate from the book, for both negative and positive reasons. Negatively, the narrative must be shortened, and therefore characters disappear, incidents are combined, and complex motivations are simplified. Positively, the filmmakers have their own ideas on Patton, in at least one case (McCarthy) based on personal experience, and therefore do not slavishly reproduce Farago's attitudes.

Let us briefly look at both points. First of all, Farago himself has a position on Patton. He finds him to be flawed, sometimes childlike, a prima donna, and yet an exceptionally gifted commander. Farago can be ironic in talking about Patton; speaking of the general's emotional tendencies, he mentions at one point that Patton was ''all aflutter.''13 Farago documents Patton's vanity, his willingness to ignore or flout orders, and the episodes (more than one) when he slapped shell-shocked soldiers. But Farago also finds Patton to be a wonderful tactician and strategist, an astute student of military history, a tough and charismatic leader. He suggests that Patton, though a flawed man, was crucial to the Allied war effort, and supports the efforts of his superiors (Bradley, Eisenhower, Marshall, Roosevelt) to utilize and control him.

The film's first choice in adapting Farago is to limit the time period to Patton's campaigns in World War II (1943-1945). The film begins with a scene of Patton addressing his troops at an unspecified time and place; the scene actually took place in France in 1944. Then the action moves to Patton landing in Tunisia in 1943, and from this point the story is strictly chronological. By skipping over General Patton's early life, though, the film

Sergeant George Meeks

Patton twentieth century-fox.

General Patton (George C. Scott) and his orderly/valet Sergeant William Meeks (James Edwards). Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art/Film Stills Archive.

Patton twentieth century-fox.

General Patton (George C. Scott) and his orderly/valet Sergeant William Meeks (James Edwards). Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art/Film Stills Archive.

avoids comment on Patton's social class. He was born into a wealthy California family and married into an even wealthier family. He lived in luxury in his various Army postings, renting big houses, keeping strings of polo ponies, etc. He was therefore different in social class not only from the Army enlisted men, but also from the officers (including his superiors). The film suggests Patton's social class only via a few details—his taste for luxury, his orderly/valet, his knowledge of French. But social class may be a key to understanding Patton's position as ''prima donna'' within the U.S. Army— for example, he had excellent access to politicians and the news media, but not always the support of these same groups. Social class might also explain Patton's sympathy in 1945 for the Germans rather than the Russians.

The film also necessarily omits the discussions of strategy and chain of command in the book. The Allied Command, for Farago, is a multilevel negotiation between American and British leaders. Patton's wartime career is contextualized in terms of both administrative structures and the attitudes of such Allied leaders as Bradley, Eisenhower, Marshall, Roosevelt, Montgomery, and Alexander. A Hollywood feature film simply cannot provide this depth of background information, and so the film Patton presents only Bradley (friend, then superior), Montgomery (rival within the Allied camp), Bedell Smith (aide to Eisenhower), and Eisenhower (the big boss, unseen) to give context to Patton's activities.

Despite these limitations, historian Paul Fussell comments that the film biography of General Patton ''depicts his public behavior during those months [February 1943 to October 1945] with remarkable fidelity.''14 We see Patton's major campaigns, North Africa, Sicily and France; we observe him interacting with his staff, with Gen. Bradley, with soldiers in the field; we listen to his plans, hopes, and frustrations. We observe the man's erudition and his short fuse, his personal bravery and his intolerance for shell-shock, which he perceived as cowardice. History here becomes smoothed out, becomes dominated by narrative and character, but a good deal of Pat-ton's war does make it to the screen.

The most striking and provocative scene in Patton is the first one, the long speech which Patton makes in front of an American flag. In the film's original release, this was set up as follows: first there is a two-minute overture with the flag filling the screen. Then Patton steps out, very small, in front of a corner of the huge flag. Then, in close up, he harangues an unseen audience which becomes simultaneously the troops under his command and the movie audience of 1970 and later years. This frontal approach to the audience asks us, in a very direct way, ''What do you think of this general? What do you think of his profane but powerful oratory? How do you respond when he tells you not only to kill the enemy but to 'rip his guts out'?'' Then the rest of the film allows us to test and refine our first impression, as we learn more about the character.

The mise-en-scene of this first scene is certainly powerful. An American flag filling the screen: in the America of 1970 this is an emotional but also controversial image. Is it an outsized appeal to patriotism? Or is it a piece of modern art, a deconstructed symbol? Vincent Canby says that the flag is

The first scene of Patton twentieth century-fox. General Patton (George C. Scott) addresses his troops. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art /Film Stills Archive.

''pure Rauschenberg'' (perhaps Jasper Johns would be the better reference), and he compares it to Op art. He also writes, ''The opening of the film . . . comes very close to being conscious Camp.''15 Stanley Kauffmann, on the other hand, reports on viewing Patton with an audience. To the filmgoers, the flag was an uncomplicated symbol of patriotism and traditional values: ''The very first shot is an American flag in vivid color filling the wide, wide screen. . . . Then out steps General Patton, minute against the immense banner, and I felt the audience lunge toward him with relief. Everything was all right again, the old values were safe.''16 For Kauffmann, Patton is a wellmade appeal to the group President Nixon labeled the ''Silent Majority.'' Given the two very different responses to the opening of Patton, and

Francis Coppola's description of deliberately seeking ambivalence in the screenplay, it may be imprudent to describe a univalent meaning to the film. However, I do think that this film favors one of the two directions. If Patton starts and ends in ambivalence, the body of the film stresses the narrative and physical movement of Patton's campaigns. Many factors—narrative, historical, symbolic, physiological—support our involvement with the momentum of the film. This momentum, which might also be called the film's narrative pleasure, can be stopped short by a distancing moment (e.g., Patton's slapping of the soldier), but it remains the dominant factor structuring the audience's attention. Therefore, unless the viewer comes into the movie with an unusual agenda (different from the entertainment-based agenda of Hollywood), most of Patton will be seen as a fairly conventional war movie. Though the choice and framing of the subject reflect to some degree the bitter controversies about Vietnam in 1970, the film Patton still maintains a close linkage with the consensus-building World War II movie.

Another strategy inflecting the movie toward Patton-as-hero is the development of a good-bad guy protagonist with no serious rivals. This is a familiar device of the 1960s and 1970s, which leads to identification with characters of doubtful morality. In Bonnie and Clyde, the spectator identifies with the title characters for multiple reasons: they are young and beautiful; they are robbing socially "bad" institutions; the chief lawman is a nasty character; they are played by movie stars; they are the on-camera centers of attraction. There is room to doubt the main characters (is Clyde really justified in shooting the bank employee?), but in general the film sympathizes with the good-bad guys. Patton employs strategies quite similar to those of Bonnie and Clyde. General Patton is the focus of identification because he is the only character available for audience sympathy. We experience what he experiences, we share his hopes and dreams, and we really have no alternatives for emotional investment. Montgomery is seen as foreign and strange, Bradley is bland and undeveloped, the Germans are on-screen just to show their respect for Patton. Occasionally, a distance develops in the spectator-Patton relationship, but overall the film narrative privileges Patton's subject position and encourages identification.

Paul Fussell, noting this tendency in the film, says that he would prefer a more complex, perhaps multiple-perspectived view of Patton. Such a view might show Patton as a dangerously out-of-control individual, instead of the eccentric-but-brilliant leader of myth. Fussell points to derogatory comments toward Eisenhower and King George VI, plus a disastrous plan to save his son-in-law from a Nazi prison camp, plus a battlefield affair with his niece as evidence of Patton's unreliable behavior. Fussell adds that ''there are other real moments that the film wouldn't think of including, such as the sotto voce remark of one disgruntled junior officer to another after being forced to listen to a vainglorious Patton harangue: 'What an asshole!' That would constitute an interesting historic moment. I know it took place because I was the one who said it.''17 In this last passage, Fussell is advocating something like a postmodern history which allows for several conflicting interpretations of historical data.18 His anecdote also suggests that the soldiers and officers under Patton's command were not passive vessels of the general's greatness; they were individuals with feelings and motivations of their own. A movie about General Patton could incorporate multiple perspectives, including, for example, a junior officer's point of view. This approach might demystify the figure of ''the Great Man'' Patton while enhancing our understanding of the U.S. war effort during World War II.

Apocalypse Now, which began filming in 1976, was planned as a large-scale, epic production which would break the Hollywood fiction film's silence on the war in Vietnam. Production assistance from the Defense Department was not forthcoming, so the film was made in the Philippines, with helicopters and other equipment borrowed from the U.S.-equipped Philippine armed forces. The Philippine setting and the production's logistical problems led to numerous delays; the troubled production is chronicled in Eleanor Coppola's book Notes and the feature-length documentary Hearts of Darkness. When Apocalypse Now was released in 1979 it was not the first of the postwar Hollywood films on Vietnam; The Deer Hunter and Coming Home had already received considerable praise. However, Apocalypse Now was the broadest and most ambitious Hollywood film on Vietnam made in the 1970s.

Apocalypse Now uses Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a way to understand the United States participation in Vietnam. The novella is clearly marked by British colonialism and has been criticized for this perspective. However, it comes quite late in the colonial period and is cynical about the motivations and morality of the colonists. Although it takes an ethnocentric point of view (as do American novels and films about Vietnam), the darkness it ultimately finds is in the hearts of the colonists. The experience of the African wilderness reveals something about the Europeans, who turn out to be at least as savage and primitive as the indigenous inhabitants of the Congo. This theme from the novella is taken up by the film, which shows from various standpoints the overwhelming carnage and irrationality of war. It concludes with the erratic and savage conduct of Special Forces Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has supposedly gone crazy in his Cambodian fort. As in Heart of Darkness, Kurtz in Apocalypse Now dies in conditions of squalid horror.

The basic narrative pattern of the film is also taken from Heart of Darkness. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) travels upriver on a PT boat to confront and possibly assassinate Colonel Kurtz. The film begins in the "civilized" areas of Saigon and Nha Trang and then moves on a river journey through territory controlled (more or less) by American troops. As in Heart of Darkness, the trip upriver leads to progressively stranger and more dangerous experiences. The danger in Apocalypse Now comes first from the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, but also from other sources. The Americans themselves behave with irrational violence, for example when the crew of the boat attacks a Vietnamese sampan. Nature becomes an unfathomable danger, notably when Willard and Chef (Frederick Forrest) go to pick mangoes and confront a tiger. Eventually, the boat arrives in a more primitive environment, where the inhabitants attack with arrows and spears. When Willard and the boat crew get to Kurtz's compound, a ruined temple complex decorated by severed Viet Cong heads, this primitive atavism is in full force. The river trip is a descent into a savage past, a loosening of all civilized restraints.

The journey into the interior, while tied to Heart of Darkness, also provides the opportunity for an original fresco of the Vietnam War. Here we see several important scenes. Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) attacks a Vietnamese village so that a group of Californians can surf on "Charlie's point.'' Playboy bunnies descend from a helicopter to give a USO show, only to retreat hastily from a near-riot among the spectators. American soldiers fight Charlie every night at the Do Lung bridge, and Willard learns that (I paraphrase) ''No one is in command.'' The crew of the PT boat boogie upriver to ''I Can't Get No Satisfaction'' and other rock and roll tunes. These and other scenes suggest that the Americans bring their culture with them, and they cannot escape that culture to interact in a meaningful way with Vietnam. Pierre Schoendorffer made the same point in his Vietnam War documentary The Anderson Platoon (1967), saying, "I went back to discover the Vietnam I had left thirteen years before, with the French Army. ... I discovered, above all, America.''

As an adaptation of Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is a heavily symbolic film, lacking point-to-point correspondence with events of the Vietnam War. However, a second key intertext of the film, the so-called ''Green Beret murder case'' of 1969, offers a closer link between events and issues in the Vietnam War and the film narrative. In this murder investigation, much reported in the summer and fall of 1969 but now more or less forgotten,19 seven Green Beret officers and one sergeant were accused of killing a Vietnamese agent, whom they suspected of being a double, or even a triple, agent. The accused included Col. Robert B. Rheault, head of the U.S. Army Special Forces in South Vietnam, and several officers specializing in intelligence. The case drew a great deal of attention in the American press, because it offered a window on aspects of the Vietnam War which were normally considered secret: unconventional warfare, espionage, the Phoenix Program, operations in Cambodia, links between the CIA and the military. The Green Berets contended that the elimination of enemy agents was standard procedure in this war, and that they were being railroaded by the commanding generals in Vietnam, as well as by the CIA.20 The press speculated on a power struggle between the Special Forces, the Army top command, and the CIA, aimed at reducing the power and autonomy of the Special Forces.

The Special Forces (''Green Berets'' is a nickname) had come to Vietnam in the early 1960s as advisors to the South Vietnamese. They organized large local forces (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups) in the mountains and frontier regions of South Vietnam, depending primarily on Montagnard troops. According to Shelby L. Stanton, ''the Montagnards were fundamentally village-level aborigines scattered in more than a hundred different tribes that relied on hunting or slash-and-burn farming.''21 They had been driven from the most fertile areas of the country by the ethnic Vietnamese. The Montagnards hated the Vietnamese (of whatever political or ideological stripe) and therefore made alliances first with the French, then with the Americans. The Special Forces-led Montagnard troops had considerable success in gathering information, disrupting North Vietnamese supply lines, and even contesting territory that would otherwise have been ceded to the enemy.

Apocalypse Now has been criticized for inventing its picture of primitive tribesmen and Americans reverting to primitivism, but a good deal of this material comes from the actual experiences of the Special Forces organizing Montagnard soldiers. Stanton comments on the Special Forces-Montagnard relationship as follows: ''The Special Forces found the Montagnard aborigines incredibly simplistic and superstitious. To gain their allegiance, the Special Forces soldiers carefully learned tribal customs and studied the local dialects, ate the tribal food, endured the cold, mixed indigenous garb with their uniforms, and participated in rituals and ceremonies. . . . Montagnards accepted only those who shared their lifestyles and dangers.''22 The savagery of the Cambodian camp is wildly exaggerated, drawing on Heart of Darkness plus the imaginations of the filmmakers, but it does have some basis in the encounter between Special Forces and Montagnards. For example, the sacrifice of the water buffalo, filmed with the Ifugao people of the Philippines, is not an arbitrary invention. It is analogous to an important ritual of the Montagnards.23

The imprint of the Green Beret murder case on Apocalypse Now is strongly visible in an early draft of the screenplay by John Milius.24 In this draft, Captain Willard is summoned to meet with three unnamed Army officers at an Intelligence headquarters near Nha Trang. Here he is given the assignment to find and kill Captain (not Colonel) Kurtz. Unlike the way this scene plays in the finished film, much of the discussion revolves around Colonel Rheult (the name is misspelled) and the Green Beret case. Willard's interlocutors say things like ''This Green Beret thing has gotten out of hand'' (16) and ''We are discrediting Special Forces. That's the nature of the case against Rheult'' (18). The scene ends, in the script draft as in the film, with Willard being instructed to ''Terminate with extreme prejudice.'' This evocative phrase first came to public attention during the Green Beret murder case.25

In the Milius script draft, Willard next goes to visit Col. Rheult in the Long Binh Jail. Willard justifies his visit in a voice-over: ''He was an impressive officer, Rheult. He was different from the others. I would have to kill a man just like him'' (25). Rheult says that Kurtz is ''a great officer — an excep tional officer." He asks if Willard is "trying to frame Kurtz, too?'' (27). The parallelism is clear: Kurtz is like Rheult [sic], Rheult is like Kurtz, both are rebels from the military establishment. The link is made one more time in the Milius draft when a letter from Mrs. Kurtz to Kurtz makes prominent mention of "Bob" (Rheult) (82-83).

Milius began writing the script for Apocalypse Now in 1969.26 He probably took material about the Special Forces and the murder case directly from the headlines of the day. He started from the press's somewhat romantic view of a very independent Special Forces role in Vietnam and embroidered it into the story of a renegade officer and his loyal, even reverential, Montagnards. In addition to the broad story outline, some very specific details of Apocalypse Now may stem from press coverage of the Green Beret case. For example, the packet of biographical information about Kurtz, including a variety of photos, may be based on the photo essay in Life about Col. Rheault.27

In the finished film, all references to Col. Rheult or Rheault have been dropped, but parallels to the Green Beret case remain. In the Nha Trang office where Willard is summoned, an unnamed general tells him that Walt Kurtz was a brilliant officer, but when he joined the Special Forces "his ideas . . . methods . . . became . . . unsound.'' The general mentions that Kurtz was about to be tried for the murder of Vietnamese agents when he disappeared into Cambodia with his worshipful Montagnards. The general continues: "He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct.'' The Kurtz of Heart of Darkness, who is tempted by greed and power to behave without restraint, has been conflated with the circumstances of the Green Beret murder case. The meeting in Nha Trang, which now involves two army officers and one civilian (presumably CIA), is still a representation of the Army-CIA-Special Forces tension. And the scene still ends with the phrase "Terminate with extreme prejudice.'' It is now uttered melodramatically by the CIA man, who says nothing else in the meeting.

Aside from the conflict between regular army and unconventional warfare, a second influence of the Green Beret murder case on the film concerns the morality of murder in wartime. Is it moral to kill Kurtz without a trial? Does his conduct in the field forfeit a right to fair treatment? How does one judge the barbarous behavior of Kurtz in a war marked by many kinds

Apocalypse Now united artists.

Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) welcomes Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), the man sent to "terminate" him. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art /Film Stills Archive.

Apocalypse Now united artists.

Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) welcomes Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), the man sent to "terminate" him. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art /Film Stills Archive.

of barbarism? All of these questions were anticipated by the Green Beret murder case, where attorneys for the accused officers tried to document thousands of killings ordered by the CIA, by the Phoenix Program, and by others. In this context, how could officers be prosecuted for doing what they perceived to be absolutely consistent with the war effort?

Apocalypse Now gives complicated and sometimes contradictory answers to these questions. Its sympathies are split between Willard, Kurtz, the crew of the boat, and the Vietnamese peasants. Parts of the film seem to be Hawkish and pro-war; other parts seem to be strongly antiwar. To get at the roots of this complexity, let us examine the film's two primary authors.

We begin with John Milius, one of the more eccentric members of the film school-trained ''movie brat'' generation in Hollywood. In view of what Apocalypse Now eventually became, it is interesting that Milius can be characterized as a romantic lover-of-war with extreme-Right politics. As a film-

maker, he is the screenwriter of The Man Who Would Be King and the writer-director of Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn. The original plan for Apocalypse Now was to film a low-budget action-adventure movie on location in Vietnam,28 with Milius as writer and George Lucas (several years before Star Wars) as director. The film would take a pro-war, action-oriented approach while at the same time supporting and clarifying the ''unconventional warfare'' methods of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Script drafts for Apocalypse Now include a disdainful reference to John Wayne's The Green Berets (a film which treats the Special Forces within a very conventional war movie formula): ''I've seen the movie.''29

What Milius and Lucas were thinking about is suggested by the first scene in Milius's previously cited script draft for Apocalypse Now. An American soldier rises slowly out of a swamp. The first thing we see is his helmet, inscribed ''Gook Killer'' in psychedelic writing. This is the beginning of an ambush scene in which bizarrely dressed Special Forces troops successfully attack a group of North Vietnamese regulars. The idea is that American troops will have fun and win the war by adopting Green Beret-style, guerrilla methods. Milius later noted that he and Lucas were ''great connoisseurs of the Vietnam War'';30 one imagines young boys with an enthusiasm for all things military.

However, the Milius script draft also contains, in almost exactly the form in which it was eventually released, the long sequence in which Colonel Kilgore (''Kharnage'' in the script draft) attacks the village at the surfing point.31 This sequence, too, suggests that war is fun, but in its gleeful exaggeration of the ''Americanization'' of the war effort, it becomes a powerful satire of the Vietnam War. If an airborne attack is mounted so that surfers can surf, then the conduct of the war becomes arbitrary, selfish, and out of control. The scene suggests that the Vietnam War has been so taken over by American wealth, technology, and popular culture that all underlying issues and motivations have been muddied. A passage of narration written (by Michael Herr) long after Milius's draft pulls another key theme from the scene: If Colonel Kilgore's bizarre behavior is accepted, why is the army worried about Kurtz?32 The satire here seems to be sharply critical of the war effort, even though in other sections of the script Milius is pro-war. There is certainly an irreverent edge to Milius's script.

Scriptwriter Milius's attitude to his material might be described as an odd

Apocalypse Now united artists.

Robert Duvall as the aptly named Colonel Kilgore. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art/Film Stills Archive.

Apocalypse Now united artists.

Robert Duvall as the aptly named Colonel Kilgore. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art/Film Stills Archive.

mixture of enthusiasm, sympathy, and revulsion. Milius clearly relishes the excitement of the opening ambush, the helicopter attack, the exchange of fire at the bridge. Milius even has Willard say, at one point, ''I usually liked war'' (12). Milius has considerable sympathy for the Special Forces and their unconventional methods—guerrilla warfare, sabotage, incursions into Cambodia. This recapitulates a theme of some Right-wing critics of the Vietnam War, who advocated few or no restraints in the U.S. conduct of the war.33 It also recalls the generally positive press treatment of the Special Forces during the murder case. However, the use of Heart of Darkness as the primary source suggests that Milius also is repulsed by the embrace of barbarism— by executions, severed heads, and so forth. This barbarism may have been largely in Milius's head (he had no first-hand experience with the Vietnam War), but he does seem to be advocating limits in the conduct of war. The contradiction between love and revulsion for the Vietnam War is left unresolved by the Milius script.

Francis Coppola became involved with Apocalypse Now as Milius was writing the script in 1969. He originally intended to produce the film for Lucas and Milius, as part of a contract between American Zoetrope (Coppola's production company) and Warner Brothers. However, when Warner Brothers backed out of the contract, Coppola bought back the rights to the Apocalypse Now script and eventually decided to direct it himself. Coppola's script draft of December 3, 1975, is similar in narrative design to Milius's earlier draft.34 Coppola's changes lie mainly in character development and in building a more philosophical context for the trip upriver. However, as Coppola continued to rework the film during production and postproduction, some of the more outlandish scenes were removed: the ''gook killer'' opening, the crew having sex with the Playboy bunnies, more sex at an embattled French rubber plantation. Under Coppola's supervision, Apocalypse Now became less a wild adventure in the Vietnam War and more a tragic descent into bestiality and madness.

Coppola's vision of the war is even more evident in the images and sounds than in the narrative. From the opening images, the film becomes an environment of fire, water, and darkness. It presents the imagery of a man-made hell, with napalm, rockets, bombs, and bullets producing almost constant fire and noise, and Kilgore (a version of Mephistopheles?) proclaiming, ''I love the smell of napalm in the morning.'' The film is also crammed with images of limited vision: smoke, water, fog, jungle, and darkness. These elements suggest a lack of awareness, even blindness, characteristic of America's intervention in Vietnam. Willard does not know where he's going or why, the crew knows even less, the officers behind the lines know least of all. Only Kurtz sees more or less clearly, and his awareness has driven him mad. This countercultural view of the follies of war is reinforced by the rock and roll soundtrack, prominently featuring the Doors singing ''This Is the End.'' Mysterious, tragic, satanic, the song provides the proper tone for a film with ''Apocalypse'' in the title.

Leslie Fiedler has argued that Apocalypse Now owes its contradictory, unresolved quality to the collaboration between John Milius the Hawk and Francis Coppola the Dove.35 His observation is useful, but too simple. Milius is pro-war but also a satirist of war, as discussed above. Coppola, for his part, is critical of the war, especially in the mise-en-scene, but also caught up with the excitement of war. The helicopter attack on the village is an over-the-top satire and one of the most exciting, heart-pounding war sequences ever filmed. Adding Wagner's music to the attack (already indicated in the Milius draft, but beautifully realized by Coppola) increases both the visceral effect and the critical distance inherent in this scene. It's a hair-raising moment, but it also recalls European myths of battle and Wagner's link to Nazi ideology. Coppola the Dove can coexist with Milius the Hawk because each shares some of the values of the other.

I would agree with Fiedler that this kind of contradiction does not need to be resolved.36 Apocalypse Now embodies some of the contradictions of the Vietnam War without finding a solution. It does a much better job than Patton of balancing two distinct attitudes toward its subject. I do not, however, agree with Coppola's famous statement at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival that his film became identical with the Vietnam War (''We were in the jungle. There were too many of us. We had access to too much money, too much equipment. And little by little, we went insane'').37 This statement, though provocative, masks the fact that Apocalypse Now is much better when it provides a critical representation of the Vietnam War, instead of trying to be that war.

Patton and Apocalypse Now are not polar opposites; they might better be conceptualized as two points on a scale. Both are historical films, with Patton taking the conventional approach of dramatized biography and Apocalypse Now the less conventional route of combining Heart of Darkness and the Green Beret murder case into a synecdochic journey through the Vietnam War. Both films manifest a certain skepticism toward the military enterprise, a skepticism undoubtedly linked to the social context of an unpopular war (the Vietnam War was current news when Patton was released in 1970, and a bitter recent memory when Apocalypse Now came out in 1979). Patton's skepticism involves showing the eccentricities and weaknesses of its protagonist, but this film still promotes the value and the necessity of ''fighting the good fight.'' Apocalypse Now's skepticism is far more all-encompassing: it presents the experience of the Vietnam War as fragmented, incoherent, and out of control.

The two films' differing positions on the value of war and the purpose of the war movie can be clearly grasped via the portraits of Patton and Kurtz.

We are asked to believe in General Patton, the charismatic leader gone only slightly awry. We cannot believe in Colonel Kurtz, the charismatic leader gone mad, and this throws us back to the incoherent experience of the ordinary soldier. With the affirmation of the commander as hero, Patton builds a case for supporting the U.S. military both historically and in the present. The complexity of its psychological portrait of Patton adds a touch of realism (and may even provide the possibility of reading ''against the grain''). With the denial of the commander as hero, Apocalypse Now becomes an ironic war movie, deeply questioning the value of military action. The bald, grossly overweight, muttering Kurtz, surrounded by severed heads, becomes emblematic of war's corrosive effect on the individual psyche. However, Apocalypse Now is not unequivocally an antiwar piece; it retains a sense of the excitement of war.

General Patton is eccentric but brilliant; Colonel Kurtz is brilliant but mad. Both Patton and Apocalypse Now participate in a questioning of the American military during, and directly after, the Vietnam War. But Patton is ultimately a recuperative film, reconstructing the military hero, whereas Apocalypse Now trails off into savagery.

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