HomeEntertainmentOn This Day: ‘Apocalypse Now’ Premiered in Theaters in 1979

On This Day: ‘Apocalypse Now’ Premiered in Theaters in 1979

by Madison Miller
Photo by: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

“I like the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like … victory.”

On August 15, 1979, “Apocalypse Now” left viewers in awe at U.S. theaters everywhere. The movie is an epic psychological war film with Francis Ford Coppola as the director. It stars one of the most iconic movie stars of that time period — the charming and idolized Marlon Brando.

Release of Classic Film

Also in the film are Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, and Sam Bottoms. It’s all based on the popular classic novel written by Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness.”

The premise of the movie shifts to the Vietnam War instead to conquer “the horror, the horror” of it all. It follows Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Sheen) as he takes the journey from South Vietnam to Cambodia. He’s on a killer mission to assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Brando). He is an Army Special Forces officer that has been accused of murder and is now presumed to be incredibly insane.

As it turns out, the film is considered to be one of the greatest ever made. It was nominated for eight different awards at the 52nd Academy Awards. It won for Best Cinematography and Best Sound.

The Best Sound award was well deserved. The movie even caused a breakthrough in stereo technology. At the time, sound libraries didn’t have any recording of military-grade weapons. The sound editor for the film, Walter Murch, fired off guns and recorded them. The final product had 5.1 surround sound.

There were two channels of sound behind the audience and then three from the movie screen. To put it in simple terms, it certainly makes audiences feel more enveloped in the film at hand. Given the movie, that can be a terrifying, yet gripping experience.

Fun Facts About ‘Apocalypse Now’

There’s a lot that went into “Apocalypse Now,” a film that forever altered how many people view war. For example, the movie was drastically over budget. Instead of $14 million, it cost closer to $31.5 million.

Martin Sheen also suffered from a heart attack while filming was still happening, but was able to finish the job. Marlon Brando is remarkable in the movie, but he only got 15 minutes of screen time. However, he got a $3.5 million paycheck for that time.

According to Business Insider, the movie was a little more real than some people may realize. A prop manager working on the movie sourced actual human cadavers for scenes that showed dead bodies on the ground. Luckily, a production manager realized what was going on and put that to rest. Local police had even started investigating because it was all linked to some shady cemetery robbing.

Colonel Kurtz is also thought to be based on a CIA operate Anthony Poshepny. He was told to train a secret army of hill tribes in Laos. Similar to the “Apocalypse Now” character he severed heads and left them in enemy territory as a form of psychological warfare.