Little Seen

A black-and-white version of this Apocalypse Now art appeared in the N.Y. Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section a week or so before Francis Coppola‘s epic opened on 8.15.79. To my knowledge it was never used again — not as a one-sheet during the theatrical run, and not on any jacket art for VHS, laser disc, DVD or Bluray versions, etc. I was living back then in a cockroach-infested Sullivan Street two-room flat and working at the Spring Street Bar & Grill. I clearly remember seeing this ad and saying to myself “Wow, this is gonna be good.”

  • Perfect Tommy

    It has a German Expressionist feel to it. Just from the poster, I would want to see that film.

  • Correcting Jeff

    First time I’ve seen that, great find Jeff. That would have been an awesome poster to have on the dorm wall back in the day.

  • fahrenheit290

    Incredible poster art! That’s what a great movie poster looks like. I see the tradition of German Expressionism, as well as the influence of Bresson, Diary of a Country Priest.

  • Brian Bouton

    At first glance, I thought it was a pigeon on Brando’s head. Great poster, though!

  • Ben Razavi

    That artwork is used as the cover for the recent Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook Edition. Although, it unfortunately doesn’t have Hearts of Darkness on this edition.

    • Gil Padilla

      It’s on Amazon and ebay, too.

  • Jack321

    This artwork was also used on the back and inner jacket of the “Complete Dossier” DVD release from 2006.

  • Michael Gebert

    I assume that’s Bob Peak (who did the main posters). One of the worst things to happen to movies is that movie posters stopped using illustrators and went to the standard two-shot or three-shot of the stars. Movies seem so generic now, because the posters can’t be told apart.

    (Incidentally, I used to work down the street from McCormack-Armstrong, where Peak got his start as a commercial artist. Pretty amazing as a youngster in the ad biz to think that The Guy Who Did The Poster For 2001 started there.)

    • brenkilco

      Are there really studies- I suppose there must be- that suggest a bland head shot of some actor we’ve seen a thousand times before will generate more want to see than a Saul Bass graphic, or an phantom Faye Dunaway materializing out of Nicholson’s cigarette smoke, or one of those great old Bond posters like the one for You Only Live Twice with a tuxedoed Sean Connery hanging upside down in the villain’s volcano lair? Just don’t get it.

      • Michael Gebert

        There’s some discussion of this in Julie Salomon’s book on Bonfire of the Vanities– I think it’s a combination of laziness on the part of marketing departments and the fact that some degree of control over the poster is built into the stars’ contracts, so that they end up constrained to show them all at equal size etc. Either way, posters are so lookalike and uninteresting that they’ve just about killed one of the best tools the movies ever had. That said, the rise of the more abstract teaser poster has helped a fair amount to put some excitement back in.

  • Muscle McGurk

    Ah, back when movies meant something more than disposable entertainment…

  • D.Z.

    They probably stopped using it, ‘cus it seemed too grindhouse-y.

  • I have been reading the Making of Star Wars book by JW Rinzler, and was unaware how close this film was to being a George Lucas film. From the quotes of Lucas, it sounds like his version was going to be quite a bit different than what the finished product turned out to be – ie Dr. Strangelove in Vietnam. While Coppola’s version definitely has some surreal aspects to it, I don’t think it’s as humourous as what Lucas had in mind.

  • brenkilco

    I dimly recall that Apocalypse Now had a really elaborate buildup in the Times. For several weeks before the opening different full page poster ads featuring different elements, like the helicopters or a shadowy Brando. Then I think a final poster ad with the various elements composited. May be remembering this wrong. It was eons ago.

  • moviewatcher

    That’s an amazing poster. I remember watching that scene for the first time. I was truly awe-struck at Brando. Copolla kept him in the shadow and showed mostly only his bald head. The fact that we never saw his face until the very end made me horrified at what it might look like. The face of madness and of the terror in the hearts of men. I wondered it had two eyes, a mouth and a nose. I was scared of what I might see when Brando raised his head. Truly one of the best films ever made.

    • brenkilco

      It may have worked but I’ve read the real reason they shrouded him in Darkness was because Coppola imagined Kurtz as an emaciated character, as he was in the Conrad story, and Brando showed up so grossly overweight.

      • moviewatcher

        ^Proof that God exists 🙂

        Just one of those amazing accidents that makes a movie so much better.