“Apocalypse Now: A film (1979) directed by Francis Ford Coppola, loosely based on the story Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1857-1924). The title refers to the Revelation of St. John the Divine, also called the Apocalypse; ‘apocalypse’ (Greek apokalupsis) literally means an uncovering, but is popularly taken to mean the violent end of the world, as described by St, John. The ‘Now’ in the title refers to the fact that the film is set during the Vietnam War (which had come to an end four years before the film’s release). The film stars Martin Sheen as US Army captain detailed to assassinated the renegade Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando, and includes such epic set pieces as a helicopter assault conducted to the accompaniment of Wagner’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries.’ The massive cost of the film, which was shot in the Philippines and complicated when Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack, was compounded by the extent to which it went over schedule. In the film business it became known by the alternative titles Apocalypse When? or Apocalypse Later. During filming Coppola referred to the film as his “Idiodyssey.” He later said
‘We made Apocalypse the way Americans made war in Vietnam. There were too many of us, too much money and equipment—and little by little we went insane.’
In 2001 Coppola released his own cut, Apocalypse Now Redux (redux is Latin for ‘brought back,’ ‘restored’), which included the fabled ‘French plantation sequence,’ the existence of which had been rumored among fans for years.”
Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.