Coppola’s Monster Film by Steven Travers

978-1-4766-6425-51

Steven Travers, a former professional baseball player, is the author of twenty books, nearly all of them about sports. His latest book is decidedly not about sports: Coppola’s Monster Film: The Making of Apocalypse Now (McFarland, 240 pp., $39.95, paper).

If you want to know everything about the famed 1979 film, Apocalypse Now, this is the book for you. Seemingly every detail is to be found between these covers. I recommend that a reader first dive into Eleanor Coppola’s 1995 book, Notes, which also is subtitled The Making of Apocalypse Now, and watch her documentary film, Hearts of Darkness: A Film Maker’s Apocalypse. Then Travers’ book.  At the end of it the author includes chapter notes and a bibliography, which will lead you as far as you want to go and well beyond.

The book includes only three photos, but they were carefully selected: Cpt. Willard (Martin Sheen) with Crazy (Dennis Hopper);  Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall) in his famous “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” scene; and Francis Ford Coppola, the director, with John Milius, the screen writer, and Sheen. There’s no photo of Marlon Brando.

McFarland books are sometimes leaden and hard to read, but this one is very readable. It contains has many good. behind-the-scenes stories. Travers found and interviewed folks who opened up to him and he made the most of that.

The book is organized into twenty-three well-written chapters and comes at the reader from a right-wing posture. When the author mentions the singer Harry Belafonte, for example, he feels it is necessary to say that he was a protégé of Paul Robeson, “black Communist.”  Travers goes on to say that the entertainment industry was taken over by the secular religion of liberalism, except for country music, “which remains Christian and Republican.”  That would a surprise to Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, and sundry other non-Republican country music folks.

This book is well worth reading for information on Apocalypse Now, but a certain care is advised. Read with caution.

—David Willson