Apocalypse Now

Factual error: Unfortunately, the most striking scene in this - or any other - film is complete nonsense. During the helicopter attack they play "Ride of the Valkyries" on an ordinary tape deck through two smallish stereo speakers in order to scare the enemy prior to the attack. Okay, let's be clear - helicopters are LOUD. Very, very loud. The enemy would hear a flight of six helicopters approaching from thirty kilometers away. You simply could not play music loud enough to overcome the engine noise of 6 choppers, not without an enormous speaker rig and the power to run it. They are using bog standard home stereo speakers, not the huge bullhorn speakers used later in the war to intimidate the enemy. The music would be barely loud enough to be heard inside the helicopter, let alone outside it. This does not refer to the music playing on the film's soundtrack; Kilgore makes it clear he is playing music from the helicopter and he intends it to be heard by people on the ground.

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Suggested correction: The speakers featured in the movie are actually "sonic weapon" high output transducers made for the military. The detail is correct in every way, not 'bog standard' crap home speakers. Applied Electro company, Point of Rocks, MD, USA. They make one system that can be heard 6 miles out from aircraft.

They are store bought store home speakers, nothing like the "sonic weapon" speakers used later in the war.

The speakers seen in the movie immediately after the music starts are solidly mounted to the helicopters in racks that are obviously not "store bought stereo home speakers" (or at the very least, have been made to appear as specialized equipment for the movie.) It is possible they aren't even functioning speakers at all and just a movie prop, but they have been adequately made to look like they are capable of broadcasting the music at a very loud volume.

Factual error: The date on the top of Chef's letter from Eva says, "Sept" with the year conveniently whited out. If the letter was written in September of 1969 she couldn't have known about Manson who wasn't arrested until December 3, 1969. This also dates the movie as taking place sometime in 1970. (01:50:50)


Factual error: Captain Willard recalls back to lunch at General Corman's and we hear Harrison Ford's voice say as he points to a map, "Now he's crossed into Cambodia". The town he's pointing at (Ban Me Thout) and the one above it are in the Central Highlands in the middle of Vietnam and not crossover points anywhere near Cambodia. (01:18:20)


Factual error: The scene depicting Lieutenant Kilgore throwing out death cards onto the dead VC is not accurate. Real death cards were printed in packs that contained just the ace of spades on each card and had messages written in Vietnamese on the other side. (00:27:55)


Factual error: There are two factual errors in the helicopter attack scene - for the time frame of the war. First, the helicopters carrying troops would not have been armed with rockets or miniguns, these helicopters were called "slicks" and would only had door mounted machine guns. The helicopters armed with the rockets and miniguns were "gunships" and would not have been carrying troops. Second, a Huey is shown carrying in the Navy river patrol boat (PBR) slung beneath it. At over 16,000 lbs., a PBR weighs over four times more than a Huey of this era could have lifted. (Regardless of the REASON why these mistakes occur in the film, they are STILL mistakes.)

Factual error: When LtC. Kilgore requests the air strike, you can see that the F-5s are not carrying any ordnance under their wings, except for a centerline fuel tank. Also, their color scheme varies from a white to a greyish one. (00:47:48)

Factual error: In his final speech to Willard, Colonel Kurtz talks of the Vietcong's "genius" for chopping off the arms of children inoculated against polio. While polio was technically available in both an oral form and an injectable form, any soldier administering the vaccine in SE Asia during the time would most certainly be administering the oral vaccine, and not giving a shot in the arm.

Factual error: In the scenes where members of the boat crew are wearing berets, they are worn incorrectly. Both Clean and Chief Phillips have their berets with the insignia over the right eye with the rest of the beret slanting over the left ear. That is the manner in which the French armed forces wear berets. The US and British forces wear them with the insignia over the LEFT eye with the rest of the beret slanting over the RIGHT ear. Ask any Ranger or British soldier.


Factual error: Captain Willard narrates to himself, "I am beyond their timid lying, morality, and so I am beyond caring" as we see a downed helicopter burning in a tree. The main rotors are detached and would not be sitting on top of the helicopter had it actually crashed and not just been placed there. In an actual helicopter crash the rotors fly off. (01:22:10)


Audio problem: As Playmate of the Year Carrie Foster is brought out to the audience carried by two Green Berets watch the band behind her closely. The bass player stops playing as he scratches his head but the bass on the soundtrack keeps going. (01:07:55)


More mistakes in Apocalypse Now

Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

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Apocalypse Now trivia picture

Trivia: The man shooting the movie during the attack on the beach who says "Don't look at the camera" is actually director Francis Ford Coppola. (00:25:38)

More trivia for Apocalypse Now

Question: Would anyone happen to know what song is playing in the background on the radio beside the intelligence officer sitting at the bar when Martin Sheen enters the Generals trailer and is being interviewed by Harrison Ford for the first time?

Answer: It's not any specific song; it's just the kind of generic piano music you'd hear at dinner at a high-class restaurant of the era. Think of scenes in movies, films, etc. set or made in the '50s and '60s, where the characters go to a nice dinner and there's someone at the piano playing unobtrusive music to accompany the food/conversation.

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