Apocalypse Now Nuked Acres of Forest
As ridiculous film shoots go, few can top Apocalypse Now. There was the mental breakdown and near death of Martin Sheen, the troubles filming in an actual war zone and a typhoon that destroyed an entire set.
"CUT! Hey, stop bleeding, asshole. We still have two more takes."
But then there's the most iconic shot in a film full of iconic shots, the opening scene of the palm trees burning under a storm of napalm as Jim Morrison wails over the top about Oedipus and the transient nature of existence. Most people are probably too distracted by one of the finest opening shots in film to actually contemplate how it was achieved.
After all, it's an impressive special effect for 1979. How did they go about making it look like a huge section of forest had been burned to the ground?
Surprise! They did it by actually burning a huge section of forest to the ground.
That's pretty much it. Around 1,200 gallons of gasoline were poured over the splendid palm trees and then set alight. Tires were also burned to generate more smoke for the shot, while canisters were dropped onto the area to look like falling napalm. Acres of the forest were destroyed in a matter of seconds. Fitting, for a shot that was supposed to visually demonstrate the mindless, indiscriminate destruction of war.
"Now we'll highlight the tragic reality of unwanted puppies by throwing this sack in the river."