“My orders say I’m not supposed to know where I’m taking this boat, so I don’t. But one look at you, and I know it’s gonna be hot!” Chief – Apocalypse Now
If that quote gave you a buzz of recognition, excitement, or nostalgia, chances are you’re a fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War / psychological horror film Apocalypse Now. Empress Miniatures’ new Vietnam Patrol Boat River (PBR) aims to recreate the film’s iconic PBR Street Gang in miniature form, down to its eclectic crew – are they successful? Travel upriver with us and find out.
This is a 28mm / 1/50 scale model, measuring 195mm from bow to stern and 70mm from port to starboard. There’s a resin cast, single-piece hull, a resin roof for the cabin, a paper flag, and a large number of metal parts.
The standard PBR is available from Empress Miniatures too, identical in design and parts to the one we’re reviewing here, but with no crew. The Apocalypse Now special has the bonus of five metal one-part miniatures to represent the film’s characters.
“I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.” Willard – Apocalypse Now
These are clean, crisp, well-cast miniatures and good to great likenesses of Street Gang’s crew. Captain Willard and Chef can be placed anywhere on the boat, the other three models will need to be placed in-situ (or converted to go elsewhere). Chief is posed to fit in the cabin, arms raised to steer, Lance sits in the PBR’s turret, Clean can be placed sitting on the edge of the boat.
It’s a shame that there aren’t alternate options allowing these last three crew members to be used on deck, or off-boat (though, of course, we should “never get off the boat!”) but we’re being picky because the models have gotten us excited. If you’re a fan of the film you won’t be disappointed; even if you’re not, these are diverse and interesting sculpts to add to your Brown River army.
The boat itself is quite the modelling project. The sheer number of metal parts that must be fitted to the resin hull are rather intimidating. Although there are recesses on that hull, to aid the placement, some of the metal parts will require manipulation to fit. In particular the supports for the cabin roof and rail at the stern took quite a bit of gentle bending to get the shape just right.
This isn’t a huge negative – with a kit like this some build time is to be expected. It’s worth keeping in mind though, especially if you’re thinking of making multiple kits. Doing a dry-fit then using a good quality superglue and accelerator spray is strongly recommended!
A little more frustrating is that some of the parts have a lot of flash that must be cleaned off. Again, nothing too major to deal with, but considering other parts are very clean it’s a bit of a surprise to see.
The effort needed to build the PBR is rewarded with a great looking and accurate model. If we’re going to quibble, the resin hull is slightly askew, with the curvature and lines not fully mirrored. It’s a minor issue though, one that we probably wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t taking such a thorough look.
“It’s a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut ’em in half with a machine gun and give ’em a Band-Aid.” Willard – Apocalypse Now
Weapons and extras
The forward bow turret is armed with 12.7mm (.50 caliber) M2HB Browning heavy machine guns and this is where Lance’s model can sit. To go amidship there’s a pintle mounted M60 7.62mm (.30 caliber) belt-fed machine gun and a Mark 19 40mm grenade launcher. At the rear is a pintle mounted 12.7mm machine gun with protective shields.
There are also some themed extras in the kit – a surfboard, ghetto blasters, jerry cans and “a spear”.
This is a somewhat challenging kit to build but the end result is great. it’s a fine looking PBR but the Apocalypse Now extras will add fan appeal.
“Oooh, that’s one of my favourite films! What? Do a modelling article for an upcoming issue? I mean… I’ve got quite a lot of other jobs to do already… yup, ok, sure, I’ll fit it in somehow. *whispers* The horror, the horror.” New Project Manager James – Wargames Illustrated