Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (The)
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment - The Coppola Restoration Collection
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (1st January 2001).
The Film

"The Godfather" - and to a greater degree, "The Godfather Part II" - purports to be a film about an immigrant to America who is looking for (and who finds) The Great American Dream. The films (which eventually became a trilogy) concern the family of Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando; with Robert De Niro in flashbacks), and in particular the life of his son Michael (Al Pacino).

The thing that really bothers me about this story is that every single one of the main characters is a criminal. They're all violent people who kill, steal, and cheat their way to material wealth. There are other crime families in play, and these competing factions of criminals are just as ruthless. They have all come to America from Italy, and once here, they claw their way to prosperity in an endlessly bloody manner. Often the courses of action taken by the Corleones are in the name of Family, and the protection thereof. But their family would not be in such danger and trouble if it were not for the family businesses of larceny and extortion. For whatever it is worth, both Vito and Michael make attempts to create peace between the feuding mafia families; both fail. Is the message here that peaceful solutions are futile, and that guns and violence are the answer?

All of this said, the characters are largely interesting people and the lead actors are seldom portrayed as cruel or thuggish. The people who actually carry out the bulk of the crimes are - for the most part - secondary characters. Watching these films, we like most of the Corleone family, which also includes James Caan and John Cazale as Michael's brothers, Robert Duvall as a trusted lieutenant of the family, and Coppola's real-life sister Talia Shire as Michael Corleone's sister. We want them to succeed, we want them to survive, we want them to be happy, and yet these people are gangsters. Are we supposed to believe that Michael Corleone is a moral man because he refuses to add drug dealing to his repertoire of criminal activities? This seems to be the case.

Criminals or not, the story of the Corleone family is truly epic. Each of the main characters have their own subplots within the main story, all of which are established in the first film, and developed in the second. Whereas the first movie is told in a linear fashion, the second is actually two parallel stories: a sequel and a prequel, all in one.

The camerawork is very nice, the performances are universally very strong, the rich, detailed script is great, and the editing is classic. The only place where "The Godfather Part I" really drops the ball is in the costumes (and the hairstyles in particular). This film was meant to be set in the 1940's, but it was shot in 1970. The hairstyles are all very much of 1970, and the costumes are only slightly less so. No matter what sort of classic cars we see or no matter how sepia-toned the color timing is, it is impossible to believe that this movie takes place during the era of World War II when we are confronted with polyester suits and bouffant hairdos. Takes me right out of the time period every time. We'll let this slide, because Coppola and his people nailed everything else related to the first two films.

Discussing the direction, is a slippery slope. In observing how successful the first film is, it is hard to imagine that director Francis Ford Coppola had as much trouble as he did getting "Part I" made, and was in fact almost fired from the production by the film studio execs. He had the same problems with "Apocalypse Now" (1979) a few years later. Both of these films are so great and seem to be made by someone infinitely competent and assured, and yet Coppola admits in the commentaries for both movies that he was barely in control of the productions.

Neurotic director, unconvincing costumes, and lack of real heroes aside, there is no doubt that "The Godfather" films are indelible entries into the cannon of great American film making.

Now, I've barely mentioned "The Godfather Part III." That is because the film, made twenty years after "Part II" is pretty much a disaster. As Michael Corleone continues to struggle to make the family legitimate and free of criminal enterprises, his progeny seem determined to steer things back towards the direction in which their grandfather Vito did things. Pacino is fine in his third outing as Michael, but the film seems to have no real point and does not significantly enhance the mythos created in the first two films. In fact, the idea that Michael is now putting the squeeze on The Vatican itself is a bit silly. The most interesting theme in the movie is that of Michael trying his best to become legitimate. In the first film, he resists the path of his family, but cannot help but to become sucked up into a life of evil. Now, he is an older man, and only wants to make amends for the violence he has perpetuated. In the end, there is no redemption as he loses or gives up everything that is important to him. Guilty as charged, and punished as deserved. This film takes place in 1979, which is sort of interesting because the earlier films were actually made before the year during which the third film occurs.

Video

"The Godfather Part I": Aspect ratio is the original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, running time is 2:56:59, including new restoration credits, and is divided into 23 chapters.

"The Godfather Part II": Aspect ratio is the original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, running time is 3:21:52, including new restoration credits, and is divided into 30 chapters.

"The Godfather Part III": Aspect ratio is the original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, running time is 2:50:05, and is divided into 23 chapters.

The upgraded video on this set has been hyped by almost everyone who has seen it, and I am afraid you'll get nothing different from me. The films do look amazing, with deep rich blacks, sterling whites, and an endless supply of sepia tinted goodness. Film grain has been reduced, but not eliminated - this is not entirely a good thing from where I sit, because grain is an intrinsic part of the process of making film, and should be embraced, not digitally hidden, on classic films such as this trilogy. A few of the images look a touch soft, but again, I find this preferable to artificially sharpened images that really just tend to call attention to themselves. The presentation is spotless without a speck of dust in sight.

The one thing that gives me pause, however is that "Part II" is presented on a single DVD. In the 2001 boxed set of the films, this center film in the trilogy - also the longest of the three - was split over two discs. Putting nearly three and a half hours of video, plus a total of eleven channels of audio, on one DVD is really taxing the limits of the medium. I wonder if this release were truly targeted for Blu-Ray buyers, hoping to lure people into a purchasing this venerable and important series of films yet again by promising a new restoration in addition to the increased resolution of Blu-Ray. If the DVD edition (as opposed to the Blu-Ray edition) is anything other than an afterthought, then why else go through the expensive and painstaking film restoration process, only to relegate what is definitely the longest and is arguably the best of the films to the compression hell of a single DVD? Curious.

Audio

"The Godfather Part I" is presented in the original English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, plus a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in both English and French. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish. "Part II" has the same audio specs, and "Part III" omits the mono track but is otherwise identical. The sound mix for all three films are dynamic and clear, dialogue is well presented, ambient sounds feel natural and the score is beautifully rendered. But the real highlight of this set is the restored video.

Extras

Paramount has released this all new edition with all of the previous extras from the 2001 box set as well as a collection of all new features. These include audio commentaries, documentary feature, many featurettes, deleted scenes among many others. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISCS ONE, TWO & THREE:

Coppola does interesting scene-specific audio commentaries on all three films. He is (and always is) very frank about the troubles associated with making the movie(s). He offers a combination of anecdotes about the making of the films, the business, the art, the science of making movies. These are easily worth sitting through, and are go-to examples for why film geeks love the best of the available Director's commentaries.

DISC FOUR:

This disc is made up of ninety minutes of bonus features new to this collection:

"Godfather World" featurette runs for 11 minutes 20 seconds; A wide variety of filmmakers and writers are interviewed about the influence of "The Godfather" films on popular culture. In particular, "The Sopranos" (1999-2007), "The Simpsons" (1989-Present) and "Star Wars" (1977) are invoked.

"The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't" featurette runs for 29 minutes 46 seconds; a feature on how the zeitgeist of the late 1960's and the early 1970's was absolutely the wrong environment in which to make "The Godfather", and how it got made anyway. This piece is probably a bit longer than it needs to be to make its point. A slew of people are interviewed, including George Lucas.

"... When the Shooting Stopped" featurette runs for 14 minutes 19 seconds; another featurette about the editing of the trilogy, and Coppola's battles with the studio. Mostly consists of interviews with Walter Murch, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas.

"Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather" featurette runs for 19 minutes 7 seconds; a detailed and fascinating look at the process of restoring vintage film. This is a good one - it really explains the process in a way that people with a basic understanding of cinema technology will understand (people with no knowledge at all might be lost).

"The Godfather on the Red Carpet" featurette runs for 4 minutes 4 seconds; This is a little bit inexplicable: the directors and stars of the 2007 monster movie "Cloverfield" are interviewed about their feelings about "The Godfather." They like it. All of them. A lot. The connection between "The Godfather" trilogy and "Cloverfield" is not clear. Does Paramount have a new "Cloverfield" DVD in the works?

"The Godfather vs. The Godfather Part II" featurette runs for 2 minutes 18 seconds; Some of the people interviewed previously discuss their love for II vs. I.

"Riffing on the Riffing" featurette runs for 1 minute 40 seconds; two guys read part of the script with funny voices.

"Canolli" featurette runs for 1 minute 40 seconds; Coppola talks about how much he loves canollis.

"Clemenza" featurette runs for 1 minute 46 seconds; Coppola takes a look at a book (written by someone else) called "How to Watch The Godfather", and discusses the off-screen death of Clemenza.

DISC FIVE:

This disc is an archive of the bonus features from the 2001 version of The Godfather DVD collection, with virtually no changes.

The main feature, "An Inside Look: The Godfather Family" feature-length documentary that runs for 1 hour 13 minutes 24 seconds and is made up of a lot of fly-on-the-wall footage mixed with modern interviews with all of the key players (except Brando, natch), and collaborators. It forms a satisfying overview of the making of the first two pictures.

"On Location" featurette runs for 6 minutes 55 seconds, features production designer Dean Tavoularis giving us a tour of "The Godfather" filming locations on the lower east side of Manhattan.

"Francis Coppola's Notebook" featurette runs for 10 minutes 12 seconds shows us the director's exhaustive production notes and illustrates the process of translating the novel to the screen.

"The Music Of The Godfather" is divided into two featurettes about Nino Rota which runs for 5 minutes 29 seconds and Carmine Coppola runs for 3 minutes 16 seconds. These clips take a closer look at the influential music of the films, and the two men behind it.

"Coppola & Puzo On Screenwriting" featurette runs for 8 minutes 6 seconds and is another discussion of the screenplay, this time with the author of the novel.

"Gordon Willis On Cinematography" featurette runs for 3 minutes 45 seconds and is a short discussion on the look of the film.

"The Godfather Behind The Scenes" featurette runs for 8 minutes 56 seconds, and is a featurette from 1971. I like the idea of using DVD to archive vintage materials like this, so this rough clip is welcome.

Next up are a collection of Storyboards created before the shooting of the film, they include boards for "The Godfather, Part II" which consists of 24 images and a storyboards featurette for "The Godfather, Part III" which runs for 4 minutes 23 seconds.

Also included is the "Godfather Chronology" is a series of deleted scenes that are presented in chronological order from the dates 1892 - 1997. The total runtime is 56 minutes and also includes the "1974 Network TV Intro" which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds. There are no less than 34 deleted scenes. Calling these 'deleted' isn't entirely accurate, since they were included in some television versions of "Part I" and "Part II." As such, the picture quality is fine, but they are in a 4:3 television aspect ratio. It would have been nice to have presented these in a theatrical aspect ratio and used seamless branching technology to give viewers the option to insert these into the actual films. After all, they were at one time seen in the movie (on television). It is annoying that there is no play all feature. There scenes are broken down as such: 1901-1917: "Searching for Vito," "Fanucci Attacked," "Clemenza: 'I'm my own boss'," "Playing The Flute," "Discussing Fanucci." 1917-1927: "Reasoning with Signor Roberto," "Don Vito Corleone," "Introducing Hyman Roth," "Vito's Revenge," 1945: "The Death of Genco," "A Gift from Woltz," "Hagen Sees Janie," "A Family Fight," "Michael and Kay in Bed," "The Don's Been Shot," "Sonny Absorbs The News," "Michael Gets Involved," "Planning Paulie's Death," "Clemenza Eats Lunch." 1947: "Communist Demonstration," "Seeking Vito's House," "Yelling in the Shower," "'Bring Me Fabrizio'." 1948-1955: "Talking in the Garden," "Hagen: 'Why Am I Out?'," "Kay Lights Candles." 1958: "Fredo and Deanna," "Champagne Cocktails," "Francesca to Marry," "Fabrizio Located." 1958-1979: "Anthony and Pentangeli," "Neri Humiliates Klingman," "Murder of Fabrizio" and finally there's also a "Godfather III" alternate opening.

There's an interactive feature, entitled "The Family Tree" which covers biographies of the various characters and actors who play them.

There's an extensive photo gallery which includes 105 images, which includes a wealth of rare photographs taken during the production as well as publicity pictures as well. A "Rogues" gallery includes 10 images of the various rogues featured in the films.

There are a series of theatrical trailers for:

- "The Godfather" which runs for 3 minutes 40 seconds.
- "The Godfather, Part II" which runs for 4 minutes 14 seconds.
- "The Godfather, Part III" which runs for 4 minutes 24 seconds.

"Acclaim And Response" are a series of Academy Awards Acceptance Speeches which includes:

- "The Godfather" Best Screenplay 1972 which runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
- "The Godfather" Best Picture 1972 which runs for 1 minute 47 seconds.
- "The Godfather, Part II" Best Director 1974 which runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.
- "The Godfather, Part II" Best Picture 1974 which runs for 1 minute 2 seconds.

Following that is an "Awards and Nominations" list which features all of the awards that these films have either won or been nominated for.

Additionally on the disc are a series of hidden Easter Eggs which include:

- From the Main Menu, go to "Set Up", press [Right]. This will reveal a globe in the background. Press [Enter] to access to a collage of clips in Italian, German and English which runs for 47 seconds.

- From the Main Menu, go to "Galleries", select "DVD Credits". Following arrows at the bottom of the screen all the way to the end and you will find a clip of "The Sopranos" trying to watch a Godfather DVD which runs for 1 minute 35 seconds.

- Go to the "Family Tree", select 'Sonny' (family tree of Santino Corleone). Select 'Sonny' again. Press [Left] to highlight the image of James Caan. Press [Enter]to get Caan's bio. Press [Left] to highlight the portrait of Caan. Press [Enter] to watch Caan doing a Brando imitation as part of his Sonny Corleone screen test which runs for 1 minute.

- From the "Filmmakers" section, select Puzo's Biography. Press [Left] twice and a large dollar sign will appear. Click [Enter] to see Coppola ask Puzo why he actually wrote "The Godfather" which runs for 6 seconds.

Packaging

These discs are packed in amaray cases housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B Audio: A Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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