The Godfather Trilogy (1972) - The Coppola Restoration

Genre(s): Crime / Drama
Paramount || R - 549 minutes - $69.99 || September 23, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-10-12


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer(s): Mario Puzo (novel); Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo (screenplay)
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Sofia Coppola


Theatrical Release Date: March 24, 1972


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentaries
  • The Godfather Family
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Storyboards
  • Additional Scenes/Timeline
  • Galleries
  • The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't
  • Godfather World
  • When the Shooting Stopped
  • Emotional Rescue: Revealing
  • The Godfather on the Red Carpet
  • Four Short Films on The Godfather
  • Family Tree


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Widescreen (1.77)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

This is a “basic” summary of my thoughts on the entire trilogy as a whole, and I do give some insights into each movie.

First, The Godfather is the movie I measure all other movies against in terms of quality. It’s not my favorite film of all-time, but it is the one movie I consider to be the best and has remained #1 on my list for many years now with no others coming close to supplanting it. Watching it for the first time in about five years, the movie had just as much impact as the first time I saw it back in 1995. The film captured my attention from the line “I believe in America” to the last show as the door closes on Diane Keaton’s character, Kay as she sees her husband take over his father’s business (and lie directly to her face prior).

If any movie could be called a masterpiece, it would be this. Modern cinema has produced many great films, some enticing the fanboy in me (The Dark Knight) while others are just damn good (The Shawshank Redemption). However, neither of these examples stacks up to The Godfather and admittedly it would have to be an event for one to do so. I think the reason I loved the movie so much is it’s not an entirely complex story on the one hand (corruption of power) but features so many top notch performances from Marlon Brando to Al Pacino to James Caan and Robert Duvall. Add to that an Oscar-winning screenplay by director Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo (based on this novel), and you got a winning formula. Despite a fairly lengthy running time of nearly 3-hours, it never lags and there is not one minute on screen that isn’t needed or detracts from the story.

The only movie of all-time that does come close to matching The Godfather, of course, one of the undeniably best sequels ever made, The Godfather Part II. Although this one didn’t catch my attention like the original, it is one fine piece of filmmaking. First, it’s one of the only prequel and sequels all in one unfolding two stories. One shows the beginnings of Vito Corleone from his childhood days, early 20th century, in Sicily arriving to America through adulthood (portrayed masterfully by Robert De Niro). The other parallel story follows Don Michael Corleone in the 1950s as he tries to expand the family business dealing with the Cubans, Senators and the like. This entry is much more complex with the two dueling stories and the multifaceted relationships between Michael, his brother Fredo, sister Connie, and gangsters Frank Pentangeli and Hyman Roth (amongst many others).

I wasn’t as enamored with The Godfather Part II as the original, but it’s still a damn good movie and although it is 28-minutes longer (3 hours, 22 minutes), it too never feels that long.

And finally, The Godfather Part III is, in its own way, a little underrated. Released 16 years after Part II, this entry was not well received obviously because it is and will always be compared to its predecessors. I personally enjoyed it for a solid enough performance from Al Pacino (though it’s one that we’ve so many times throughout his career) as well as seeing the final transition of the Michael Corleone character as he looks back on his life with regrets rather than defiance and seeks redemption for all the ills he has contributed on the world. As the tagline says, “All the power on earth can’t change destiny”.

It was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, but because of the greatness that were The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, it will always be measured against them both and thus is considered merely “good enough” rather than great or a classic. And on that level, I’d agree. It is not a classic, and it’s not very high on my all-time list, but it is none-the-less a decent film on the whole.

The Godfather - ***** / *****
The Godfather Part II - ****¾ / *****
The Godfather Part III - ***¾ / *****



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Note: Discs 4 and 5 were mislabeled. Disc 4 contains the new 2008 features while Disc 5 has the older 2001 material.

For the sake of time and length, I’m not going to as detailed on some of the older features, only to say alone I’d give them a solid 4/5...

Feature Commentaries – I already had respect for Francis Ford Coppola, and that only grew as I like it when filmmakers record commentaries, especially one’s for longer movies such as The Godfather Trilogy (total running time: 549 minutes) and Coppola is just captivating in each one as you get so much info that combined with these featurettes, you get the entire story behind the movies.

Under “Behind the Scenes” from the menu are: Look Inside (73:29) (filmed in 1990) which is the meat of this disc with honest insights from just about everyone involved as Francis Ford Coppola butted heads with Paramount, especially casting Al Pacino as Michael (Coppola had to audition Pacino several times) and the documentary also features audition footage from James Caan, Martin Sheen for Michael Corleone and Robert De Niro for Sonny.

The rest under this section are basic featurettes: On Location (6:56) is on the set of The Godfather Part III; Francis Ford Coppola’s Notebook (10:11) is an interesting look at Coppola’s notes as the writer/director explains how he and Puzo translated the book to screenplay; Music of the Godfather examines Nino Rota who wrote the great “Godfather Waltz” and Carmine Coppola (Francis Ford’s father) doing some other music for Parts I and II and the main score on Part III; Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting (8:06) gets some talk from the two collaborators; Gordon Willis on Cinematography (3:40) is more insight on the style he set for the movies; and The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971 (8:56) which is very old promotional featurette.

Disc 4 (5) also contains text items on the Filmmakers (Coppola, Puzo, etc); Galleries containing trailers, photos and acclaim & response; The Family Tree where viewers can look at the Corleone family; and 35 Additional Scenes in order of when they took place in the story (by years so scenes from Godfather Part II would be first).

Now onto the new stuff... Disc 5 (4) contains some interesting featurettes that any fan of the movies will find interesting.

Godfather World (11:19) – This is basically an appreciation featurette with interviews with many people as they reflect on how The Godfather has infiltrated the American culture from quoting lines in everyday conversation to the many homage’s on television and movies (“The Sopranos”, “The Simpsons”, Analyze This). Here you can find a variety of people talk about the movies from Joe Mantegna (who was in Part III), Alex Baldwin, David Chase (creator of “The Sopranos”), “South Park” co-creator Trey Parker and directors William Friedkin, Guillermo del Toro and Steven Spielberg.

The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t (29:44) – This is, for the first half at least, the most interesting featurette on the set. Here we get a real inside glimpse at what kind odds Coppola was up against as Paramount basically shot down every one of his casting choices and having another director there waiting in the wings for when Coppola would be fired. The rest is also good, but the material pertaining directly to the insider stuff was fascinating. Here you can get comments from Coppola, George Lucas, Spielberg, Chase and others.

...when the shooting stopped (14:18) is another oddly named featurette and one, along with “Godfather World” and “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” could have been combined to be one long documentary. In any case, the first 4-5 minutes deal with Paramount wanting the film not to be a minute over 130 minutes but when that version didn’t please them, they took it anyway only to realize it needed to be longer in order for it to work. After that the featurette goes into the story of all three and I guess just an overview of the entire trilogy.

Emulsional Rescue Revealing the Godfather (19:07) – Probably the most fascinating, for me, featurette looks at how the restoration process went down for the first two movies and balancing things like color correction making sure not to alter that director’s original intent. Only thing wrong: I wish it were longer.

The Godfather on the Red Carpet (4:04) is a much better featurette than I had originally envisioned. Instead of some retrospective thing from the red carpet in 1972, it is instead on the red carpet of... Cloverfield and has comments from those attending the premiere (Jennifer Morrison, John Cho, Natasha Henstridge, Matt Reeves and more).

Last are Four Short Films on The Godfather (7:23) which are basically featurettes comments from various people on four topics (not short films): “GF vs. GF Part II” features people talking about the comparison between the two movies; “Riffing on the Riffing” is just Richard Belzer and comedian Seth Isler rattling off quotes from the movies; “Cannoli” and “Clemenza” just offer more insights on those topics.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

The Godfather and The Godfather Part II have been given a video and audio makeover and designated with “The Coppola Restoration” tag on each. For some reason Part III did not get the treatment (and maybe didn’t need it). For me, each film does look nice as the black levels look good and I noticed minimal dust and scratches. Each movie gets progressively better with the first one with noticeable amount of graininess in some darker scenes.

Previously, Part II was on 2-discs, now down to one. For that movie, I didn’t notice any issues with compression and checking out the disc size using VSO Inspector, it is slightly larger and the first disc on the previous set.

I did a comparison between the old set and this new one and the older one, especially the opening scenes of The Godfather is much lighter, but the blacks looked too brown, so it was a definite improvement. Overall, it’s a much cleaner transfer than what we got before and is the closest to what was originally presented in theaters 30+ years ago.

I wouldn’t say the Dolby Digital 5.1 track given for each film was “wow” inspiring, but they got the job done and the music/scores do sound great, it’s the dialogue that sometimes wasn’t up to snuff for my ears. But overall these are solid tracks and I did not notice any sort of distortions or pops.



.::OVERALL::.

The Godfather Trilogy is essential viewing for any movie fan. As much as Part II is incredible, I still have so much respect for the original because there is not one frame that is not perfect. The acting is remarkable, the style amazing to behold and Coppola’s direction and writing (with Mario Puzo) is phenomenal. If there were a truly perfect movie, Godfather is it. As for this new DVD set and for those who already own the 2001 release, it all depends on how much value you place on audio and video quality. While the ’01 release was certainly serviceable, I think the improvement here is noticeable and combined that with some great features, it very well may be worth the upgrade.