The Godfather, Parts I, II & III – The Coppola Restoration, Blu-ray (1972/1974/1990)

by | Oct 13, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Godfather, Parts I, II & III – The Coppola Restoration, Blu-ray (1972/1974/1990)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Eli Wallach, Sofia Coppola, Andy Garcia, Joe Mantegna
Studio: Paramount 13864 (4 discs)
Video: Anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color, 1080p HD
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby True HD, DD 5.1, Mono; French DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Italian
Music: Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola
Extras on 4th Blu-ray disc: Original Supplements (480i) – Making of The Godfather, Additional Scenes, Filming Locations, The Corleone Family Tree, The Music of The Godfather, The Godfather Historical Timeline, Profiles on the Filmmakers, Photo Galleries and Storyboards; New Supplements (1080p) – Godfather World, The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t, When the Shooting Stopped, Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather, The Godfather on the Red Carpet, Four Short Films on The Godfather (4 hours+ total)
Length: 177 min./202 min./170 min./291 min.
Rating: *****

The original Godfather was rated by the American Film Institute as one of the best American feature films ever – right next to Citizen Kane – and according to one of the cornucopia of extras provided on the fourth disc, it almost didn’t get made. Coppola only took the job to get money to bail out his struggling Zoetrope studio, and the Paramount execs disagreed strongly with his casting choices – especially Pacino – they wanted Robert Redford!  They even had a standby director shadowing Coppola in case the bigwigs decided suddenly to replace him, but when they saw the rushes of the masterful scene where Pacino as the young Michael Corleone kills both a rival gangster and crooked cop in the Italian restaurant they relented. The original film went on to win ten Academy Award nominations and won three, including Best Picture of 1972.

Coppola took the assignment after seeing that the saga of the Sicilian family’s struggle to stay in power in America after WW II could be viewed as a metaphor for the challenges of capitalism.  While Coppola doesn’t downplay the violent crime business, the enduring appeal of the Godfather trilogy is primarily due to his concentration on the story of Corleone family life – which has influenced such recent gangster tales as The Sopranos. During the trilogy of films the leadership of the family passes from Brando’s Vito to Pacino’s Michael and finally to his nephew, Garcia’s Vincenzo. The series was based on Mario Puzo’s top-selling novel and he was involved with Coppola in writing the screenplays.

In the first film Michael initially intends to separate himself from the family and had enlisted in the army against the family’s wishes.  He tells girlfriend Diane Keaton that he is not the family and he’s going to be different. But when his father is shot by rival gangsters and left without staff or guards in the hospital in a setup for a planned assassination, Michael grasps the threat and takes over, eventually becoming the Don himself. He makes increasingly dire decisions to protect the family, causing much pain and bloodshed.

Godfather II, considered one of the best sequels ever made, uses flashbacks to the early history of Vito’s father in Sicily and his beginnings in New York as an olive oil distributor. Balanced with the continuation of the Corleone family saga in the 1950s, it works as both a prequel and sequel to the first film.  The mob’s activities in Cuba are a strong focus, including Michael’s hesitations about financial involvement due to the growing support he witnesses for the Cuban revolution.  The sequel got 11 Oscar nominations and was voted Best Picture of 1974.

The final chapter of the saga takes place 20 years later, using Pacino, Keaton and Duvall from the earlier films, and adding great roles for Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach and others. Michael is attempting to reposition his family as a legitimate corporation and has turned over his gambling empire to another gangster.  He has become seriously focused on his guilt for past awful deeds, including the murder of his brother Fredo, which was not necessary even if viewed from the family’s “doing business” perspective. He and Kay (Keaton) are no longer married but spend time together in Sicily to attend the operatic debut of their son. There are many scenes in the Vatican and other Catholic environments as Michael receives a special honor from the pope for his charitable contributions. He is trying to become director of a giant European corporation but runs into opposition to his past as well as those vying for that power, including one of his supposed friends and even powers in the Vatican.  Everything comes to a head at the opera premiere in Palermo, resulting in a great loss for Michael, who has already turned over the position of Godfather to his nephew Vincenzo.  The opera is Cavaleria Rusticana, and the parallels between the opera’s Sicilian revenge story and that of the real-life revenge scenarios going on both inside the opera house and elsewhere are played up in the editing. Michael is shown at his final passing to be completely alone, whereas at least his father – in the famous scene in the first film – had a somewhat happy environment playing in the grape arbor with one of his grandsons.

Both of the first films of the trilogy were meticulously restored for this set. There are interesting details in the extras on some of the work that was involved. The third film was remastered.  Most of the films look terrific, though it should be remembered I don’t see tiny artifacts on my 56” RPTV that could show up with a front projector and larger screen.  While the many dark areas show plenty of detail, there are some scenes showing excessive granularity.  On a couple spots in the original film Coppola obviously decided after the fact to zoom in on the image briefly, and the increased grain is very obvious in those cases. All the supplements I had time to sample were worth watching.  Especially enjoyed the one on the celebrities and ordinary people who quote and parody scenes and dialog from The Godfather, illustrating its enduring influence over 35 years later. The many interviews with Coppola give a deep insight into the production and greater appreciation of this rightly famous trilogy.

— John Sunier

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