The Godfather Trilogy: The Coppola Restoration Edition – DVD Review
By Jeff Swindoll Sep 22, 2008, 16:14 GMT
THE GODFATHER: Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather (1972) is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, ...more
“Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me.” It appears that godfather Don Coppola called in that favor with Paramount studios and a new restoration of his epic Italian family series, which just also happens to feature the mob. The addition of some excellent new special features makes this an offer you can’t refuse.
I remember reading a short description in a movie guide about Gone with the Wind. The author basically said that it was about the fading days of the old south and what more could they say about this epic film that hadn’t already been said. It seemed strange to see only a short paragraph in the guide for such a famous film.
That might be close to what I’ll have to say about the Godfather and Godfather, Part II.
They’ve been certified classics and what more is there to say? They’re truly epic films and have come to be films that have been inserted into the cultural lexicon. Even those that haven’t seen them seem to know what “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” means.
The films tell the tale of the Corleone family. It starts with Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his sons Fredo (John Cazale), Sonny (James Caan), Michael (Al Pacino), and family council Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). The Corleone family faces some competition from a rival family and the blood flows.
The first film seems to be focusing on the elder Don, but by the end we realize that it’s all about the ascension of Michael. The second film deals more with Michael’s rise but also contrasts it with Vito’s (now played by Robert De Niro) youth in Sicily and arrival in America in the mid-1900s. The third film deals with Michael’s attempts at redemption and his eventual downfall.
The saga has been on DVD before, but this new edition boasts a marvelously restored version dubbed the Coppola restoration. It’s been digitally scrubbed and corrected to reflect Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis’ vision.
Fans of film grain will be pleased, but those expecting it to look pristine might be a little disappointed.
Film grain is your friend. I’ll admit that I thought some scenes, such as the wedding, seemed too bright. However, when you watch the new documentary about the restoration you see that those effects were done on purpose and it’s only reflecting what Willis and Coppola wanted to achieve. Mea culpa.
Besides the new transfer we also get some delicious new special features as well as the ones from the previous edition. What’s interesting to realize is how close the Godfather came to not getting made and how close Francis Ford Coppola got to getting fired from the production.
The first two films are classics and on many top ten lists, the third is interesting but could’ve been better, but all look fantastic in this new set.
The Godfather films are presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and are enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Special features include three fabulous commentaries by director Francis Ford Coppola on all three films. Discs four and five are devoted to the supplemental materials.
However, both discs are mislabeled in my set with the new material appearing on the disc labeled the “2001 DVD Archive” and vice versa. I’m just glad the new stuff was on the other disc and not missing altogether. The 2001 DVD Archive starts with a behind-the-scenes section that has the magnificent 73-minute “A Look Inside” about the making of the films.
Next is the 7-minute “On Location” about the real locations used in the films, and a 10-minute bit about “Francis Coppola’s Notebook.”
“The Music of the Godfather” is divided into a 5-minute audio interview with composer Nino Rota and a 3-minute interview with Carmine Coppola, Francis’ father who also provided some of the music for the films.
The 8-minute “Coppola and Puzo on Screenwriting” has the two collaborators about writing the screenplay. The 3-minute “Gordon Willis on Cinematography” is pretty self-explanatory. Next are two sets of storyboards from One and Two and the 9-minute behind-the-scenes featurette from 1971.
The next section is a set of text biographies of the filmmakers, a collection of additional scenes in chronological order, a Godfather family tree, and an extensive gallery of trailers, photos, and more.
The new special features starts with the 11-minute “Godfather World” which interviews some famous faces about the impact of the film. The 29-minute “Masterpiece that Almost Wasn’t” details the films trouble production. The 14-minute “…When the Shooting Stops” looks at the editing process. The 19-minute “Emulsion Rescue” details the extensive restoration done to the films.
The 4 minute “The Godfather on the Red Carpet” interviews the stars walking into the Cloverfield premiere (?!?) about the Godfather films. Finally, there are four short films on the Godfather (GF vs. GF, Part 2 – 2 minutes, Riffing on the Riffing – 1 minute 40 seconds, Cannoli – 1 minute 40 seconds, and Clemenza – 1 minute 46 seconds).
I know of one party that thought that this transfer wasn’t up to snuff and preferred the previous DVD release. I did notice some oddities, or so I thought, but the featurette on the new bonus features explained that it was of Gordon Willis’ design. Willis paints with dark blacks that you’re not supposed to see into the shadows, so it’s by design not transfer.
I thought the film looked gorgeous and filmic even before watching the featurette. So grab yourself a bowl of oranges and prepare to be immersed in the world of gangsters once again. Leave the gun; grab the DVD or Blu-ray and the cannoli.