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Paramount Home Video presents
The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration [The Godfather / The Godfather Part II / The Godfather Part III] (Blu-ray) (1972 1974 1990)

"If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone."
- Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)

Review By: Matt Serafini  
Published: November 10, 2008

Stars: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna,
Other Stars: Bruno Kirby, Abe Vigoda, Lee Strasberg, Harry Dean Stanton, Danny Aiello, George Hamilton, Sofia Coppola, Richard Bright, Bridget Fonda
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, language and nudity
Run Time: 08h:50m:16s
Release Date: September 23, 2008
UPC: 097361386447
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A+AA- A+

DVD Review

I’ve always preferred Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (and its sequel) to every other mob drama out there. There’s just something about the sprawling, lavish quality of the story that makes the unflinching corruption of Michael Corleone’s soul such a compelling, and ultimately haunting, experience. Add to that the vicious bursts of violence that often propagate a deceivingly civil landscape and you’ve got, for my money, the definitive depiction of cinematic mob life and a striking metaphor for America itself.

I feel like there isn’t much left to say about this trilogy at this point: we all know the first two films are Best Picture winners, and who doesn’t know about the classic trappings: Luca Brazzi, the horse head, the Baptism sequence, Robert DeNiro as young Vito Corleone, Hyman Roth and, of course, that fishing trip. These movies are iconic. Much has been written about them and to say they’ve infiltrated the lifestream of popular culture is to make a bold understatement. And what amazes me about The Godfather and The Godfather part II is that they deserve every bit of praised heaped upon them. No question: they are that great.

So I don’t want to get bogged down in recapping storylines or talking about great performances. It all feels like a moot point now. I want to take this opportunity to speak of a few things which I believe really separates The Godfather and its sequels from the rest of the pack (yeah, even Part III, to a lesser extent).

There’s an amazing texture which permeates these films. The first opens up with one of the most compelling sequences in American cinema. We’re a fly on the wall within the deep, depthless blacks of Don Vito Corleone’s den. And Coppola juxtaposes these bits of family business with the grandiose reception for his daughter’s wedding. These bits are prevalent with Italian culture, music, and camaraderie. Pure authenticity. Having grown up in a very large Italian-American family I cannot overemphasize the spot-on depiction of these sequences, right down to the tiny inclusion of a drunk and or crazy uncle. And the little touches, such as Sonny’s handling of the paparazzi, help to give this film a consistent richness that elevates the story in an unparalleled way.

And you can say the same thing for Part II. Unfortunately, it’s where most of my problems with Part III stem from. We open in 1979 and from the get go, there’s a serious lack of detail in the surroundings. There’s nothing to hammer home the point that we’re now living in late '70s America, and it’s a disappointing contrast considering the previous two films were steeped in such detail. Aside from that I feel like The Godfather, Part III never really got a fair shake. The story does feel a little unfocused from where it begins to where it ends, but the drama is rich and satisfying throughout. For me this is a satisfying conclusion to the saga and its greatest failing is that it doesn’t quite measure up to parts I and II.

Arguably the greatest trilogy ever created, each film in the series is filled with gripping, nuanced drama that’s damn near impossible to top. The older I get the more I learn to appreciate them. And while I’d label Part II as my absolute favorite in the series, I’ve learned to like this saga on the whole. In my humble opinion, no cinephile’s movie collection is complete without them.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Over the past few weeks I've read just about every review of this Blu-ray collection on the web. It seems like no two websites can agree on it. But let me reassure any readers still on the fence about this release: none of the films in this series have ever looked this good.

By design these films display a very dark visual palette and the Blu-ray transfers bring very dark, inky blacks to the table. The opening scene of The Godfather is simply a stunner, with blacks so rich they're practically blinding. It's made all the more powerful with stark details being readily prevalent on the faces of actors within these blacks. In fact, the most amazing part of this transfer is that detail is available everywhere, even in the most simplistic of settings.

Part II's ambitious reach (1900s Sicily and Brooklyn, Cuba and Nevada) is captured in all its glorious detail. Sequences in Cuba spring to life with colors and textures that I never before realized existed. The ballroom sequence in particular is a stunner.

It's abundantly clear in every frame of these new transfers that this was a painstaking effort from all invovled (and you'll see that in one of the best featurettes in this new collection). This restoration is near-perfect in that it preserves the intended look of this trilogy. I had the pleasure of viewing these films on a fifteen foot screen via a 1080p projector (in addition to my 50 inch 1080p LCD) and it was a beautiful recreation of the theatrical exhibition. Perfectly filmlike. A friend of mine purchased this set on SD and I converted him to Blu-ray with this release after he saw the difference of quality when projected up onto the fifteen foot screen.

There are posters on various forums who've expressed disappointment in this set for keeping the film grain intact. Sadly there seems to be a misconception among some high definition enthusiasts who believe every BD release should look like Transformers. What it really comes down to, however, is recreating a director's intended look for a film. And with this set, you're going to get the trilogy as Coppola intended you to see it.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English (5.1 TruHD and 5.1 Surround), French (5.1)yes

Audio Transfer Review: The TrueHD tracks for all three films offer crystal clear audio. As all three are typically dialogue-driven, it's the most you can ask for. Surround speakers are provoked in any exterior scene and, of course, whenever music and or action accompanies the drama. These tracks may not give your system an endless workout, but that's got more to do with the nature of the films than any real flaw in the audio design.

Mono purists will also dig on the inclusion of single-speaker tracks for the first two films. They also provide clear audio, although the tracks are a little more flat. Each film also features standard 5.1 tracks, but there's no real reason to opt for these over the TrueHD audio. They're not as vibrant.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Original Trailer(s)
34 Deleted Scenes
3 Documentaries
10 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Co-Writer and Director Francis Ford Coppola
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Family Tree/The Crime Organization
  2. Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album
Extras Review: You've got a seemingly endless swell of extra material packed into this set: the supplemental material produced for the 2001 box set, and a new trove of material produced exclusively for this new collection.

First off we've got the 29-minute documentary The Masterpiece that Almost Wasn't. Presented in HD for this Blu-ray set, it's a compelling documentary about '70s cinema, loaded with recollections from Coppola and his peers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. They talk about the turbulent production road Coppola traveled in great detail. Of particular note is Spielberg's honest reaction to seeing for the first time. It's good to know that even a master filmmaker can be humbled.

Next up is Godfather World, another HD piece that runs approximately 12 minutes. It's a nifty bit detailing the trilogy's cultural influence. Hollywood players such as William Friedkin, David Chase, and Alec Baldwin speak about the film's impact. It's all opinion, but it's a blast to watch.

Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather is my favorite documentary in this set. With this 19 minute documentary (again, in HD) you go behind the scenes of the restoration process where you're educated on how much of a science it really is. Film archivist Robert Harris speaks at length about this process and it's a real attention grabber. There's also more input from Steven Spielberg who states his involvement in getting the restoration process underway. This isn't one to miss!

And When the Shooting Stopped runs 14 minutes. Coppola is on hand to explain what happened to The Godfather in the editing room and how the producers insisted on a much shorter version of the film. People—myself included—tend to think back on the '70s as some mythical heyday for bold Hollywood films. This production makes it clear that things haven't changed much in the past 35 years.

Four Short Films on The Godfather aren't four short films at all, rather four tiny featurettes cobbled together into one 7-minute little piece (incidentally, all four 'films' can be accessed individually). They discuss comparisons between the first two films, canoli culture, impersonations of characters from the movies, etc. Nothing special here, but worth a glance.

The most baffling extra included on this set would have to be The Godfather on the Red Carpet. Not what you think. Set on the red carpet at the Cloverfield premiere (?), this is just a series of brisk interviews with several lesser-tier actors. A shallow love-fest from people I could care less about (Natasha Henstridge, of course, being the exception).

The Family Tree/The Crime Organization is an interactive piece which maps out all of the connections across all three Godfather films. It's an effective little appendix to the films as, after watching all three in a weekend, I needed a little refresher to keep all the names straight. Coupled with this are actor bios which can be accessed by clicking on the character's name. I'm a sucker for really tight continuity, so this sort of feature feels tailor made for me. Definitely a cool little piece.

Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album is a still gallery offering glimpses of the wedding which opens the first Godfather film.

Anyone previously familiar with the 2001trilogy box set will undoubtedly recognize the next set of features. It was great that Paramount saw fit to include them here as they're well worth a glance:

The Godfather Family is in standard definition and clocks in just beneath 75 minutes. It's an archival piece from 1989, when The Godfather, Part III was in production. It's loaded with footage not only from the third film, but the first two as well. See Robert De Niro's screen test for Sonny, or James Caan's test for the part of Michael after the studio told Coppola they didn't want Pacino. This may not be the most satisfying documentary (it feels somewhat incomplete, even at near-feature length), but it's more than worth your time.

Deleted Scenes run close to an hour. They're divided up chronologically, from 1892-1930, 1941-1945, 1946-1955, 1956 and 1977. Taken out of context it can be hard to piece all these together, but I enjoyed wading through them. Apparently, some of these appeared in Coppola's chronological edit of the first two films, but as I've never seen that cut and therefor cannot confirm that.

The highlight of this set for me are the three Coppola commentary tracks. They're not fully satisfying in that it's not uncommon to encounter lengthy gaps of silence, but all three are well worth the time. His recollections on the first film are probably where you'll hear some of the most oft-told behind the scenes tales, but don't let that stop you from giving it a listen. What strikes me most about these tracks is how down to earth Coppola seems. He's fully able to admit to flaws and pulls no punches in spilling the dirt (no surprise for anyone who’s explored his Dracula disc). It can be a daunting task to sit down and listen to a three-hour audio commentary, but I can't recommend these tracks enough. Oddly enough, Part III's may well be the best of them all. It's unquestionably the weakest film, but I loved hearing Coppola defend it and talk a great length about some of the ideas in there that may not necessarily be so prevelant in the finished product. Check these suckers out!

The Locations of The Godfather runs 6 minutes and features an interview with production designer Dean Tavoularis as he returns to the NYC locations for the first time since working on the films.

Francis Coppola's Notebook is a 10 minute featurette in which the director shows audiences his pre-production notebook. A genuinely interesting piece which offers some welcome insight into Coppola's thought process.

The Music Of the Godfather runs about 7 minutes. It's really two seperate interviews. One with Nino Rota (parts I and II) and one with Carmine Coppola (part III). The Rota stuff is of particular interest, seeing how he created a theme as powerful and lingering as arguably any in American cinema.

Next up, Puzo and Coppola on Screenwriting clocks in just under 6 minutes. It's great to see Puzo and Coppola speak about their collaborative process in the creation of these epics. I would've enjoyed it had there been a little more depth, but I'm happy they touched upon it. It's just a shame the Puzo is no longer here to participate in this new release.

Gordon Willis on Cinematography is another featurette that is just too short. Willis is very forthcoming regarding how the dark and shadowy look of The Godfather came about, but as this piece runs about 4 minutes, it never reaches the depths I would've liked.

Also included in this set is an original "making of" from 1971. A ten minute fluff piece crafted together to promote the then upcoming mafia epic. Not much here, but worth a look to see how this was promoted all those years back.

There are storyboards and production galleries included here as well.

Three theatrical trailers round out this set.

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

Time to throw away that old 2001 box set. Paramount's Coppola Restoration is a must have (and believe me, spring for the Blu-ray). The transfers are sublime and remain true to the classic Gordon Willis cinematography. Two movies are perfection and the third is a solid experience that has improved over time. This set is a revelation, packed with a treasure trove of excellent extra features.


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