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Blu-ray box set review: The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration


[to Rocco who has killed Paulie in the car]
Peter Clemenza: Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Paramount Pictures initially wanted Coppola to cast Robert Redford as Michael Corleone
Photo by Jason Merritt

For over 40 years, director Francis Ford Coppola's Oscar-winning "The Godfather" and its two sequels have been the most influential and popular films about organized crime. Intended by Coppola to be a gritty and yet humanizing look at the dark side of the American Dream, "The Godfather" trilogy has inspired many writers, TV producers, and filmmakers to create their own anti-heroic tales of individuals caught up in the Mafia's web of crime, power, and violence.

Without Coppola's lyrical adaptation of Mario Puzo's pulpy 1969 novel about the decline and fall of Don Vito Corleone, we wouldn't have seen Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas," Ridley Scott's "American Gangster," or Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America."

For that matter, if "The Godfather" did not exist, David Chase probably would not have been able to make HBO's "The Sopranos." The series not only is a more contemporary riff on themes in "The Godfather," but its characters often refer to the movies directly, either by quoting famous lines of dialogue or playing "Godfather" trivia games.

Produced and released by Paramount Home Entertainment in 2008, this four-disc Blu-ray collection includes:

The Godfather (1972): In the late 1940s, the aging Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) struggles to keep his mob empire intact and grooms his favored son, Michael (Al Pacino) as his designated heir.

The Godfather: Part II (1974): Both a prequel and a sequel, this chapter of the Corleone saga shows how a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) became a Mafioso, then picks up Michael’s tale where the first film left off.

The Godfather: Part III (1990): In the early 1980s, an aging Michael thinks about retiring from the family business, but just when he think he’s getting out, something drags him back in.

Each of the films has a director’s commentary track by Francis Ford Coppola, in which the acclaimed filmmaker discusses various aspects of the Godfather saga.

The Godfather Restoration: Supplements (2001, 2008): This is a revealing behind-the-scenes disc which combines featurettes made from the earlier DVD box set and the newer high-definition BD collection. Like the bonus discs found in 20th Century Fox's "The Alien Anthology" or "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" sets, this disc is a Blu-ray (BD) instead of the usual standard-definition DVD that most studios like to include in BD box sets.

Special Features (which include materials from the 2001 Coppola Restoration DVD set)

Featurette: “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t”

Featurette: “Godfather World”

Featurette: “Emulsional Rescue: Revealing ‘The Godfather’”

Featurette: “….And When the Shooting Stopped”

The Family Tree/The Crime Organization

Montage: “’The Godfather’ on the Red Carpet”

Four Short Films on ‘The Godfather’

Audio Commentaries

Documentary: “The Godfather Family”

“Behind the Scenes” Featurettes


Additional Scenes/Historical Timeline

Kay: It made me think of what you once told me: "In five years the Corleone family will be completely legitimate." That was seven years ago.
Michael Corleone: I know. I'm trying, darling.


Michael Corleone: Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.

Paramount Home Entertainment’s packaging for "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration" consists of a blue plastic multi-BD jewel case which features a stark black and red label with the famous "The Godfather" puppet-master logo in gold. The red element is a simulated bloodstain that, if you look at it closely, depicts some of the saga’s main characters. To the right of the pool-of-blood poster art, you’ll see a facsimile of Francis Ford Coppola’s signature.

The jewel box is protected by a cardboard slipcover with the same front cover art. Ensconced in the slipcover is a slim promotional brochure:

See this famously dark, staggeringly beautiful trilogy of films presented by the filmmaker as originally envisioned for the cinema. – From The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration brochure

Unlike, say, the booklet that comes with Columbia Pictures’ "Dr. Strangelove" two-DVD set, the one with "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration" doesn’t include an essay by a film critic or any in-depth examination of the movies’ impact on Hollywood and American culture. Essentially, the booklet is a combination of contents’ guide and catalog of major awards and nominations.

While I can live with this because the fourth BD is chock full of interesting behind-the-scenes stuff, it would have been nice if Paramount Home Entertainment could have coaxed Coppola to write at least a short essay for this collection.

My Take: Even though "The Godfather" features very few individuals who are not corrupted by power and greed, think that Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece is worthy of all the critical praise it has received over the past 40-plus years

Maybe it’s because the screenplay by Mario Puzo and Coppola manages to add layers of human complexity to its major characters by showing the different facets of their personalities.

For instance, Brando’s Vito Corleone is a feared and respected Mafia don who can have a man killed with a softly whispered command, yet Coppola shows him as a doting father and grandfather who’s not above making funny faces at one of his grandchildren..

And, of course, we have Pacino’s Michael Corleone, a decorated Marine who, like it or not, is destined to take his father’s place at the head of his family, both literally and in La Cosa Nostra. After all, "The Godfather" trilogy is about Michael’s seduction by the power wielded by organized criminals and how that power corrupts him despite his intentions to go “legit.”

"The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration" looks sumptuous in this carefully remastered high-definition edition. Each frame of all three movies has been meticulously cleaned and repaired; there’s no sign of dust, film stock degradation or scratched negatives. The films’ contrasting lights and darks now look as sharp and clearly defined as they were when they were released theatrically in 1972, 1974, and 1990.

In a similar fashion, the audio tracks – particularly the English 5.1 TrueHD Dolby one – capture every line of dialogue, every gunshot, and every note of the musical scores crisply and cleanly.

All in all, if you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer to the Godfather saga, "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration" is the best way to see these landmark movies outside of a top notch movie theater.

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