DVD Review: The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration

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, a “godfather” or “don,” the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family “business.” A few months later at Christmas time, the don barely survives being shot by gunmen in the employ of a drug-trafficking rival whose request for aid from the Corleones’ political connections was rejected. After saving his father from a second assassination attempt, Michael persuades his hotheaded eldest brother, Sonny (James Caan), and family advisors Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) that he should be the one to exact revenge on the men responsible. After murdering a corrupt police captain and the drug trafficker, Michael hides out in Sicily while a gang war erupts at home. Falling in love with a local girl, Michael marries her, but she is later slain by Corleone enemies in an attempt on Michael’s life. Sonny is also butchered, having been betrayed by Connie’s husband. As Michael returns home and convinces Kay to marry him, his father recovers and makes peace with his rivals, realizing that another powerful don was pulling the strings behind the narcotics endeavor that began the gang warfare. Once Michael has been groomed as the new don, he leads the family to a new era of prosperity, then launches a campaign of murderous revenge against those who once tried to wipe out the Corleones, consolidating his family’s power and completing his own moral downfall. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels.

THE GODFATHER PART II: This brilliant companion piece to the original The Godfather continues the saga of two generations of successive power within the Corleone family. Coppola tells two stories in Part II: the roots and rise of a young Don Vito, played with uncanny ability by Robert De Niro, and the ascension of Michael (Al Pacino) as the new Don. Reassembling many of the talents who helped make The Godfather, Coppola has produced a movie of staggering magnitude and vision, and undeniably the best sequel ever made. Robert De Niro won an Oscar; the film received six Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1974.

THE GODFATHER PART III: One of the greatest sagas in movie history continues! In this third film in the epic Corleone trilogy, Al Pacino reprises the role of powerful family leader Michael Corleone. Now in his 60’s, Michael is dominated by two passions: freeing his family from crime and finding a suitable successor. That successor could be fiery Vincent (Andy Garcia)… but he may also be the spark that turns Michael’s hope of business legitimacy into an inferno of mob violence. Francis Ford Coppola directs Pacino, Garcia, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Eli Wallach, Sofia Coppola, Joe Montegna and others in this exciting, long-awaited film that masterfully explores the themes of power, tradition, revenge and love. Seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

The masterpiece known as The Godfather trilogy has been re-mastered and released for the first time on Blu-ray DVD. The first film, The Godfather is well established as one of the best American films ever made, and all three of the films received a combined total of 24 Academy Award nominations.

The Godfather starts out as “Don” Vito Corleone is overseeing his daughter’s wedding. His son Michael has returned home from the war just in time for the wedding, and he has made it clear that he does not intend to following his father’s footsteps in the business. We soon see that there is an up and coming rival to the Corleone family and when Don turns down the offer to help them further their agenda, he finds himself in a deadly situation. Michael is then lead to take action which ends up tearing the Corleone family apart.

The Godfather: Part II continues the saga and takes a look at the early life and career of Don Corleone. We also follow Michael into the 1950’s as he attempts to expand the family business into new locations. The third and final film, The Godfather: Part III, draws the saga to a close with Michael, who is the powerful head of the family. He’s in 60’s now though and is trying to free his family from crime and find a suitable successor at the same time.

This trilogy laid the groundwork for all great storytelling in the cinematic world. You simply can’t call yourself a film buff if this one isn’t in your collection. Recently, more than 10,000 movie fans, critics and filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino and Mike Leigh took part in a recent poll on the top movies of all time, and The Godfather was placed at the top by impressive margins.

In addition to containing all three icon films, this release also includes over 4 hours of special features: numerous featurettes in HD, short films of The Godfather, a twelve page booklet, and more. It should be noted that the Blu-ray quality may not be as impressive as other DVDs in your collection as this restoration originally took place with theaters in mind, and the home market wasn’t that much of a concern. That being said, it still looks far better than the original releases of these films. The Godfather films were meant to look grainy, so just sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy it without picking on the technical aspects.

Review by Emma Loggins

Grade: A
Official site: http://www.thegodfather.com/
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