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The Godfather

Coppola's Godfather trilogy gets a new birthday suit for its 50th

By Jim Bray
March 24, 2022

Paramount Pictures has given one of the most honoured films in Hollywood history – and its two sequels – a new lease on life thanks to a meticulous 4K restoration of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy. And, especially if you don't own the movies already, it's definitely worthy of your time.

I'm not going to get into the storylines of the films, which have been discussed ad nauseam, but rather I'll go over this terrific new five disc set (four 4K discs and a Blu-ray full of mostly great extras) so you can know what to expect from it.

I didn't remember the third movie that well, and it seems as if a lot of people had a really good time dumping all over it when it came out so many years after we assumed the saga had ended. I remember thinking it was better than many folks had made out – of course, one person's feast being another's famine – but it wasn't as memorable as the first two.

Now, however, Paramount has given Coppola a chance to rethink that third feature and the result is the re-edited The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, which is now the "official" third film in the trilogy's set. This director's cut is actually pretty darn fine, though purists might be upset that they've "put a moustache on the Mona Lisa" by rejigging it after all these years.

Yet director's cuts are far from rare, and often they make for the definitive versions of a particular film.

And Paramount has given us the best of all worlds here, because the fourth 4K disc is of the "original" Godfather III, and it appears to have been given the same remastering/restoration that the rejigged version got.

As for the rest of the films, they really do look better than ever, though (perhaps not surprisingly) they also look better as the series unfolds – so The Godfather isn't quite as nice as II, which isn't as nice as III. Despite that, I came away quite amazed with now well the movies have turned out in this 4K incantation.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised, though, because Paramount is an old hand at resurrecting old titles and giving them a new lease on life. They did it a couple of years ago with The Ten Commandments and even more recently with their terrific restoration of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Right off the bat, Paramount brought Coppola to the table, which cannot be a bad thing. And, perhaps not surprisingly, he signed off happily:

"I am very proud of The Godfather, which certainly defined the first third of my creative life," Coppola said in Paramount's release announcing the titles. "With this 50th anniversary tribute, I'm especially proud Mario Puzo's THE GODFATHER, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is included, as it captures Mario and my original vision in definitively concluding our epic trilogy. It's also gratifying to celebrate this milestone with Paramount alongside the wonderful fans who've loved it for decades, younger generations who still find it relevant today, and those who will discover it for the first time."

It apparently took a lot of work – some of which is detailed in the fine extras that come on the conventional Blu-ray that's included in the package. Here's some of Paramount's description of the meticulous work that was done:

  • Over 300 cartons of film were scrutinized to find the best possible resolution for every frame of all three films.
  • Over 4,000 hours were spent repairing film stains, tears, and other anomalies in the negatives.
  • Over 1,000 hours were spent on rigorous colour correction to ensure the high dynamic range tools were respectful of the original vision of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
  • In addition to the 5.1 audio approved by Walter Murch in 2007, the original mono tracks on The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II have been restored.
  • All work was overseen by Coppola.

 

It definitely shows. I'm glad they restored the original mono tracks, because I like originality. That said, however, the 5.1 remixes are very good and I actually preferred those tracks. Still, the audio is old and so not up to some of today's digital audio tracks, but that's okay. It works.

The 4K picture is still a tad soft in places, but I believe that's because the original images looked that way in the first place – so while I was disappointed that we didn't get "pop off the screen" images like you can get with more modern movies (especially ones shot digitally), it's still a darn fine presentation and easily the best to date. You can see just how much all the effort worked, as well, in the supplements – where they give "before and after" comparisons that are quite illuminating.

Then there's the cornucopia of supplements, the first of which is actually on The Godfather's 4K disc via a new introduction by Coppola himself.

But slip that Blu-ray into your player and you're in for a Godfather fiesta for the ages!

Here's just some of what's on offer:

  •     Full Circle: Preserving The Godfather—Paramount archivists detail the restoration process with archival footage showing the evolution of the film through its multitude of home entertainment incarnations as technology leaps ahead continually.
  •     Capturing the Corleones: "Through the Lens of Photographer Steve Schapiro— In this reflective and frank discussion, special photographer Steve Schapiro shares his unique perspective and cherished memories as a witness to the making of this seminal film. Commentary on curated archival images makes for a fascinating, never-before-seen addition to the production's history."
  •     The Godfather: Home Movies— A collection of 8mm home movie footage shot in 1971, it's behind the scenes stuff covering the production of The Godfather. This is the first time this stuff has been made available to the public, according to Paramount.
  •     Restoration Comparisons—  as mentioned, these before and after highlights showcase the extensive work done to spruce up The Godfather.

 

There's also a bundle of older stuff, much of which is still well worth your time. It includes, but is not limited to:

  •    The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't (a particularly fascinating look at the young Coppola and the old Hollywood he and his friends and collaborators – such as George Lucas – were trying to avoid by moving out of L.A.)
  •     Emulsional Rescue—Revealing The Godfather (not just a great title pun, but a very interesting look at how they rescued the movies from technological purgatory)
  •     ….when the shooting stopped
  •     The Godfather on the Red Carpet
  •     Four Short Films on The Godfather
  •     The Godfather vs. The Godfather: Part II
  •     Cannoli
  •     Riffing on the Riffing
  •     Clemenza
  •     The Family Tree   
  •     Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album
  •     A Look Inside
  •     On Location
  •     Francis Ford Coppola's Notebook
  •     Music of The Godfather
  •     Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting
  •     Gordon Willis on Cinematography
  •     Storyboards – The Godfather: Part II
  •     Storyboards – The Godfather: Part III
  •     The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971
  •     Additional Scenes
  •     Galleries
  •     Trailers
  •     Acclaim & Response
  •     The Filmmakers

 

This is definitely the set to have if you're a Godfather fan and have the equipment for it. If you don't, and have no plans to upgrade, Paramount says it's also releasing the restored and remastered versions on Blu-ray, with (just like in the 4K set) access to digital copies and the bonus content as well.

Copyright 2022 Jim Bray
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