The Godfather Trilogy on DVD
Paramount Makes Us an Offer We Can't Refuse
The first two Godfather movies were the films that really put Francis
Ford Coppola on the map. He has made other films, arguably better and worse,
but it will be the Godfather and Apocalypse Now for which this masterful
director will forever be known.
And with good reason. Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece of cinema, despite
its warts, that should be required viewing for any movie student or fan. The
Godfather movies aren't as great or innovative technically, but they're still
And now Paramount has released the entire Godfather trilogy in one five
disc DVD set, and it's a nice one. The movies take up the first four discs
(Godfather Part II is spread over two discs), with the fifth disc reserved for
oodles of interesting extras.
But more about that later.
Despite Part III's general trashing when it came out, it makes an
excellent end piece for the story of Michael Corleone, which is actually what
the trilogy is all about. Despite Marlon Brando's formidable presence in Part
I, and Robert DeNiro's excellent portrayal of the young Godfather in Part II,
it isn't really Don Vito Corleone's story. Rather, it's about the rise and fall
of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), a reluctant anti-hero who as a young World War
II veteran knows exactly where he's heading in his life - until family ties and
responsibilities change his path irrevocably.
When his father, Don Vito (Brando) is gunned down in a mafia hit, the
only strategy left to the family (and which is suggested by Michael) is for
Mike to gun down Virgil Solozzo (Al Lettieri) the mobster involved and his
corrupt cop escort (Sterling Hayden). This forces Michael to break off his
engagement to Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) and enter the family business, something
he did reluctantly because it was necessary in order to save the family
He goes to Sicily to hide out while a gang war erupts back home in New
York City. While there he falls in love and marries a local girl - but the
reach of his enemies is long and she is killed in a missed attempt on Michael's
Once back in the USA, the baton of family power is passed to Michael,
the new Don Corleone, and he vows to himself to take the family from the
criminal element to legitimacy.
But first he has a few scores to settle, and this is done with dispatch,
so to speak.
Part II interweaves a new plotline (Michael as Don) and parts of the
original book (the Young Vito Corleone, as played by DeNiro) that didn't make
it into the first movie. The DeNiro sections document Vito's flight from
Sicily, establishment in New York, and his rise to become Don. It's good stuff,
and DeNiro - as usual - plays the part beautifully. Vito sees his rise to
criminal power not only as an opportunity for profit, but an opportunity to see
justice is done is his little part of the world.
Meanwhile, Don Michael has moved the family away from New York to a
beautiful compound on Lake Tahoe in Nevada, close to the family's new business
empire of casinos and hotels. A businessman first and mafiosa second, Michael
looks to make deals, resorting to violence only when necessary but unleashing
it mercilessly when he deems it necessary. His new deals involve holdings in
Cuba, just as the government is overthrown and Castro comes to power and he
escapes from the island by the skin of his teeth.
Old habits die hard, and Michael's business associates still live and
die by the old school of mafia conduct. This leads to attempts on the lives of
Michael's family that force him to take the appropriate retaliation.
A subplot involves a Congressional investigation into organized crime
and Michael is in danger of being put away for perjury if not for some lucky
Part III picks up about twenty years later. Lake Tahoe has been
abandoned and the Corleone family is back in New York, but as a legitimate and
extremely lucrative enterprise. Michael seems to have made his dream of a
legitimate family come true, though at the cost of his wife and kids and much
else that he loved.
His past continues to dog him, however, and every time it appears he's
made a clean break from his criminal past he gets dragged kicking and screaming
back in. His enterprises involve becoming a huge multinational cartel and the
plot weaves together business and religious intrigue, crime, love of family,
salvation and retribution.
In some ways this is the best of the three installments, though most
critics will probably not agree. But it takes the Godfather saga from that of
being merely the recounting of a famous crime family and turns it into an
American tragedy that's really quite moving.
All the actors in all three parts are terrific, and Pacino is especially
wonderful in all three movies, but he's particularly outstanding in Part III
where he appears as the aging Don, obviously not in the best of health and
carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Part III also ties up a lot of the threads started in the first two
films, and in the end we're left with an image of the futility of everything
for which Don Michael had lived and fought.
But enough about the movies, how about the DVD's?
Well, for the most part Paramount has done an excellent job of handling
the transition. All three films are presented in anamorphic widescreen video
(16x9 TV compatible) and all feature newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1
The video quality is good for the most part, though not excellent (we
believe they're true to the original cinematic version, however, which is very
atmospheric in appearance). Part III is, surprisingly enough since it's by far
the newest of the trilogy, the most spotty and has many scenes that exhibit
quite a bit of grain. The sound quality is very good; the remix is well done,
though there isn't a lot of surround.
Then there are the extras. Not only is there an entire disc of goodies,
but each film features a full length running commentary featuring Coppola
Disc Five features "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside," which is an
original featurette from 1971. You also get deleted footage, including the
scenes that were originally stuck into the re-edited "The Godfather Saga"
videocassette release from 1977. Then there's "Francis Coppola's Notebook," a
collection of Production Stills and storyboards, a section on Gordon Willis'
cinematography, Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola's music, and Francis Ford Coppola
Not enough yet? Fine. You also get info on the films' locations and the
screenplays, footage culled from some of the rehearsal sessions, a "Corleone
family tree" and "Godfather timeline) and some footage of acceptance speeches
made by the films' Oscar winners.
One final word of congratulations to Paramount, something you may not
notice at first but which we feel is a wonderful feature: each film starts
directly upon insertion of the disc. Yessiree! There are no annoying menus to
sit through or navigate if all you want to do is watch the film.
The menus are there, but you have to access them deliberately. This is
great. We've had more than enough of exotic menus that are really pretty
examples of the technology, but which are ponderous and pretentious at
Way to go, Paramount!
The Godfather Trilogy, from Paramount Home Video
725 minutes in total, Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible,
Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Talia
Shire, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Lee Strasberg, Joe Mantegna, Andy Garcia,
Eli Wallach and many others.
Produced by Albert S. Ruddy, Francis Ford Coppola,
Written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, Directed by Francis Ford
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