STUDIO: Paramount
MSRP: $62.99
RUNNING TIME: 549 minutes
•  Commentary on all three films by director Francis Ford Coppola
•  A Look Inside
•  On Location (six minutes)
•  Francis Coppola’s Notebook
•  Music of The Godfather
•  Puzo and Coppola on Screenwriting
•  Gordon Willis on Cinematography
•  Behind the Scenes 1971
•  30 deleted scenes
•  Video Galleries
•  Theatrical trailers for all three films
•  1974 Intro by Coppola for the TV airing of The Godfather
•  Storyboards
•  Photo galleries
•  Text bios
•  Corleone Family Event Timeline
•  Corleone Family Tree
•  Godfather World
•  The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t
•  …when the shooting stopped
•  Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather
•  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 Pitch

Buy this.  Or Else.

The Humans

The Godfather

Director – Francis Ford Coppola

Writers – Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

Cast – Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire, Gianni Russo, John Cazale, Rudy Bond.

Brando (Godfatherspeak): “Francis, this cotton for my sore tooth just ain’t working.”
Coppola: “Hang on, Marlon, I think you’re onto something here…”

The Godfather, Part II

Director – Francis Ford Coppola

Writers – Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

Cast – Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, G.D. Spradlin, Richard Bright, Gastone Moschin, Tom Rosqui, Bruno Kirby, Frank Sivero, Francesca De Sapio,

The Godfather, Part III

Director – Francis Ford Coppola

Writers – Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

Cast – Al Pacino. Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Sofia Coppola, Raf Vallone, Franc D’Ambrosio, Donal Donnelly, Richard Bright, Helmut Berger, Don Novello.

Coppola: “Okay Lenny, um…I’ve thought over your demands about a pay increase.”
Montana: “Yeah, and…?

The Nutshell

The Godfather:

In this, the most acclaimed crime drama and one of the greatest film series ever made (up to a certain point anyway), the saga of the Corleone Mafia family is detailed.  Beginning in the late summer of 1945, the Corleones, headed by “The Godfather,” Don Vito (Brando), find themselves at a crossroads as they consider entering into the drug trade to bolster their family businesses.  This leads to confrontations with enemies both within the family and outside of it, as circumstances dictate that youngest son, Michael (Pacino), take over as head of the family as Don Vito retires and hotheaded older son Sonny (Caan) is killed.

Michael, who initially had no dealings in the family business, descends further and further into the bloody campaign to protect the family and its interests. In the process, he becomes more ruthless than his father ever was, trying to hide behind the notion that the steps he has to take, including murder, are always ‘business and not personal.”  However, business dictates a war with the other crime families and Michael finds himself surrounded by nemeses, including family members and trusted friends.  The war is ended for the time being only through a merciless crusade by Michael against his enemies in one day.

You think what happened to Barbaro was tragic?  He got off easy compared to his great-grandfather…

The Godfather, Part II:

Presenting two storylines, one chronicling the rise of young Vito Corleone (De Niro) from his childhood in Sicily at the turn of the century, to his arrival in America and founding of the Corleone crime family in New York; and the other continuing Michael’s ongoing problems in dealing with both family and business issues in Lake Tahoe in the late 1950s.  Michael is trying to get the Corleone family into the gambling industry.  However, Michael has complicated issues with Jewish gangster Hyman Roth, as well as U.S. Senator Pat Geary, who despises the Corleones, but is necessary in order to get a gambling license.  Meanwhile, Michael has family issues with his sister, Connie, who is preparing to marry a man of whom Michael disapproves, as well as Fredo, whose ineptitude and shiftiness continue to be problematic.

Pacino: “Say hello to my little – “
Coppola: “Goddamnit, Al, that’s not for another eleven years…and it’s not even my friggin’ movie…”

After an assassination attempt on Michael, as well as a two-front war developing with Roth on one side and Geary on another, Michael is betrayed by someone in his innermost circle.  Meanwhile, Young Vito has quickly amassed a reputation in New York and is steadily building both his legitimate and illegitimate businesses while beginning his family with wife, Carmella.  When he returns to Sicily for the first time in 20 years after having been forced to flee after the murders of his father, mother and brother, Vito gains his revenge on the man responsible.  Michael resolves his problems with Roth and his other enemies, including the one closest to him, much in the same way that he had at the end of the Godfather, and silently ponders his life.

No one was more surprised than Jimmy Caan at just how how badly John McTiernan wanted to do that Rollerball remake…

The Godfather, Part III:

It’s now 1979, and Michael is still the wisened head of the family, now very remorseful and guilt-ridden over the ruthless steps he’s had to take to secure his family’s wealth and power.  His marriage to Kay collapsed long ago, Tom Hagen is dead and Michael has taken painful steps through the years to try to completely legitimize his holdings and businesses.  The remainder of the Corleone criminal empire is now in the hands of Joey Zasa (Mantegna).  He and Michael’s nephew, Vincent Mancini (Garcia), the illegitimate son of Sonny, are embroiled in a bitter feud for control.  Zasa has no respect for the Corleones, but Michael is impressed by Vincent’s loyalty, and officially invites him into the family as a Corleone.

Much of the film deals with Michael’s quest for redemption, both of himself and the Corleone family reputation, as well as his dealings with the Vatican in trying to buy shares of a real estate holding company, Immobiliare.  However, as events around him continue to deteriorate, Michael laments that even as he tries to get out of the criminal life, “they pull him back in.”  And although he is especially remorseful over his ordering of brother Fredo’s death, Michael realizes that that is the one sin for which their is no forgiveness.  As this is going on, Vincent, made head of the family by Michael, and Zasa continue their feud against each other.  Also, the election of a new Pope means that Michael’s efforts to legitimize the family are going to fail and a new war is on the horizon.  Michael eventually learns that all of his sins will be revisited upon him by the death of his closest blood and he eventually dies an old man, alone.

Duvall: “Abe, Francis told me that do to budget restrictions, we’re gonna have to let you go.”
Vigoda: “You mean, I’m being fired?”
Duvall: “Uh…not exactly…”

The Lowdown

Okay, do you honestly need me to tell you the impact and the legacy of the Godfather films?  If you do, clearly you’re on the wrong site…and quite possibly the wrong planet.  Regardless, The Godfather is the prototype for modern crime dramas: intricately detailed, superbly acted and lovingly crafted by one of the most acclaimed directors of the last fifty years.  You can’t find a reputable list of the greatest movies ever made without finding
The Godfather somewhere near the top.  Is is simply one of the archetypal films in cinema history.  Legendary careers were either solidified (Brando) or started (Pacino, De Niro, Caan, Keaton, Duvall, etc.) with this film series and the first two films are still the only first two films in any series to capture the Oscar for Best Picture.  Film quotes like “Make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “I know it was you, Fredo.  You broke my heart,” “It’s not personal…it’s strictly business” and “I try to get out and they pull me back in.” are part of popular culture.

Pacino: “Francis, You think I can scream here?”
Coppola: “Al, we talked about this. Just look pensively at the camera. This is a dramatic shot.”
Pacino: “I really think I should scream something here.”
Coppola: “No.”
Pacino: “Can I scream silently to myself?”
Coppola: “Fine, whatever…”

Those are all the obvious and well-known attributes of the film series.  But what is it exactly?  What makes
The Godfather such a storied franchise?  My thoughts are that it’s possibly the most complete telling of the thorough and utter destruction of an individual – being Michael Corleone – that is brought upon him completely by the choices that he has made during his entire lifetime.  Who is Michael Corleone if not the latest incarnation of the great tragic figures of literature?  Oedipus.  Faust.  Julius Caesar.  Although unlike Caesar, Michael has to live to see the fruits of his lifelong pursuits come back to visit him a hundredfold.  And unlike Faust, Michael doesn’t sell his soul to the devil, he becomes the devil.  A remorseful devil, but a devil nonetheless.

Roth: “Bring me my $2 million, Michael, and our partnership is sealed.”
Michael: “Sure, and hey, maybe you’ll take a couple of bucks and buy a shirt or something…?”

Michael is Cain, with murdering his brother being the one sin for which he can never forgive himself.  He’s Midas, surrounded by wealth and nothing.  It’s not all at once and it’s not right away, but each subsequent act sends Michael down another circle of hell until finally, at his villa, alone at the end of the third movie, he’s pretty much bunkmates with Judas.  It’s a path that Michael paved for himself, from offing Sollozzo and McCluskey to watching that fateful death on the steps of the opera house. Michael is the epitome of tragedy and good tragedy is timeless.  Guys like Sophocles and Shakespeare and many others discovered that a long time ago and it still rings true today.

Michael is the core, the heart of the trilogy, but there are plenty of other elements to the Corleone story that continue to resonate with film historians, critics and most importantly, audiences.  It’s violent in the tradition of the old gangster movies of early cinema.  It’s about family, loyalty and honor, although much of it misplaced.  It’s also absolutely Machiavellian.  There are plots within plots, alliances forged and broken and betrayal at every turn.  If you were to watch these films for the first time, you’d probably need a program in order to keep all of the players straight.  It’s simply one of the most complex and engrossing dramas of our time.

Try as he might, young Vito’s flaming towel of death never quite caught on as the Mafia weapon of choice…

As for the performances, it goes without saying that Vito Corleone is possibly Brando’s signature role in a legendary career.  In actually very little screen time, he establishes a character for the ages that’s been referenced, copied and lampooned innumerable times, even by the man himself.  The Oscar that he won for the role (and subsequently turned down in unprecedented fashion with Sacheen Littlefeather at the Oscars) is the stuff of Hollywood legend.  James Caan, already an established actor, solidified his reputation for tough guy toles as the hotheaded Sonny Corleone.  As for De Niro, the role of Young Vito Corelone only added depth to the character established by Brando and the fact that he was able to pull off another Oscar winning performance speaking mostly Sicilian in Godfather, Part II kicked off another legendary career.

“John…I told you what would happen if you ate the last cruller of the craft service table…”

John Cazale, in a tragically brief career, played the weak Fredo as well as any such character has ever been played.  He still maintains a distinctive record as having the majority of films in which he appeared having been nominated for or winning the Academy Award for Best Picture (Godfathers I, II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, The Deer Hunter).  His is one of the careers that could possibly have been up there with his peers in these two films had cancer not cut it short.  Finally, is there another character portrayed by Pacino, in yet another storied career, that is as cold, as ruthlessly calculating and frequently understated as Michael Corleone?  The look on his face both as he prepares to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, as well as looking at Kay as the door shuts on her face at the end of the first film tells everything about Michael that can more clumsily be described by words.  This film franchise has showcased some of the greatest actors of the last forty years doing some of the best – if not the best – work of their careers.

“So are we going out on the Denver town tonight, Vincent?”
“No, I’m just going to spend a quiet night in.”
“I thought you knew how to have any fun.”
“I will when I’m dead…”

Lastly, for Coppola himself, this film series is the crowning achievement in his amazing career as well.  Already an Oscar-winning writer for Patton, he crafted two more Oscar-winning scripts with Mario Puzo, the author of the novel, in the first two films of the series.  More Oscar wins for director and producer for Part II and a nomination for director for the original and director and producer for Part III only solidify the greatness he achieved on this film series.  Coppola has had an up and down career as any director and producer with his longevity will.  The Godfather series is undoubtedly his greatest work.  This film series was crafted by legends, starred legends, and became a legend.

The Package

The entire Godfather set was initially released onto DVD for the first time in 2001, with a variety of old and new special features with copious participation from Coppola in the way of commentaries for all three films, and two documentaries, one from 1971 and the 73-minute The Godfather Family: A Look Inside from 1971.  It also contained numerous deleted scenes that Coppola included in the Godfather Saga, which was a re-editing of the first two films into chronological order for TV in 1977.  Francis Coppola’s Notebook was a feature that took a look inside the notebook that Coppola used on set.  There was rehearsal footage, features on Carmine Coppola’s and Nino Rota’s music, Gordon Willis’ cinematography, Coppola himself, Puzo’s screenplays, locations, a Corleone Family Tree feature, a Godfather Timeline and Oscar acceptance speeches footage.

This Restoration version has all that, plus a boatload of other materials.  Here’s how the newer features break down:

Yes, I believe we all felt that way…

Disc 4

Godfather World is an 11-minute spotlight on how The Godfather has influenced pop culture in countless different ways, from references by The Sopranos, The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, SCTV, an Audi commercial where a guy covered in motor oil wakes up to find the grill of his car in bed; and even a one-man play by Seth Isler called “The Godfadda Workout”, where he manically plays all the characters. It features commentaries by Richard Belzer, Alec Baldwin, David Chase, William Friedkin, Trey Parker, Guillermo Del Toro, Joe Mantegna, Stevie Van Zandt, Steven Spielberg, and Coppola.

The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t is an excellent 30-minute detailed history of how The Godfather came to be and the forces and circumstances in which it almost wasn’t made, from the pressures of the studio, to the time period in Hollywood, etc.  Commenting on the piece are Spielberg, Walter Murch, George Lucas, Coppola, Robert Evans, the Paramount Production Chief from 1966 – 1975, and several others.  It features archival footage, including an appeal made by Robert Evans in 1970 to Gulf+Western, the conglomerate that bought Paramount not to shut the studio down.  You get a real sense from the people integral to the making of the movie as to how the picture took shape and the arduous road they had to take to get it made.  This is a fantastic piece.

…when the shooting stopped runs 14 minutes and continues the story from many of the contributors of the previous two featurettes and details how the films were edited.  It presents alternate musical take of the horse in the bed scene from Part I and rationalizes the thinking for doing the dual sotryline from Part II and wraps up with Part III.  This is another good featurette.

Pacino: “Hey Francis, now?  Now?!!”
Coppola: “Sure, go for it, Al.”

Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather runs 19 minutes and gives great detail as to how Gordon Willis, the cinematographer shot the films and then how they were later restored for this release.  A lot of attention is paid to how Willis created a negative that “no one could mess with.”  There’s only one way to print Godfather negative: dark.  There’s enough technical info in this piece to get a masters in film preservation.  Yet another excellent and informative piece.

The Godfather on the Red Carpet is a camera crew going out to various red carpet events and getting comments from stars about what they feel about the Godfather films.  This is more of a fluff piece and nowhere near the caliber of the preceding four featurettes.

Four Short Films on The Godfather are four quickie takes on the Godfather phenomenon.  The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II is a two-minute piece about which one is better with commentaries by Kenneth Turan, Mick La Salle, David Chase and others.  Cannolli is a quick commentary from Coppola and author Sarah Vowell (“Take the Cannolli”) about how cannolli made a small contribution to the film.  Riffing on the Riffing is 90 seconds of Richard Belzer and a friend ad libbing scenes from the movies.  Finally, Clemenza is a two-minute piece about how Coppola tried to get Richard Castellano back for Part II as Clemenza but because of an outrageous demand, he was unable to and thus had to have Clemenza die offscreen.  These are also mostly puff pieces and not integral to see, unless you want to know the real importance of cannolli to the saga and why Clemenza wasn’t in the second film.

Disc 5

Coppola’s passion for this series is evident as he has provided copious material to this restoration and had done so throughout much of the last 36 years.  There is a commentary on all three films by Coppola and he has a lot of stories to tell about how these films came about and interesting anecdotes.  And hell, considering that each movie is close to three hours, he has a lot of time to talk.

Needless to say, the sub-prime crisis hasn’t been good to Ricky Roma…

A Look Inside is an excellent, 73-minute documentary on the entire process of making of the Godfather.  On Location runs six minutes and deals with production on the set of the movie.  Francis Coppola’s Notebook is 10 minutes of Coppola taking you into his actual notebook that he kept on the set of the films.  Music of the Godfather, Puzo and Coppola on Screenwriting (eight minutes), Gordon Willis on Cinematography (four minutes) and Behind the Scenes, 1971 (nine minutes) are short featurettes that deal with the various areas of production on the films.  There are over 30 deleted scenes from all three films. Video Galleries is a subsection comprised of footage from acceptance speeches from the 1973 and 1975 Oscars by Coppola, Mario Puzo’s daughter, Albert Ruddy and Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos.  There are theatrical trailers for all three films, a 1974 Intro by Coppola for the TV airing of The Godfather, Storyboards, photo galleries, text bios, a Corleone Family Event Timeline and Corleone Family Tree to round out the ridiculous amount of offerings.

Classic movies are usually given lavish treatment when they come to DVD, but I’ve seen few that match the level of offerings in this five-disc set.  Even if you bought the 2001 collection, you’ll probably want to upgrade to this one.  The films have never looked better and there’s enough special features to keep you watching until the Coppola Holographic Edition comes out sometime in 2031.  Friends, it doesn’t get much better than this.

11.5 out of 10