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The Godfather Trilogy: The Coppola Restoration DVD Review - Page 2

Buy The Godfather Trilogy - The Coppola Restoration DVD Collection from Amazon.com The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration

The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), The Godfather Part III (1990)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola / Writers: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), Dolby Mono 2.0 (English - Parts 1 & 2 only)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled (No Spanish on Recycled)
Release Date: September 23, 2008 / Suggested Retail Price: $69.99
Five single-sided, dual-layered discs (4 DVD-9s & 1 DVD-5)
Four black slimcases in Embossed Cardboard Box

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BONUS FEATURES

Without Special Features menus, the lone bonus on each of the movie discs might be easily missed by some. I'm referring to the audio commentaries by Francis Ford Coppola,
which are buried in the Set Up menus. These are the tracks that were recorded for the trilogy's first DVD release.

As many classic filmmakers didn't live to see commentaries flourish and some like Steven Spielberg are opposed to the format, these tracks are a treat, giving us the opportunity to watch an auteur's opus in his (virtual) presence. Coppola doesn't talk incessantly. When he opens his mouth, he has something important to say and that grants his screen-specific observations and anecdotes a considerable weight. While solo tracks usually leave a listener wanting more perspectives, the number feels right here and even in dead spots, the movie audio becomes audible and you're still held captive. His tracks do become a bit more conversational and less special as the trilogy progresses; by the end of Part III, he's basically describing the climactic on-screen action for the blind. Still, these obviously merit a listen.

Coppola's commentary on the first film consists largely of him recalling its rocky production. He defends his practices and disputes the contention that his first week was a mess. It's amazing to learn of the extent to which the studio questioned his judgment, challenged his casting decisions, and intended to make the film economically and with a contemporary setting. All that plus the story of how he eased Marlon Brando unknowingly into a screen test.

Acrimony is mostly absent from Coppola's Part II commentary, as he recalls the smooth experience that followed his reluctance to make a sequel. There are many fascinating revelations made here. They include: his original plan to merely produce with Martin Scorsese directing, having to rewrite the entire script in a weekend to satisfy Al Pacino, dealing with actors not returning (Frankie Pentangeli's role was essentially written for Clemenza), deletions that have been reinserted for certain TV airings, aspects gathered from his life and those of his ancestors, and his one condition that Paramount most objected to (the title).

The title is also an issue discussed on Part III, which Coppola insists on calling The Death of Michael Corleone. Among his mentions of contributing family members and preserving friends on film, the director defends and explains his daughter's criticized casting to the hilt. Other topics making an impression here: the rushed production born out of Paramount's financial troubles, his soft spot for cousin love, his reasoning for Michael's new hairstyle, comparing the imagery and themes to those used earlier, his relating to Michael Corleone, and ideas that were considered for a dismissed fourth film.

Disc 4 is just about identical to Disc 5 of the original Godfather DVD Collection. It divides its extras into five groups.

Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Al Pacino crack up in an early screen test seen in "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside." Production designer Dean Tavoularis returns to 6th Street to show off sites used in the three Godfather movies. Francis Ford Coppola shows off the big binder notebook that guided him through the first film's production.

Behind the Scenes holds the bulk of the bonuses, beginning with the terrific documentary The Godfather Family: A Look Inside (1:13:24). Made in 1990, it inevitably places an emphasis on Part III's filming and creation. But it also makes sure to put the entire franchise in perspective. Among those interviewed are James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Robert De Niro, actors who had already moved on from the series.
We also get short excerpts of screen tests made by Al Pacino, Caan, Duvall, Martin Sheen, De Niro, Talia Shire, and Diane Keaton. Finally, there's Coppola, author Mario Puzo, and others collaborating and reminiscing around a table.

In "On Location" (6:55), production designer Dean Tavoularis returns to East 6th Street in lower Manhattan, the neighborhood featured in all three films, most extensively in the Vito portions of Part II. In addition to his reflections on the transformations performed to recreate the period setting, we see a few excerpts from a black and white 1974 student film documenting the same thing.

In "Francis Coppola's Notebook" (10:12), the director shows us and explains the big binder he put together from Mario Puzo's text and his own notes. Relying on it more than the script, it became his master plan for making the first film.

Two items make up "Music of The Godfather." The first is an audio tape (5:30) of Nino Rota playing some cues for Coppola he intends to use on the first film. It's set to appropriate movie and behind-the-scenes visuals. In the second (3:16), Carmine Coppola is seen scoring Part III while his son Francis remembers his work in voiceover.

Author Mario Puzo discusses collaborating with Francis Ford Coppola on the screenplays for all three Godfather films. Whoever drew this storyboard of self-defensive Vincent Mancini severely underestimated the amount of hair on Andy Garcia's chest. James Caan shows off some early '70s fashion while discussing the film in the behind the scenes production featurette.

"Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting" (8:05) has the two writers discussing their complementary work and differences of opinion held toward the characters. "Gordon Willis on Cinematography" (3:45) finds Willis and others in his field discussing his distinctive yellow-tinted, underexposed visual style.

Some storyboards are provided from Part II and Part III. From the former, the shooting of Fanucci during San Gennaro is depicted in 23 gallery drawings. Part III (4:24) edits together its sketches in a reel with narration and line readings that foresee Vincent's apartment intrusion and Michael's film-opening honor ceremony.

"The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971" (8:55) is a promotional featurette previewing the upcoming release with cast sound bites, clips, and set footage. A precursor to the modern EPK, you've probably seen pieces like this nifty one on other major 1970s releases.

Filmmakers gives us 1-2 page biographies of Coppola, author Mario Puzo, DP Gordon Willis, production designer Dean Tavoularis, and musicians Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola. Highlighting their names prompts playback of an appropriate bonus feature, the same ones offered in "Behind the Scenes" above.

Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) share a laugh while pulling phone stunt that will let them stay in bed in this deleted scene. Dark silhouettes were used in this deleted Part II scene, in which Al Neri (Richard Bright, right) humiliates a recalcitrant Las Vegas hotel owner in front of his stage performers. Few DVD bonus features feel as appropriate as this interactive Corleone Family Tree.

Thirty-four Additional Scenes are arranged chronologically and aligned in tandem with a timeline listing both scripted and historical events. Altogether, they run 55 minutes and 36 seconds, but watching them will take you longer than that because A) there's no "Play All" option and B) each scene is preceded by an unskippable, context-supplying text screen. Some of the more notable scenes covering Vito's backstory (1901-27) show us: Vito, Clemenza, and Tessio conducting business while a gunsmith's son plays flute (a tribute to Coppola's father);
Don Fanucci being attacked but not killed by some thugs; Don Cicco's henchmen getting their just deserts; and the introduction of a young Hyman Roth (To Kill a Mockingbird's John Megna) who joins the gang's ranks and gets his name.

Eighteen of the deletions stem from the original film (1945-48). Standing out among these: Michael and Vito talking en route from Connie's wedding to paying a hospital visit to the family's dying consigliere; a brief 3-stage plot point involving studio head Jack Woltz and a 13-year-old starlet; two more scenes of Connie and Carlo fighting; Clemenza eating lunch and picking up the proverbial cannoli; Michael and Kay playfully delaying their plans in bed; Sonny hearing his father's been shot and planning a response, to Michael's growing interest; Michael being asked questions by his Sicilian bodyguards; and the closing used for the "Complete Novel" 2-film TV version in which Kay prays and lights church candles under the composite credits scroll.

There isn't much from the 1958 portion of Part II. Fredo's floozy wife Deanna (Mariana Hill) makes a scene arriving at the First Communion party; a few bits feature Frankie Pentangeli (Oscar-nominated Michael V. Gazzo) at the same reception; also there, Sonny's widow, daughter, and would-be son-in-law (all missing from the final cut) ask Michael to bless a potential marriage; largely silent enforcer Al Neri has some lines confronting a recalcitrant casino hotel owner; and perhaps most interestingly of all, justice is plotted and carried out for Michael's disloyal Sicilian bodyguard Fabrizio. Part III's only representation here is a slow 7-minute alternate opening that clearly harks back to the first film's beginning.

On the whole, the deleted scenes are short and generally not significant. But shot for films as good as the first two, they're nonetheless a joy to behold. The scenes are presented in full frame and stereo, but they're scored, edited, and look/sound okay. It's nice to be spared minor variations and an excess of contextual clips; what's here makes for a fascinating hour of viewing.

As you can probably guess, The Family Tree is an interactive genealogy of the Corleones. Though the most attention is paid to Vito and his five children, even briefly-seen relatives are treated to a brief biography and photographic representation(s) of their Godfather movie appearances. Some of the photos can be clicked for a short dated biography of the pictured actor.

It's Coppola vs. Coppola (and Evans, Allen, and Worth) as Warren Beatty announces the 1974 Best Picture Oscar. Francis Ford Coppola takes a break from his work on Part II to prepare audiences for the television debut of the original Godfather. Iconic Italian-American actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro pose together in this shot from the Photo Gallery.

The disc's final section, Galleries, is more fulfilling than that title often implies. It holds five worthwhile listings.

"Acclaim & Response" holds something rarely seen on DVD: Academy Award ceremony clips. Provided here are the nominee reads/reactions and acceptance speeches for The Godfather and Part II's wins of Best Screenplay (1), Best Director (2), and Best Picture (1 & 2). Each of the four clips runs 1-2 minutes long.
Sadly, Marlon Brando's Best Actor stunt, in which he had "Sacheen Littlefeather" reject the award for Hollywood's treatment of American Indians, is absent. (Happily, it's on YouTube.) The fashions and presenters witnessed more than make up for the exclusion. The section also provides three pages listing the trilogy's Oscar nominations and victories and Coppola's fascinating 90-second introduction to the 1974 debut TV airing of the original film.

Trailers gives us lengthy theatrical previews for each of the three films. Interestingly, two of the all-time great films have trailers that are unacceptably bad by today's standards. The Godfather's promo (3:38) consists of a busy slideshow that shows too much and says nothing to make sense of it. After a seemingly separate announcement of Oscar wins, Part II (4:12) also spoils major plot points, though more coherently. Part III's attraction (4:23) pleases more, with its clips from the first two and sensible preview of the third part.

A Photo Gallery supplies a little over 100 images, a winning and orderly collection of film, behind-the-scenes, and publicity stills from all three productions. A Rogues' Gallery provides pictures and identification of 10 ambiguous supporting characters from the series.

Several pages of DVD credits might not be worth mentioning if cycling through them didn't lead to an Easter egg. It does; a 90-second clip from an episode of "The Sopranos" in which the regulars try watching a bootleg Godfather DVD (this was before the real deal was released by Paramount, you see) while discussing the films.

Other Easter eggs: a reel of Godfather movie clips (0:45) dubbed in foreign languages (from the Set Up menu), James Caan's screen test impression (0:40) of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (from Caan's biography), and a 5-second video of Mario Puzo goofily explaining why he wrote The Godfather.

Homer Simpson is treated like Part II Vito Corleone in this Simpsons clip, one of many excerpts of homages, tributes, and references seen in "Godfather World." A long ticket line for The Godfather extends down 72nd Street outside the Loew's Tower East theater in this still from "The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't." Editor Walter Murch has some stories to tell about what happened "...when the shooting stopped."

Disc 5's all-new features begin with "Godfather World", an 11-minute featurette that speaks of the Godfather films' impact which has translated to endless quotation and homage. In addition to famous fans singing praises, we get clips of references and tributes from TV shows (including "The Sopranos", "The Simpsons", and "SCTV"), movies (You've Got Mail, Analyze This),
a one-man stage show, and even a commercial. I love pieces that gather clips from a variety of sources and this one delights.

"The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't" (29:42) starts out documenting the cooling film industry climate from which The Godfather was born. It proceeds to cover the challenging production and then lets everyone discuss what made the first two films so special and different. This compact, solid featurette benefits from a reputable line-up of interview subjects and a rich supply of relevant excerpts from old films, a Robert Evans board appeal address, Evans' autobiography, and more.

"...when the shooting stopped" (14:15) contemplates the trilogy's editing, with a mix of Walter Murch post-production anecdotes (with supporting comparison footage) and general reflections.

Coppola Restoration supervisor Robert A. Harris talks nitty-gritty while his backdrop illustrates the detail difference between broadcast airings and 4K digital masters. John Cho (Harold of Harold & Kumar) is one of the young people singing The Godfather's praises on the red carpet of the Cloverfield premiere. Seth Isler and Law & Order star Richard Belzer trade Godfather lines and impressions in one of the four new short films.

"Emulsional Rescue Revealing the Godfather" (19:04) covers the efforts taken to restore the first two films to their desired visual brilliance. Many will think too much time is spent on this technical subject, while others may want more. I'm in between, finding this an acceptable overview based on the substantial work recounted and the movies' deliberately unique color timing.

Though the title suggests exciting footage of the old movie premieres, "The Godfather on the Red Carpet" (4:00) randomly interviews young actors attending the premiere of Paramount's Cloverfield. As you can guess, enthusiastic adoration and impressions are in order, though you may wonder why the off-the-cuff remarks of the likes of John Cho and Lizzy Caplan merit inclusion here.

Finally, we get the amusing "Four Short Films on The Godfather." In them, famous fans and critics try to decide the better of the first two films (2:12); "Law & Order"'s Richard Belzer tests one-man Godfather show creator Seth Isler's script knowledge and character impressions (1:36); Coppola explains the significance of cannoli and Richard Castellano's enduring improvisation (1:38); and Coppola clarifies the death of Clemenza and why it had to happen (1:40).

The original film's main menu makes you feel as if you're there in the Corleone garden while wind blows. That is until you pull the strings to press Play. If Disc 4's main menu looks familiar, that's because it and everything else on the disc is carried over from the original Godfather DVD Collection. Disc 5's all-new extras get listed on one of the set's most boring menus.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The menus here are similar to the first DVD release, yet take an even simpler "living scene" approach. While score plays, we spend time in the Corleone garden, watching Michael in his boat house on Part II (where motion appears to be only an illusion), and, in a rather random selection, looking at a hanging victim in Part III. There's just one main menu here, in contrast to the rotations employed on the old DVDs.

Disc 4's menus are identical to those of the old bonus disc. As such, the most striking thing about the static pages is the audio accompaniment on the two Behind the Scenes pages. We hear different pieces of dialogue rehearsal and creative discussion on our first three visits there. Disc 5's main menu runs with a black and white slideshow set to score, though after you decide which if any of the English, French, and Spanish subtitles offered, you settle on a basic static screen.

This new box set opts for a similar black and gold color scheme as the original DVD collection, with an added splash of blood holding a dark, tinted collage of Trilogy imagery. The five discs are held in four slimcases, each with mostly recycled portrait-type cover art. The only insert is a booklet promoting Blu-ray. You'll probably wish to add to it the descriptive sheet that's affixed to the box's rear with one of those gooey globs.

The Corleone family takes a big happy group photo on the day of Connie's wedding. Michael Corleone sits and reflects in the powerful closing shot of "The Godfather Part II."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Had I reviewed it, Paramount's original Godfather DVD Collection
probably would have come very close to earning one of my rare five-star overall scores. Boasting improved picture and sound, a welcome single-disc presentation of Part II, over an hour of strong new bonus features, and a most reasonable price tag, not only does this Coppola Restoration box set earn a perfect rating, it makes me reconsider my standards of perfection.

If these were lesser films, the attraction to upgrade wouldn't be so high. But the strong flavor, magnetic performances, and extraordinarily crafted drama all support the widely-held stance that the first two Godfather installments are among the richest stories committed to film. Though Part III definitely remains the weak link, even it merits the occasional viewing and reconsideration. All things considered, this is one of very few DVDs that deserves a place in every collection.

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Reviewed October 31, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1972-1990 Paramount Pictures, The Coppola Company, Zoetrope Studios, and 2008 Paramount Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.