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The Godfather Blu-ray Review (45th Anniversary Edition)

The Godfather (1972) movie poster The Godfather

Theatrical Release: March 24, 1972 / Running Time: 177 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Francis Ford Coppola / Writers: Mario Puzo (book & screenplay); Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)

Cast: Marlon Brando (Don Vito Corleone), Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), James Caan (Santino "Sonny" Corleone), Richard Castellano (Peter Clemenza), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Sterling Hayden (Capt. McCluskey), John Marley (Jack Woltz), Richard Conte (Don Emilio Barzini), Al Lettieri (Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Abe Vigoda (Sal Tessio), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone Rizzi), Gianni Russo (Carlo Rizzi), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Rudy Bond (Don Carmine Cuneo), Al Martino (Johnny Fontane), Morgana King (Mama Corleone), Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi), John Martino (Paulie Gatto), Salvatore Corsitto (Bonasera), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Alex Rocco (Moe Greene), Vito Scotti (Nazorine), Tere Livrano (Theresa Hagen), Victor Rendina (Don Philip Tattaglia), Jeannie Linero (Lucy Mancini), Simonetta Stefanelli (Apollonia), Angelo Infanti (Fabrizio), Corrado Gaipa (Don Tommasino), Saro Urzì (Vitelli)

Buy The Godfather from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video • Trilogy Blu-ray • Trilogy DVD

People so rarely agree on anything that anytime there's a consensus, you kind of have to investigate.
When it comes to assessing cinema, consensus is rare. Just when you think a movie like Toy Story 3 is about to get a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, there comes notorious contrarian Armond White to keep it at 99%.

One of the rare things that many in film can agree on is that there hasn't been a better American movie made since Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and its sequel The Godfather Part II. It's been 45 years since the first film was released and of the thousands of movies made, none has garnered as much acclaim and respect as the extraordinary first two installments of Coppola's asymmetrical trilogy adapted from Mario Puzo's novel.

When it comes to The Godfather movies, few question their greatness. The bigger question is: what's the better movie, the original or the epic dual-narrative follow-up, the rare sequel regarded in the same breath as its predecessor? The two, each a winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, are ranked second and third on the IMDb's all-time Top 250, the original only narrowly trailing much-broadcast millennial favorite The Shawshank Redemption.

An aged Marlon Brando plays Don Vito Corleone, who hears requests on the day of his daughter's wedding in the opening scene of "The Godfather."

There's a strong case to be made for the original film. It is the one that features Marlon Brando in a tour de force, Oscar-winning performance as Don Vito Corleone. It also includes what many would declare the defining performance of James Caan's long, fairly illustrious career as the don's hot-headed son Sonny.

While synopsis probably isn't needed here, I've barely updated the succinct one I wrote in 2008:

Life is good for the New York-based Italian-American Corleones, but Don Vito (an aged Brando) doesn't think it would get any better should the crime family enter the narcotics racket as invited by Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo (Al Lettieri). Believing the don's refusal can be overcome, Sollozzo arranges for Vito to be killed. While Vito's eldest son Sonny (Caan) and consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) figure out how to respond, war hero son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) expresses interest in becoming more involved in the family business. That cools off his developing relationship with WASP schoolteacher Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), particularly when he is sent to Sicily for his protection.

This original boasts the highest number of iconic lines, scenes, and images, beginning with Don Corleone hearing requests on the day of his daughter's (Talia Shire) wedding and concluding with a bloody turn of events solidifying a rise to power.

Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) meets with a police chief and a rival crime family's head at Louis Restaurant in a pivotal scene.

In his early 30s, with a few movies under his belt (the biggest being the adapted-from-Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow) plus a hand in writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for 1970 Best Picture Patton, Coppola approached The Godfather as more than just a movie and an opportunity. For him, this was a way to celebrate his Italian-American heritage, to explore the nature of families, and to consider how men can be drawn into violence, immorality, and power plays.

The Godfather is full of tasteful cinematic choices, but the reason it endures to such a great degree is because it succeeds in the two areas most important to film: story and characters.
It is richer in both regards than perhaps any other film ever made and it's easy to get lost in those riches whether or not you're drawn to stories about organized crime.

Like some but not all films hailed as masterpieces, The Godfather remains popular with the general public. Among 1970s movies, only Star Wars has received more user votes on IMDb than Godfather Part II and none have drawn more than the original film, which makes its 9.2 rating all the more impressive. As such, the trilogy is one of the crown jewels in the Paramount Home Entertainment library. When The Godfather reaches a new format, be it DVD in 2001 or Blu-ray in 2008, it is an event. And there is always potential for the studio to revisit these movies, even as they and much of the industry have moved away from physical media and catalog titles.

Since they made sure to get the Blu-ray release right from the start, Paramount has opted to repackage the Godfather films, but not reauthor them. The first two got standalone releases in the studio's Sapphire Series line back in early 2010. Part III got a release of its own in May 2014. Now, three years later, the first two films get new packaging but not new discs to commemorate the original film's 45th anniversary.

The Godfather: 45th Anniversary Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby 2.0 Mono (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: May 9, 2017 (Disc originally released September 23, 2008)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Still available in Trilogy Blu-ray ($29.99 SRP; September 23, 2008), on DVD ($9.80 SRP; September 23, 2008), and Amazon Instant Video


The way that Coppola proudly labeled this The Coppola Restoration suggests the director is perfectly pleased with the transfer and stands behind it 100%. Thus we can assume the yellowish tint and light grain of the film are by design. The 1.78:1 image reflects clearly exhaustive efforts to make the film look its very best. The substantial age is hidden fairly well. And even though this came shortly after the advent of Blu-ray, it holds up much better than say '90s DVDs did by the mid-Noughties. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack also does a good job of expanding the elements without betraying their original monaural design. The default subtitle track translates the infrequent Italian dialogue with at least something other than blocky standard player-generated subs.

The Godfather's "new" Blu-ray edition includes only an audio commentary for extras, which makes this orange grove menu shot the only video on the disc besides the movie.


As this disc is unchanged from the platter included in the box set, the only extra found here is an audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola, recorded back in 2001. Here is what I said about it back in my 2008 review of the Coppola Restoration DVD collection.

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.

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.

The menu lays a bit of Nino Rota's score over a looped view of the Corleone orange grove that houses a pivotal scene I shall not spoil.

The artwork of the tasteful silver and gold embossed slipcover (which devotes one spine to Brando and the other, Pacino) is reproduced in the eco-friendly keepcase below, whose full-color disc (again unchanged from 2008) is joined by an important notice about Blu-ray Disc firmware and a double-sided ad promoting other Paramount gangster movies with similar-styled artwork and The Godfather: Family Dynasty mobile game.

The aging Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) shares a moment with the son (Al Pacino) who is about to take over the family business from him.


It can hardly be news to you that The Godfather is one of the greatest films ever made. It deserves a spot in every movie collection. With that said, it does seem like you'd be better off getting the four-disc trilogy collection that is still in print and selling for $30. But if you truly abhor Part III, bonus features discs, or the presence of box sets on your shelves, then you could save a few dollars by picking up these standalone versions of the saga's classic first two-thirds.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola:
The Godfather Part II • The Godfather Part III • Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection
Rumble Fish • Peggy Sue Got Married • John Grisham's The Rainmaker
New York Stories • Bram Stoker's Dracula • Jack • Dementia 13

Marlon Brando: On the Waterfront | Al Pacino: Scarface • The Insider • Dick Tracy • Any Given Sunday
James Caan: The Killer Elite • Thief • Misery • Bottle Rocket | Diane Keaton: Annie Hall • Father of the Bride
Robert Duvall: Tomorrow • The Judge • Newsies | Talia Shire: Rocky | Sterling Hayden: The Killing
1970s: Jaws • Chinatown • Taxi Driver • The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Best Picture Winners: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest • Moonlight • The Best Years of Our Lives • From Here to Eternity
Goodfellas (25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + Digital HD) • Animal Kingdom • Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection

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Reviewed May 11, 2017.

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