The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray review

The Godfather The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray cover
The Godfather The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray cover
Paramount Pictures recently released a meticulous restoration of director Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy Award-winning classic films The Godfather Parts I through III, which was overseen by Coppola himself. The first two films have been fully restored, along with a newly remastered version of The Godfather Part III. All three films are currently available individually or in a five-DVD collection, as well as a four-disc Blu-ray collection that’s loaded with a host of all-new special features. This is the first collection that truly brings together the many versions of parts one and two in such a definitive way, thoroughly dissecting every frame of film, every filmmaking component and every scene. The collection isn’t simply an exercise in re-mastering, but rather a clinic on how Blu-ray can act as archival medium, for future generations of movie fans and professionals.

Previous re-releases on VHS, Laserdisc and even the DVD box a few years ago, suffered from poor picture and sound quality. This time around, The Godfather Parts I and II underwent extensive frame-by-frame examination and restoration utilizing state-of-the-art digital technology in a historic preservation effort, which required more than a year to complete. Robert A. Harris of the Film Preserve supervised the restoration under the direction of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis. One of the new supplemental features, called Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather, is the most fascinating of the new material. It covers the restoration process of the first two films, and begins with Coppola explaining how Steven Spielberg spearheaded the project. There is also a discussion of Gordon Willis’ shooting style, while Robert A. Harris and Paramount VP of feature post-production Martin Cohen detail the lengthy process to restore the movies as closely as possible to the way they were originally intended to look.

The fruits of their labor are a visually stunning, almost surreal presence of the actors on screen. What captivates me the most about Blu-ray, and why it will eventually win over film “purists”, is that the format doesn’t compress original data. Every hair on every head, is presented in its crisp, original form.

It was remarkable to watch classic scenes like Pacino walking through the hills of Italy as a young man, De Niro navigating the harsh streets of Sicily to find his prey, and Brando effortlessly breathing life and heart into Don Vito Corleone, in such a staggeringly magnificent format. I hope sales will encourage major studios to dig much deeper into the vaults, and re-visit a vast number of modern cinema crime classics.

Many new special features were created by Kim Aubry, founder of Zoetrope Aubry Productions, and explore the complexities of the restoration process and provides new insights into all three films. Most importantly, many of the featurettes are also presented in HD, a trend in recent Blu-ray releases.

The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t, which runs approximately 30 minutes, relates the unlikely events, origin, production, and reaction of the 1972 original film. It contains interviews with much of the living cast and many admirers of the movie, including Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Peter Bart, Robert Evans, Sopranos creator David Chase, Alec Baldwin, John Turturro, along with directors Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Torro, William Friedkin and Walter Murch.

The 14 minute When the Shooting Stopped looks at the post production process and features interviews with Walter Murch and Richard Marks, who worked on the editing of the second film. 

Godfather World takes a look at The Godfather’s influence on popular culture today, via interviews wit David Chase, South Park co-creator Trey Parker and actor Joe Mantegna.

Next up are a trio of Still Galleries, my favorite of which is Crime Organization Chart, which provides rap sheets on each of the criminals in the films. The Family Tree allows the viewer to click on a name and read short bios on both the character and actor playing them. The bios weren’t very thorough, but it was a nice feature. There’s also Connie and Carlo’s Wedding Album, which is a collection of color photos from the first film.

There’s additional shorts on the new features disc, although they aren’t nearly as engrossing.

Then there’s a 2001 DVD Archive, the highlight of which is feature-length Audio Commentaries by Coppola. They give incredible insight on the making of the three films.

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray four-disc set is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Mono (except The Godfather: Part III) and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The following is a complete list of the special features presented on each disc:

Disc 1

  1. The Godfather feature film
  2. Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola

Disc 2

  1. The Godfather, Part II feature film
  2. Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola

Disc 3

  1. The Godfather, Part III feature film
  2. Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola

Disc 4

  1. Godfather World (HD)
  2. The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t (HD)
  3. when the shooting stopped (HD)
  4. Emulsional Rescue—Revealing The Godfather (HD)
  5. The Godfather on the Red Carpet (HD)
  6. Four Short Films on The Godfather
  • The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II (HD)
  • Cannoli (HD)
  • Riffing on the Riffing (HD)
  • Clemenza (HD)
  1. The Family Tree
  2. Crime Organization Chart
  3. Connie and Carlo’s Wedding Album
  4. Behind the Scenes
  5. The Godfather Family: A Look Inside
  6. On Location
  7. Francis Coppola’s Notebook
  8. The Music of the Godfather
  9. Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting
  10. Gordon Willis on Cinematography
  11. Storyboards from The Godfather, Part II
  12. Storyboards from The Godfather, Part III
  13. The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971
  14. The Filmmakers
  15. Additional Scenes
  16. Acclaim & Response
  17. Trailers (HD)
  18. Photo Gallery
  19. Rogues’ Gallery