The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray Review
PictureA lot has been discussed on the net about the restoration of these first two films. In all honesty what I saw in the collectors edition some years ago I was pleased with, until now that is. I cannot obviously compare these disc reproductions to what was originally shown in the cinema in the early Seventies and to a degree I have to take at face value the opinions of the experts on the features that this is a faithful reproduction of that image from that time. Certainly Francis Coppola and Gordon Willis seem well enough pleased so that's good enough praise for me.
All three films are presented in their theatrically correct 1.78:1 ratio, implementing the MPEG-4/AVC coded at 1080p.
Earlier versions of this film on disc were shrouded in haze, grain and had a slight blue tinge at times, thankfully most of these issues have been addressed. The grain is still there and it's never intrusive as such it just seems to fit the style of the film giving it some old world appeal. The grain though is never consistent, more apparent in the darker scenes and subdued slightly in the glorious blight lit almost overexposed outdoors.
The blacks are so deep, all three of these films have to be some of the darkest films ever shot, and it's not that the detail is lost in this transfer it's just that in these death like shrouded scenes it's not there to begin with. That saying there is more detail on show than any other version of this film. Individual characters from the all encompassing wedding party at the start are easily identified and a viewer could spend hours just on this scene alone flirting with the people in the background and examining their faces and beautiful clothes. Detail is further apparent on the textures of the clothing from all the protagonists, the weave of jackets, the folds of ties, the numerous objects even in Don Vito's study.
Colours are sublime. Again all three films share the same palette but this is more apparent in the first and second films. It has a wonderful golden hue to the frame, sometimes skin tones can look a little off or yellowish because of this but again this is not a fault of the transfer per se. In the bright outdoors of Sicily or the wedding scenes there is an incredibly broad colour palette and all are strong, vivid, and well contained within their borders. The blood which flows often throughout the film is deep and visceral, the oranges bright and succulent.
The encoding is a joy, there's no sign of blocking, gradient banding or noise and even though I was looking out for it in those sun drenched scenes I really couldn't see any traces of enhancement. If it is there it's so fleeting that I missed it.
Individual Score : 7
Like the earlier chapter this is the best that this film is ever going to look, well at least for now anyway. Traces of dirt and blemishes have more or less been totally eradicated from this film There seems to be a glaring error in the Cuban section where the revolutionaries are throwing out the slot machines from one of the local casinos. For a couple of scenes, each for a couple of seconds there appears to be a rather large chunk of the image missing from the lower middle of the frame; as though a piece of a jigsaw is missing. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to compare this to the collector's edition as I have since passed that beast on.
The colours, much like Part I are again beautiful to behold, strong, clear and bathed in that glorious golden hue. When the action reverts to the Twenties with the young Don Vito starting his trade the hues deepen somewhat and the picture at times almost presents a sepia like appearance and again this perfectly suits the nature of the film. Like the first the skin tones look a little off as if they all suffer from sclerosis of the liver. Again though not a problem with the transfer itself.
There's no sign of transfer anomalies again with noise, blocking or banding thankfully nowhere to be seen. Enhancement again is not an issue either. Detail like the first is somewhat shrouded in darkness but yet again the outdoor scenes show off what this film is capable of. The hills of Sicily, the home of Don Cicco, the New York Italian streets as the religious festival takes place. All of these areas have a wonderful amount of information on show for the viewer to take in and digest.
Individual Score : 7
The final part of the trilogy is obviously more recent and as such is the best of the bunch here. Grain is still more than apparent still giving the whole trilogy some consistency and that older feel. Although the same colour palette is used the actual colour timings appear to be a little tighter than the previous two restored versions. The golden hues are not quite as apparent, the skin tones resemble more of what a viewer is perhaps used to
Like the earlier two version blacks are wonderfully deep yet this time there's still some detail available in the shadows, Michael's study for instance, the individual pieces on his table, the books and paintings on the wall. There's more pore and hair detail apparent, every wrinkle on Don Michael's face can be traced especially in his final scenes when he's a very old man. Whites much like the earlier two films at times seem a little over exposed and in truth they are; an artistic decision on all three films by Gordon Willis himself.
The transfer is exemplary with still no artefacts to be found and again no enhancement on show at all. There is a little more depth apparent in this feature than the earlier two and this does add in some way to the 3 dimensionality of the whole affair. Don't really be expecting scenes to pop out at you though like some Transformers or Spiderman because you're just not going to get that level of depth.
Individual Score : 8
So the first two are little worse than the last but that's to be expected to some degree. Even at this ripe old age the first two do not have the best recode I have come across with perhaps the earlier 2001 beating it in all areas, but considering what they had to play with and the state of the original source then what has been done here is a sterling job indeed. There are some brightness fluctuations in the first two but these are brief indeed. Although this really is only getting a final seven for the overall scores I wasn't disappointed with this print at all, in fact I was amazed at what has been done and how these films are now presented. It's just lower than some other discs out there, it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad.
SoundAll three films have a main English Dolby Digital TrueHD track backed up with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 offering for Part III. For completeness the first two even have their original mono varieties
Originally a mono track it's a wonder what could really have been done to reproduce this in multi channel and not make a mess of it all. To these ends they have more or less left well alone with only slight use of the surrounds. There's some ambiance created by the initial wedding scene, some steerage with aircraft or traffic and some cricket effects in the hills of Sicily.
LFE is tight and controlled, exploding as needed when Sonny is on the causeway, the deep roar aircraft or the crack of a hoodlum's shotgun. The bass has not gone as deep as some recent releases but it's effect with the visuals on screen certainly fit. Never over bombastic, never intruding on the additional noises throughout this feature.
There's a wealth of information in all of these pictures and all of that is offered to the user in the discussions between one character and another. As such it's important that all dialogue comes across precisely and on that front there are no problems here whatsoever. The dialogue is crisp and centred with only perhaps Don Vito's mumblings sometimes straining your ear. That's Marlon's character here though and not a problem with this audio track.
Individual Score : 7
Like the video with Part II mirroring that in Part I much can be said about the audio, Originally a mono track this is a rather narrow affair with the frontal array in force and whilst there is some use of the surrounds this is never excessive. Again the incredibly important dialogue is crisp and centred and without the mumblings of Don Vito there nothing here which leads you to even think about hitting that rewind button.
There's fleeting surround use in the Twenties streets of New York with the bustling crowds and again some traffic and flight noises from the trips to Cuba and some excellent ambiance whilst at the New Year party. LFE use is much in the same vein with the gunfire and aircraft hitting your sub the most and again it's not quite as deep as you'll perhaps be accustomed to in more recent premier releases.
Individual Score : 7
Being a later affair this was coded for multi channel use from the get go and it shows from the opening scenes. There's more ambiance on offer from the initial investiture of Michael, the following party, street and traffic effects and more aircraft. Shots this time rather being only from the fronts will zip to the surrounds as needed, obviously the hotel massacre scene coming across the best here.
LFE is handled better as well, and again this is to be expected. The whip of the rotor blades from helicopters, the excessive gunfire all take your sub a lot lower than the previous two instalments of this trilogy. The bass is tight and well controlled, only on screen for the moments that it is required. Higher tones are better produced also with the clink of shattered glass chiming our from the fronts beautifully.
Dialogue like the first two is second to none again centred and again no need for any rewinding taking place.
Individual Score : 8
Throughout all of these three films Nino Rota's score has to be mentioned. In all three films this has to be the best reproduction I have ever heard. It's all encompassing, strong, and widens the fronts at all times. The individual strings from violin or cello are easily identified each being incredibly distinct. This track on it's own here is an absolute joy to listen to so sit back, close your eyes and just listen to one of the most recognisable and accomplished scores in movie history.
Again, like the video, a final score of seven might seem rather harsh but it's not really. It's just that there are better more immersive tracks out there. All of these films do their job and do it so well. As for the mono track for the first two, well if you're a purist then by all means go there but I found the TrueHD track far more satisfying, deeper and more expansive at the fronts with more depth to that wonderful score. In the same vein the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for the third whilst more than acceptable pales a little besides its TrueHD brother.
- Commentary Part I.
Coppola going solo on this track as is the case with the rest of the films in this set and usually the case for all other releases of his. It's interesting to note that this was classified as a budget feature so Coppola made use of all the natural scenes and lighting available, special effects for free. He discusses second unit directing, the problems during production, including almost being fired. It fires itself along at a good rate of knots and provides good insight into some of the themes contained within, rarely quiet.
- Commentary Part II.
Characterisation and plot developments remain the order of the day but this is more of the same from the first and although he covered a lot of working with the cast in his earlier commentary this is a little shorter on that front. Not a bad thing as such but it means there seems to be less structure here, less information but that's not really the case. Production history and themes are again discussed but more importantly how he managed to distance the studio somewhat after his raging success of the first.
- Commentary Part III.
Well Coppola returns here for this final commentary instalment. He's more on the offensive here though taking this from production and cast to more justifying his choices for plot and character developments and especially his choice of certain actors. You can understand why he takes this road, after all it's his daughter the vast majority (including myself) slated when they saw this feature. Still an engaging commentary and one really not to be missed; you can see where he was trying to go with the development, if it worked or not though will be viewers choice.
- The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't. - 0:29:46 - MPEG-4/1080p
A number of different people including Gorge Lucas, Francis Coppola, Walter Murch and Robert Evans discussing the hurdles that The Godfather has to leap over to not only get this project to our screens but also to stay faithful to Coppola's initial vision. A short history of the movie industry at the time is given with Hollywood failing, going through a transitional period, the studios making little money, television taking a lot of their customers. It's an interesting piece because it covers these two bases.
- Godfather World. - 0:11:19 - MPEG-4/1080p
Again a number of different individuals (David Chase, Trey Parker, Guillermo del Toro, Joseph Mantegna and many others) discussing how The Godfather has now become part of mainstream life. It has permeated many areas and influenced a number of additional TV shows and films from The Sopranos to The Simpsons. It seems to have become so well known that people even know the references to the film even though they may not have seen the film itself.
- Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather. - 0:19:05 - MPEG-4/1080p
There's been a lot of talk about this Coppola Restoration version and if you're really interested in this then there's some excellent information out there on the net. This condenses it all though to show the process which the original print had to go through for this definitive BluRay release. Gordon Willis mentions how the original rushes were not looked upon too well as the film was regarded as too dark. There's some good information on the photographic and printing process and the digital restoration required. This is a must watch.
- ...When The Shooting Stopped. - 0:14:18 - MPEG-4/1080p
Nominated for 29 Academy Awards and finally winning 9 this short feature introduces the behind the scenes work, the editors, the sound mixers and the jobs they did to complete this incredible trilogy. Paramount wanted the film shorter, it was written into the original contracts but they realised when they finally saw the rough piece Coppola put together for them that the film couldn't be cut down from what it ended up as. We get some original footage which had different music and what finally hit the screens.
- The Godfather on the Red Carpet. - 0:04:02 - MPEG-4/1080p
At what appears to be the Cloverfield premier the camera pans to actors and crew from that movie, and others, asking them their own views on this trilogy. All are more than enthusiastic and all have quotes aplenty from the three films.
- Four Short Films on The Godfather. - 0:07:20 - MPEG-4/1080p
Four shorts, Part I vs. Part II, Riffing on the Riffing, Cannoli and Clemenza, with a Play All function. I would have liked a longer feature on people's opinion on I vs. II and to only have a few minutes here devoted to that subject is a little disappointing. The other shorts included here are interesting enough especially the Cannoli piece so it's not all bad.
- The Family Tree.
An updated version of the family tree contained on the earlier collectors boxed set. The same information is there, you can drill down into the characters and from there to the actors who played the respective parts. Using Java, the disc 'reboots' itself after you close the application down.
- Crime Organisation Chart.
Another Java controlled applet in the same vein as the one above. You can navigate through the crime organisation chart as depicted in the senate hearings from Part II, see everyone's personal rap sheets and their known rivals and associates. There's an absolute wealth of information in here for any Godfather aficionado. For HTPC users this functions better in TMT than PDVD, but then I've had Java issues with PDVD before.
- Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album.
Using your left and right remote controls you can navigate through a number of photos from this happy couple's wedding.
- 2008 Credits.
Credits for those people who made all of this possible, God bless them all.
- 2001 DVD Archive.
- A Look Inside. - 1:10:30
The definitive documentary on all of these films reflecting their work on the two early films and the final third instalment. Coppola's there indicating the change in Michael's character and why he has changed. It looks back to the first two films mentioning how difficult it was to accomplish the first two instalments; this is backed up by some of the cast members at the time. There's screen shots from the actors all enjoying themselves and some surprising ones... De Niro auditioning for the the role eventually going to Marlon Brando, James Caan for the role of Michael and Martin Sheen also playing for the Michael part. There's a lot of repetition between this and the very extensive commentaries but it's still worthwhile as it adds visuals to what we've already heard. One of the main themes of the films are family and loyalty and Coppola here makes no apologies for ensuring that most of his own family had some say or connection with this feature.
- On Location. - 0:06:57
Shot in the real world rather than studio back lots this featurette takes us to Lower East Side Manhattan where many of the original Godfather scenes were filmed. Dean Tavoularis is our guide here. We can see the streets as they appeared in the film from the 1920s, the fronts which were applied to the builds, the repainting and of course updated to when Andy Garcia shoots Zazza in Part III. If nothing else Coppola certainly enjoys continuity not only from his acting team, his production crew but also the locations throughout all three films.
- Francis Coppola's Notebook. - 0:09:49
Notebook, I don't think so... this is bound together in one of those large lever arch folders and is packed to the gunnels. We have Coppola showing how he literally tore the original Mario Puzo book apart and stuck them into his notebook and then scribbled his own notes all over them indicating how and why scenes should be shot. He discusses certain scenes from the novel and we see the equivalent scenes as they finally appeared on the big screen. He obviously took great care with these notes, making sure the ringlets were strengthened and if this ever does come to auction then I hate to think how much it would finally go for. A true piece of cinema history.
- The Music of The Godfather.
This consists of two sections one an audio interview with Nino Rota which Coppola himself taped. It lasts for some 5 minutes and we can hear Coppola asking Nino about the waltz he composed as the main theme for The Godfather and other brief snippets of music which he had composed for the films. Throughout these moments we see visuals from a number of the films. The second concerns itself with Carmine Coppola, Francis' father, lasts for just over 3 minutes and covers the composor working on The Godfather. Of the two the earlier piece is the most interesting but should have been longer as this piece of music is iconic. You listen to it and you're immediately brought back to that opening wedding scene from the very first film.
- Coppola & Puzo on Screen Writing. - 0:07:48
Puzo indicating how he started writing the outline for The Godfather after it was suggested by his publisher. Coppola writing the initial screenplay but going back to Puzo to have it vindicated almost. They then collaborated on the screenplay together before finally deciding on the one which would be taken to screen. Surprisingly Puzo states that he worked with Coppola more on the third than he did with any of the previous two and then goes onto state that he wishes at some point there will be a Godfather IV.
- Gordon Willis on Cinematography. - 0:03:37
The cinematography in all of the Godfather films is glorious, from the dark hushed scenes behind closed doors, the landscapes of Sicily, the initial wedding and here we have Willis discussing the approach he took to get these films realised on celluloid. He mentions the colours used in the films, the art direction the costumes and the lighting. Even though this is a very short piece it is quite informative.
- Storyboards - Godfather Part II.
Some simple storyboards from the second film navigated with the left and right controls on your remote. No comparison between the storyboard and the final image presented.
- Storyboards - Godfather Part III. - 0:04:14
Similar to the above however the storyboards are presented in a slide show which can be paused. There is a voice over on each board detailing the scene in question.
- The Godfather Behind the Scenes in 1971. - 0:08:35
An early version of the EPK we have come to know and sometimes love. Like all other EPKs though this is no more than an extended trailer with some very brief interviews with some members of the cast. It offers some pieces of information you might not be aware of like 750 extras being employed for that infamous initial wedding scene.
Here you can read a brief textual history of Coppola, Mario Puzo, Gordon Willis, Dean Tavoularis, Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola.
- Additional Scenes.
34 deleted scenes presented in chronological order from 1901 to 1979. Some of these scenes were retro-fitted into the television presentation a few years back. It's always good to see deleted scenes of this quality, by no means are they all worthwhile but there are a few gems in there that can be argued should have been left in this 'final cut' so to speak. Early days with Don Vito and Clemenza, Hymen Roth as a young adult being introduced to Robert De Niro's Don Vito, all too brief scenes of the film producers love of young women and how he nurtures them, Michael showing more of his ruthless streak or searching for his father's home back in Sicily. Alas there's no play all function and for this many snippets it's a pain to go through them methodically one by one. There's a textual introduction before each piece indicating where in the particular film this should have appeared. Within this section there's also a chronological history of the Andolini/Corleone family from Vito's birth in 1892 through to Michael's death in 1997.
Individual trailers for all three Godfather films. The first a series of still images set to that iconic score, the second still has the score but now includes the deep throated voice over praising the awards which Part II accumulated. The third looks more like what we're used to with the standard American green screen at the start, still introducing the music, still with a deep voice over initially recounting the previous two films before advancing and showing what we could expect from the third.
- Photo Gallery.
Navigated like the storyboards with your left and right controls you can meander though a collection of still images of cast, crew and locations form all three films.
- Rogues Gallery.
Much the same as above but a collection of the hoodlums you expect to see in these films, their characters name and the actor who played them.
- Acclaim & Response.
A series of award presentations for the first two films, the winners taking their honours and giving their speeches.
So not only do we get all of the original extras from the 2001 Collectors Edition but they have shoe horned a tremendous amount of further material in there and all gloriously presented on HD. When this box set was first released on DVD it contained everything I wanted from an extras set but this has gone way overboard, one step further, acknowledging the pure weight these films hold for fans of the franchise and cinema itself. Now, like then, I'm more than suitably impressed who could ask for more? Well not me until they release it in another 7 years on a new format with further material slotted in there. A definitive extras set for any production.
VerdictWhat more can be said about The Godfather that has not already been said before. If you do need convincing then simply have a look at some of the statements by the many and varied people discussing the features in the additional materials. It's now become part of folk lore, part of everyday life and just as somewhere in the US some network channel is repeatedly showing Star Trek Classic then there are countless millions the world over on a daily basis either watching these films, quoting these films or taking them apart for either study or to incorporate brief snippets into their own ventures.
Storytelling has rarely been better. Perhaps on a couple of occasions prior to this but in my own opinion nothing in the industry since 1972 has come close to the depth of narrative which we have been given the opportunity to watch. Hollywood at it's finest, a film which was fought over, Coppola insistent on the initial casting, the visual style and the final running time. Even the men in suits, these people who have dollar signs as the bottom line rather than art had to admit that they were wrong and he was right. How often does that happen? The fact that Coppola then went onto produce a sequel which I believe to be better than the first, some others do some don't, is an incredible feat. The fact that after almost twenty years he was able to reassemble most of the original cast and crew to produce a final instalment is high praise indeed. I really can't think of any other production that has had so much time in between yet has produced the same level of continuity.
OK so the third doesn't live up to the giddy heights of the first two, but really how could it and 2 out of 3 really isn't that bad is it, especially when the third whilst having some glaring errors is not that bad a film. If they had removed Sofia Coppola and perhaps stayed true to Michael's original character then it could have perhaps gained a nine from me rather than it slipping back to an eight. It's still a film I watch and enjoy but for different reasons than the first two.
On the whole though I really haven't seen any better than those original seventies icons. A beautiful, intricate, flowing narrative which almost demands your interaction, it certainly demands your attention and it may take a couple of viewing to piece together all of the characters and their associations. Acting from the vast majority of the cast has yet to be bettered, the production, visuals, cinematography, costume design all speak for themselves. As a box set this doesn't get any better either, the extensive additional material supplied for the 2001 version has been kept on the disc and we have some new material to rake over. There's a small booklet with few snippets on the restoration process and this new release which was tacked to the back of the slip case with that sticky removable glue stuff. The fact that once removed it hangs free not being small enough to fit into the slip case is an slight error, but the set is glorious.
For fans of the trilogy this is a no brainer, it really is. Improved audio and video, the question is why don't you already have it! For those people who have not seen this (who are they?) then really you do deserve yourself to buy this blind. Even at this cost you're still getting, in my opinion, the two best films ever made with a third for good measure. No mind the price, it's an offer you really can't refuse.
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- Commentary Part I.