THE GODFATHER series almost needs no introduction or plot synopsis; not only is this movie about power and the struggles of men behind the scenes of an empire, but the movies themselves have stood the test of time even 50 years later. The simple premise of the Corleone crime family, led by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his eventual successor Michael (Al Pacino) in a rich, complex narrative of many sides all vying for power is one of the great dramas in cinema.
To me, THE GODFATHER to me is a perfect movie. It does absolutely everything a classic movie should do; it tells a story, it uses the language of cinema to its fullest potential and it has an ever-lasting impact long after the credits have rolled. Released to critical acclaim and commercial success in March, 1972, the mafia crime epic THE GODFATHER was one of the very early examples of the “blockbuster” before JAWS and STAR WARS made it a thing, and checking all of the boxes of not only a colossal crowd pleaser but also a universally loved and cherished movie that still finds new audiences to this very day.
After the success and Oscar win of the first, lighting in a bottle was somehow captured again with THE GODFATHER PART II, released just a few years later in 1974. By some kind of miracle, Coppola was given complete creative control and designed a dual story of Michael’s continued power rise while in Nevada, cutting between Don Vito’s upbringing in early 20th century New York.
Now, THE GODFATHER PART III. This is a picture that I refused to watch for many years as I felt. Last year I finally buckled and screened it…and I loved it. Though nowhere near the brilliance of the first two, that’s almost an impossible task considering the weight of the first two movies, but the continuing story until Michael’s final demise still makes for great drama. I’m also happy to see the better flow with the well publicized newer version of PART III from Coppola (subtitled THE DEATH OF MICHAEL CORLEONE), and for completists the original 1990 theatrical version is also included here too.
This trilogy was not an easy road from start to finish. This release also covers, through its incredible bonus features, the challenges in its production hell on the first, with Coppola butting heads with the studio, potential interference to fight off, and the resulting career that Coppola had with this which is one of the most fascinating in film history. There is so much to say with these movies and their cultural impact, yet if you have also never seen them before I urge you to take a day off and devote some time to discovering the joy and power of this series which my love knows no bounds.
About The 4k Blu Ray Release:
To say this GODFATHER restoration has been anticipated for many years by film fans, myself included, is an understatement. The first GODFATHER movie has had years of issues with its original negative and having many prints struck over its run, long before home video was even a thing. PART II had a few mild issues here and there with its restoration but nothing compared to negative damage and deterioration with the first picture after its massively successful release.
I have seen both THE GODFATHER and its sequel many times in many formats. I first saw them both in pan-and-scanned VHS tape, renting them as a teenager and spending the entire day with this family. Later I then owned widescreen VHS tapes, then the first DVD set, then the Blu Ray and even was treated to theatrical versions of the mid 2000’s restorations in theatres (and even hosting them both in my local cinemas with trivia!). I have also seen a 35mm print of PART II in a rep cinema many years ago, so I know a lot about the look and feel of the first two pictures.
Even for the 1970s, you would think these epic movies would be in Cinemascope or even filmed in larger format 65mm film stock, but Coppola was wise for a more intimate 1.85:1 aspect ratio using 35mm film to keep the subjects closer in the frame and to make most of the interiors feel a bit higher. A wider look would have not suited this movie, and it’s also thanks to Gordon Willis for also assisting Coppola in absolutely perfect, intimate compositions in every way.
But let’s talk about the image and the restoration work, utilizing the talents of Robert Harris (famously known for restoring LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and VERTIGO and bringing the movies to a new generation). The first film especially has been restored several times over the years and a newer 4k scan was done to the original camera negatives. I’m going to quote the press release here for the work that was done:
The monumental effort included the following:
– Over 300 cartons of film were scrutinized to find the best possible resolution for every frame of all three films.
– Over 4,000 hours were spent repairing film stains, tears, and other anomalies in the negatives.
– Over 1,000 hours were spent on rigorous colour correction to ensure the high dynamic range tools were respectful of the original vision of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
– In addition to the 5.1 audio approved by Walter Murch in 2007, the original mono tracks on THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER: PART II have been restored. All work was overseen by Francis Ford Coppola.(Paramount press release)
I’m thrilled to see the movies finally presented in the proper 1.85:1 format, so the image is slightly letterboxed at the top and bottom on my 16×9 monitor screen. The previous transfers were still “full-screened”, even if slight, to the 1.78 aspect. Even though it’s slight, I still want to see the movies exactly how they were supposed to be shown in theatres.
The first two parts have a distinctive look to them and look different intentionally. The first GODFATHER has a very dark, very lived-in appearance for most of the pictures, especially the opening sequences in the Don’s study. Make sure your settings are properly set, as I ran both Dolby Vision and HDR versions and had some challenges with the Dolby Vision, but I had much better results in HDR on my particular setup. PART III, which was filmed in 1990, has a much more modern and lighter look overall, but from what I can tell is pretty authentic in both the newer cut and the original 1990 version.
I apologize if this is all long-winded but this is a 4k restoration to celebrate. The movies finally have a definitive look and feel and this 4k release absolutely locks in the original design of the movies. I also strongly recommend buying the Apple TV 4K versions of these if you are unable to find the 4k box set as all of them are the same restorations and I can see very little difference in the presentation.
Sound-wise, while I typically enjoy remixed audio presentations, I actually recommend you run the restored mono versions instead of the 5.1 restorations. Both work well for the material but I love the restored mono soundtrack which locks everything in place and is very true to the original theatrical presentation. I found a few sound effects in stereo rather distracting, especially for THE GODFATHER which felt too unnecessary. I really wish more movies with mono soundtracks originally would be preserved on 4k disc as there is a lot of history with the original sound formats. PART III was mixed in Dolby for its theatrical release and there was even a 70mm blow-up release with 5.1 sound, and it’s all perfectly preserved here.
All of the original special features are still here including some new ones. Here is the entire list of bonus features:
NEW BONUS CONTENT:
- Introduction to The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola
- Full Circle: Preserving The Godfather—Paramount Pictures archivists detail the incredible restoration process with archival footage showing the evolution of the film through various home entertainment incarnations as picture and audio technologies make quantum leaps over the decades.
- Capturing the Corleones: Through the Lens of Photographer Steve Schapiro— In this reflective and frank discussion, special photographer Steve Schapiro shares his unique perspective and cherished memories as a witness to the making of this seminal film. Commentary on curated archival images makes for a fascinating, never-before-seen addition to the production’s history.
- The Godfather: Home Movies— An assortment of 8mm home movie footage shot in 1971 offers a candid glimpse into the production of The Godfather. Shot on location at the Norton family estate on Staten Island’s Emerson Hill, this is the first time it’s been made available to the public.
- Restoration Comparisons— Before and after highlights showcase extensive picture quality improvements to The Godfather.
LEGACY BONUS CONTENT:
- The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t
- Godfather World
- Emulsional Rescue—Revealing The Godfather
- …when the shooting stopped
- The Godfather on the Red Carpet
- Four Short Films on The Godfather
- The Godfather vs. The Godfather: Part II
- Riffing on the Riffing
- The Family Tree
- Crime Organization Chart
- Connie and Carlo’s Wedding Album
- 2008 Credits
- Behind the Scenes
- A Look Inside
- On Location
- Francis Ford Coppola’s Notebook
- Music of The Godfather
- Nino Rota
- Carmine Coppola
- Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting
- Gordon Willis on Cinematography
- Storyboards – The Godfather: Part II
- Storyboards – The Godfather: Part III
- he Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971
- Additional Scenes
- Acclaim & Response
- Additional Material
- The Filmmakers
- The Godfather: Part III—newly remastered and restored versions of the original theatrical cut and Coppola’s 1991 cut (note: these are exclusive to the 4K Ultra HD Collections)
THE GODFATHER TRILOGY 4k is now available on 4k Blu Ray from Paramount and is also available on Digital Services. Team GRM strongly recommends the Apple TV 4k versions to your digital library!