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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-Ray Review: The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)



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#1 of 9 PatWahlquist

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Posted September 19 2008 - 02:14 PM


The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (Blu-Ray)
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: R (all three films) (violence and language)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital; English 1.0 Dolby Digital (except for Godfather III)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: See individual films
Disc Format: 4 SS/DL BD
Case Style: Keep case in cardboard sleeve with booklet.
Theatrical Release Date: See individual films
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 23, 2008

Special note regarding this set: I don’t normally condone the watching of any bonus material prior to watching the films themselves, but this one is a bit special due to the extensive restoration work that has been done. I would like to direct you to a piece called Emulsional Rescue – Revealing The Godfather on Disc Four of this set as a primer about the image you are about to view.


It all comes down to the family business and the relationships between fathers and their sons. Regardless of the business, the same model applies: fathers want to impress upon their sons the pride they have in their work, while the sons want to make their own mark in the world, many times finding dad was right all along. It’s an old story, to be sure, but one that had not been seen in the world of organized crime, and certainly not in such lyrical fashion as director Francis Ford Coppola’s three The Godfather pictures. The first picture is based on the novel by Mario Puzo, and adapted by Puzo and Coppola, while the second and third were more original works where the two collaborated. The pictures became the definitive statement on “la familia” (meant both ways) at the time and the first two entries are the highlights of film-making in the seventies, garnering numerous awards and nominations. The Godfather was even named the second greatest American movie of all time after Citizen Kane by the American Film Institute in 2007. Outside of the brilliant story, acting and direction, the project is enhanced by amazing photography by Gordon Willis, the music of Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola, and numerous other inspired bits of crafts seen in the sets, costumes and sound. I’m not going to spend much time on plot synopsis of these pictures for a couple reasons: I’m assuming most of the readership has seen them already and they deserve to be viewed free of a reviewers editorializing of them (except to say, “You must see them”).

1972’s The Godfather (177 minutes) opens with a sharp and stark trumpet line and introduces us to Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the godfather of a mafia family. It is the occasion of his daughter’s wedding, a day in which no Sicilian may refuse a request. As the scene plays out we see what Vito and his family does: they take care of business, criminal and otherwise, be it by threats or intimidation or what have you. His sons, Sonny (James Caan), Fredo (John Cazale) and adopted son and “consiglieri” Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) assist him in this enterprise, while another son, Michael (Al Pacino) has become a decorated soldier to try and avoid the family biz. Michael comes home for the wedding, but double crosses and murders eventually force him to take action and assume his role in the family business. A masterpiece in every sense of the word since it works on every level, writing, acting, direction, even music, with each part feeding the other and contributing to the whole. The Godfather set the tone for every mafia work to come, as well as influencing pop culture to this day with its numerous characters, scenes and lines.

The second picture, The Godfather, Part II (1974, 202 minutes) picks up eight years later, as the family has moved to Lake Tahoe in an effort to legitimize what they do through gaming. Even though this is an admirable goal, Michael finds the sins of the past (and/or the father) cannot be escaped so easily, and there is violence and bloodshed yet again. While we follow the narrative of the present day, the film intercuts with sequences detailing the rise of a young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro), from his childhood in Sicily to his path towards becoming a Don. Arguably better than its worthy predecessor (which is an always enjoyable argument!) the picture excels at adding much more to the overall tapestry of the Corleone family. While the story is no slouch, the picture is also a feat of editing and structure with it going back and forth between present day and turn of the century New York City. These two seemingly disparate periods seek to compare and contrast the similarities between Vito’s path and Michaels. Each period also emphasizes the similarities in the business and culture in which the Corleone’s exist, adding new weight to each one as they go.

It took sixteen years for us to finally get 1990’s Godfather, Part III (170 minutes), and some will say it was something we really didn’t need. In the intervening years, Coppola, society and the movie-going audience had changed to the point where what made the original two pictures so exciting had now become the norm in movies. Both of the initial parts of The Godfather only sought to harm this third entry with the long shadow their initial influence cast. The Godfather, Part III may have had a better chance of success had it been done soon after the second picture where it wouldn’t have been compared to every other mob picture since 1974. The story itself, in which Michael is still trying to legitimize the family business, this time with the help of the Vatican, is certainly the weakest of the three, but it is no slouch in its own right. I had not viewed it for many years, and not in the context of watching the first two so soon before it. On this viewing, I now have a very fond appeal for this picture, its messages and the production. It is littered with homage’s and call backs to the previous pictures, and the themes so prevalent in the past show their true weight here.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

All three of the pictures are encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The films have gone through an extensive restoration process in order to preserve them and return them to their original glory. HTF’s own Robert A. Harris was one of the main contributors to this effort and I suggest you check some of the other posts by him on HTF for more info on his role in the restoration process, as well as the documentary I mentioned at the beginning of the review. This image will probably become the stuff of debate for years, so I would like to re-iterate that I am using a DLP front projector that has been properly calibrated. I am watching the picture in a dedicated and blacked out room. That being said, you may have a different opinion regarding the look of this disc’s image depending on your displays, their set up and environmental factors.

The Godfather looks as if it just walked out of the editing bay as a new and pristine print. I hesitate to use the word transfer since I have not seen a more “film-like” image in a long time, if ever, in my home theater. One of the first things I noticed was the presence of grain in the picture, and while it was not obtrusive by any means, it was evident enough to remind me I was watching a film. This is not a complaint, either, since any type of DNR would have removed this, but at the same time sacrificed the quality of the original image. DNR has not been applied at all, leaving us with a spectacularly organic image that is a true representation of the original prints of the picture. I have seen this picture several times in its various home video incarnations but it was like I was watching it again for the first time. The overall color palate of the interior scenes in the picture maintains a yellow/ golden sheen bordering on a sepia tint, with most of the outdoor scenes shedding this in favor of slightly blown out whites. The sheen to the interior scenes was not as evident in the previous releases of the movie and it adds an added dimension to the viewing experience, as if you are watching old home movies (just brilliantly shot, acted and directed!). When viewing the actors during the interior scenes, they retain some of this coloring, but still look natural in the surroundings. The exterior scenes are also rendered accurately with flesh tones and environments looking lush and natural. As I said, no DNR or other sharpening has been applied. The picture looks slightly soft (more so in the outdoor daytime scenes) yet still retains excellent levels of detail in both back- and foreground items. Black levels are deep but are inconsistent in their detail: during the opening scenes of the movie I was struck by the excellent level of detail only to have it waver in other parts of the picture. This was a stylistic choice of Coppola and Willis rather than any issues with this transfer itself. Due to the extensive restoration done to this picture, there is little to no dirt or debris noticed leaving us with a truly pristine image.

The Godfather, Part II retains most of the same qualities as the first picture, but since it was shot a few years later, its color palate is a more bold for the present day scenes as opposed to the sequences with young Vito. These latter scenes nearly match the first picture providing a subtle visual link to that movie. The modern day scenes show a rich color palate as well as sharper definition and excellent details. The black levels of this picture are fair, not being near as deep as the first picture, leaving the image looking flat. Again, as I said about the first picture, this may be more of a stylistic choice than an issue with the transfer.

The Godfather, Part III looks the freshest of the three, mainly due to its recent vintage. While Willis shot this picture too, he has chosen a more modern approach to the picture, shedding the yellow tints in favor of modern lighting. Colors are still slightly muted and reminiscent of the other two films. Sharpness and detail are more pronounced here, but this image equally complements its predecessors in its film-like appearance. Black levels are good remaining fairly consistent except for one scene is Sicily when Michael and Kay are having lunch and there is a short “flashing” of the image. This was incidental and did not surface anywhere else on the disc. The print remained clean and free from any obtrusive dirt or debris.


Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks were attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

I watched the movies with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks engaged. These films rely primarily on dialogue, and as such, they have a very heavy front soundstage. The surrounds do engage more as you move on to the second and third films as we move into a more modern age both story-wise and film making-wise When they do engage, they are used primarily for ambience or to carry some weight to gun shots, explosions or other such effects. In The Godfather, when those types of sounds occur, they tend to jolt you to further emphasize their inherent violence. In the later soundtracks they are more balanced with the overall soundtrack. Voices are clean, clear and natural throughout all three pictures, but I noticed ADR numerous times. LFE’s engage in a similar manner as the surrounds, to emphasize gun shots, explosions and the like. One of the best components of these movies is Carmine Coppola’s score, which is accurately represented as well, and making Rota’s main theme all the more haunting. In the past I thought this score was lost in the mixes but here it stands equally with the rest of the soundtrack.


Bonus Material: all of the materiel from the previous 2001 DVD version of The Godfather trilogy have been brought over to this release, as well as adding several new pieces. Some of the items are in HD and noted as such. All of the rest of the materiel is contained on Disc 4.

The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t (HD) (29:46): Coppola, George Lucas, Walter Murch, Robert Evans and others discuss how Hollywood was in the throws of massive changes in light of similar societal upheaval of the late ‘60’s. Paramount had just been bought by a conglomerate, Gulf-Western, leaving everyone nervous as to the fate of the movie industry. The Godfather became more of a harbinger to society and (or via) Hollywood signaling the next age of both. Numerous other actors and directors chime in about its influence and greatness.

Godfather World (HD) (11:19): David Chase, the mastermind behind The Sopranos gives some respect here, as does Homer Simpson, the South Park kids, and others trying to define just what it is about The Godfather that we love and inspires everyone.

Emulsional Rescue- Revealing The Godfather (HD) (19:05): as I said earlier, this new edition is going to be the stuff of controversy for years. Before you begin to watch the films themselves, I think this piece, with commentary from Gordon Willis, Robert A. Harris and others, needs to be watched first. It is only then you appreciate how much work went into saving the negatives and giving us these new “ports” of the new, 4K files, for viewing in our homes. Harris is no stranger to any serious and avid lover of movies or home theater and he encapsulates what has been strung across several websites: this edition is how The Godfather films are supposed to look. This piece is fascinating for the casual viewer or the die-hard film buff, but it should be considered the essential piece to watch on this set.

…When the Shooting Stopped (HD) (14:18): the post-production artists are featured here, as well as Coppola, Murch and Lucas again. The discussion focuses on the give and take between Coppola and Paramount during the editing process, including how the music factored in to the tone of a given scene (such as its importance in the horse head scene).

The Godfather on the Red Carpet (HD) (4:03): modern day actors were stopped at the opening of…Cloverfield, of all things, to get their take on The Godfather pictures. A fluff piece, but you do get a peek at the cast of the next Star Trek movie.

Four Short Films on The Godfather (HD) (7:20): included are: The Godfather vs. The Godfather II, Riffing on the Riffing, Cannoli, Clemenza. Some of the debatable aspects of the franchise, the fun of quoting the lines, the impact of little white boxes and their contents and the mystery surrounding Clemenza’s death. Fun for the fans!

The Family Tree: also featured on the ’01 set, but placed here for some reason. You can highlight a name and it takes you to a bio on that character or the actor(s) playing them.

Crime Organizational Chart: an interactive rap sheet of the family, its rivals and associates.

Connie and Carlo’s Wedding Album: pictures from said album.


These items were from the 2001 DVD edition. I was irritated Paramount didn’t go back and redo the menu system as there is no “play all” function in any of the overall segments, making us have to jump in and out of the menus to activate the materiel. See, we’re already spoiled by BD!

Commentaries by Francis Ford Coppola: all three pictures contain these commentaries, which are the same ones that were on the DVD set. In these commentaries you will get equal parts movie talk, a crash course in Italian families, and the nature of the film-making business over the years. Coppola is engaging and interesting with his tracks, showing his love of family and his pride in his Italian heritage. All three are excellent and recommended.

Behind the Scenes (1:13:24): this segment is broken up into smaller segments detailing the family, locations, music, screenwriting, cinematography, behind the scenes and more. The piece was shot and put together around the time of the third film and it ties all three of them together by discussing each of the productions. It jumps from one to the other based on story items. Cast and crew discuss, very informally and very engagingly, as we get to see Coppola interact with his actors and his table reads. The piece touches on the similarities between the Coppola’s and the Corleone’s. There are vintage bits from the first two pictures also. Almost everyone who is interviewed has at least one great Brando story. It’s a stunning and even emotional documentary at points that is a must-watch.

The Filmmakers (approx. 37 minutes): another segment that is broken down into individual contributors, Coppola, Puzo, Willis, Dean Tavoularis , Rota and Carmine Coppola. Tavoularis takes us through the lower east side where they shot all three pictures, interspersed with vintage behind the scenes footage and samplings of a documentary on the making of The Godfather, Part II by a film student (I wonder whatever happened to that?). Coppola’s section has him explaining how he translated the book into a script by utilizing a “prompt book” in which he’d take pages of the book, put them on larger notebook paper, bind it all together according to scene, then make notes as he went. This was another fascinating look at his process, as he discusses narrative time lines, imagery and tone, the core, and pitfalls of each scene. This would be an exceptional item to be made public in book form. The music of the pictures and its two composers get too little time, unfortunately, but they pack in some great material while shown. Puzo fares a little better as he and Coppola discuss the story in general, how the novel was adapted, and how they devised The Godfather, Part II. Puzo also mentions what he would do if given the chance to make a part IV! Gordon Willis, or as Conrad Hall calls him, “The Prince of Darkness”, finally is featured for less than four minutes, and thankfully the BD extras above have corrected this.

Additional Scenes and Chronology: the chronology is just that, the story in order via dated bullet points with some extra story items. The additional scenes break down into four different time periods from 1901 to 1979, the time frames of the entire story. There are a total of 34 scenes all of which have a written introduction to them to describe where they would have fit in the story. They have not been restored as the features have, unfortunately.

Acclaim & Response: four segments showing Coppola and others collecting their Oscars for the first two pictures, a list of the nominations and wins for all three, and Coppola’s introduction to the edited TV version of The Godfather

Storyboards for The Godfather, Part II and The Godfather, Part III

Trailers (HD) from all three pictures. Quality is fair as they have not gone through any restoration.

Photo Gallery: contains pictures from the shoot as well as stills from the features.

Rogues’ Gallery: a collection of photos of the numerous rouges.


Conclusions:
A journey of a passionate film-maker and a fictional family in the midst of changing times finds a way for us to sympathize and care about that family’s criminal ways. This extraordinary restoration comes to Blu-ray the way it looked in the theaters all those years ago. We should consider ourselves lucky to have these films in our collection and in this quality, with an amazing set of extras to match. It is my pick for release of the year, and unsurprisingly comes…

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 9 CraigF

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Posted September 19 2008 - 02:20 PM

Wow! Totally expected...how could they do less with these films and live with it...glad to see it makes the mark.

#3 of 9 TravisR

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Posted September 19 2008 - 02:38 PM

I heard these movies are good. Maybe I'll check this out.
































Posted Image

#4 of 9 Sam Posten

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Posted September 19 2008 - 06:05 PM

I finally read the book this year and CANNOT WAIT to get my copy of this BD box set! Great review Pat and I really look forward to seeing Mr. Harris' "Baby" =)

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#5 of 9 Joe Cortez

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Posted September 20 2008 - 06:50 AM

Quote:
Harris is no stranger to any serious and avid lover of movies or home theater and he encapsulates what has been strung across several websites: this edition is how The Godfather films are supposed to look.

I just saw parts I and II last night at the Arclight on the Cinerama Dome and I can absolutely attest to this fact. This restoration is nothing short of a miracle and Mr. Harris should be very proud of his work on these films. I can't wait to pick up the Blu-Ray box set on Tuesday!

#6 of 9 Carlo Medina

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Posted September 20 2008 - 11:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Cortez
I just saw parts I and II last night at the Arclight on the Cinerama Dome and I can absolutely attest to this fact. This restoration is nothing short of a miracle and Mr. Harris should be very proud of his work on these films. I can't wait to pick up the Blu-Ray box set on Tuesday!
My schedule for the next 7 days is really hectic but I am so trying to make time to see this at the Arclight!

#7 of 9 Cees Alons

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Posted September 20 2008 - 12:16 PM

Although on a lesser medium, I have already seen the result of this restoration, because I couldn't stop myself buying the SD DVD set (in a metal case, therefore known as the "steelbook" version) on Amazon/UK. Watched it twice already.

I cannot wait until the BD set arrives!

Thanks, Pat. Word had already reached this forum, of course, about the excellent quality of this film, but your review was a pleasure to read carefully over again! Posted Image


Cees

#8 of 9 John Hodson

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Posted January 08 2009 - 10:21 AM

Excellent review Pat; I watched this a couple of days ago. Just a fantastic piece of work by Robert and one that I'll revisit with genuine pleasure again and again.
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#9 of 9 sigmund100

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Posted January 24 2009 - 10:46 AM

Has anyone noticed that at the 1:46:50 point in Godfather Part II, there seems to be what appears to be a "broken piece of film strip" at the bottom center of the screen covering the action (during the scene where the Cuban people are throwing the slot machines in the street)?

If this is a "restoration", why was this not fixed or removed?

Is Paramount aware of this?

Is this mistake part of the master?

Was this on previous DVD, laserdisc or VHS versions?

Can anyone shed any light on this?





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