( Max score: 100 )
THE GODFATHER: Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather (1972) is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, a "godfather" or "don," the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family "business." A few months later at Christmas time, the don barely survives being shot by gunmen in the employ of a drug-trafficking rival whose request for aid from the Corleones' political connections was rejected. After saving his father from a second assassination attempt, Michael persuades his hotheaded eldest brother, Sonny (James Caan), and family advisors Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) that he should be the one to exact revenge on the men responsible. After murdering a corrupt police captain and the drug trafficker, Michael hides out in Sicily while a gang war erupts at home. Falling in love with a local girl, Michael marries her, but she is later slain by Corleone enemies in an attempt on Michael's life. Sonny is also butchered, having been betrayed by Connie's husband. Michael returns home and convinces Kay to marry him, his father recovers and makes peace with his rivals, realizing that another powerful don was pulling the strings behind the narcotics endeavor that began the gang warfare. Once Michael has been groomed as the new don, he leads the family to a new era of prosperity. He launches a campaign of murderous revenge against those who once tried to wipe out the Corleones, consolidating his family's power and completing his own moral downfall. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels.
THE GODFATHER PART II: This brilliant companion piece to the original The Godfather continues the saga of two generations of successive power within the Corleone family. Coppola tells two stories in Part II: the roots and rise of a young Don Vito, played with uncanny ability by Robert De Niro, and the ascension of Michael (Al Pacino) as the new Don. Reassembling many of the talents who helped make The Godfather, Coppola has produced a movie of staggering magnitude and vision, and undeniably the best sequel ever made. Robert De Niro won an Oscar®; the film received six Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1974.
THE GODFATHER PART III: One of the greatest sagas in movie history continues! In this third film in the epic Corleone trilogy, Al Pacino reprises the role of powerful family leader Michael Corleone. Now in his 60's, Michael is dominated by two passions: freeing his family from crime and finding a suitable successor. That successor could be fiery Vincent (Andy Garcia)... but he may also be the spark that turns Michael's hope of business legitimacy into an inferno of mob violence. Francis Ford Coppola directs Pacino, Garcia, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Eli Wallach, Sofia Coppola, Joe Montegna and others in this exciting, long-awaited film that masterfully explores the themes of power, tradition, revenge and love. It received Seven Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture.
There has been so much written on The Godfather that there would be little that I could add that most who are reading this wouldn’t know. Personally I consider these films (particularly Parts I and II) to be American Cinematic Masterpieces that paved the way for many other great films (not necessarily mafia based) and inspired/influenced other areas in cultural society. They are creative works that should be respected as such even by those who aren’t necessarily film fans. Here we are 36 years after The Godfather’s theatrical release and it and GF Part II hold up extremely well. It has been a number of years since I have seen them and I still found myself transfixed as I watched. GF Part III has a different feel for me that is probably due to the fact that it is a more recent release. I saw it theatrically and thought it was excellent but I felt a bit of a disconnection between it and the other two. That is not a criticism and it is probably born out of the feeling of that most of the integral characters from the first two films are gone (in one way or another). That of course is not a slight to the new faces that are introduced in Part III because I enjoyed them. I consider The Godfather films as a collective work to be outstanding and responsible for helping to positively shape American Cinema into what it has become today.
All three films are rated R for violence, language and sexual references/content.
In looking at these films it is clearly obvious that the director had a very specific idea about what he wanted them to look like. The use of sepia tones and low lighting is frequently used in all three but seems more prevalent in The Godfather and Godfather Part II. Grain is well preserved, clearly visible and especially in the case of the first two films gives it a distinctive look that seems apropos to the story’s telling. Part III being a newer film has a bit more of a polished look but retains some of the aforementioned qualities. The visual style of these films does not lend itself to overtly vibrant textures and razor sharp quality. Those expecting them to have the high gloss appearance and pristinely refined detail of some of today’s films will be disappointed. Part I and Part II have been fully restored and Part III has been remastered. I will offer my impressions on the video and audio quality of the three films separately.
The Godfather comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 33 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.8 mbps.
As mentioned earlier the color palette used is somewhat limited however I thought that colors had good tonal balance, and clean rendering throughout this presentation. Contrast levels were elevated which negatively impacted the perception of gradational detail in whites and grays during brightly sequences. In the film’s opening wedding ceremony there is a wide angle exterior shot as Don Vito dances with Connie. Her white dress and other light colored objects within the shot, have a blooming quality that obscures visible texture/detail. Grain was somewhat inconsistent as it exhibited a heavier grain structure during certain scenes. It didn’t negatively impact fidelity but was plainly obvious. Blacks were fairly deep, slightly crushed and appeared to have good dynamic range. Detail in dark backgrounds was a mixed bag. There were plenty of instances where shadow detail was resolved quite well and others where it presence was harder to discern. Detail was rendered cleanly with good two dimensional depth and sufficient sharpness in most respects. The sequences filmed in Italy had a bit more of a refined visual acuity that provided deeper image penetration. This clearly represented the two different worlds featured in the film and the effect was notable. This is a dialogue driven film that features a front heavy sound mix. Dialogue sounded kind of thin and lacking in mid range depth. Voices didn’t have strong presence and this left dialogue sounding occasionally anemic. Left, center and right channel separation was good which allowed panning effects and spatial cues to sound distinct across the front soundstage. The car bomb in Sicily showed off the sound track’s dynamic capability quite nicely as its impact resonated through the room. I had no trouble detecting subtle sonic detail within the mix which I attribute to the higher quality of lossless audio. The music score sounded sweet as it delivered silky smooth highs and excellent tonal depth. The surround and LFE channels were used sparingly however I don’t recall feeling as though I missed them.
The Godfather Part II comes to Blu-ray disc featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.6 mbps.
This video presentation looked very similar to The Godfather. The overall tone and styling was nearly identical. I felt that grain and sharpness offered better consistency over the length of the film. The use of filtering, during the young Vito segments, imparted a soft glowing effect to the video. Its intention was obvious and I didn’t see that had an adverse effect on image quality. Contrast levels were elevated however its effects were minimal as bright scenes maintained good white detail visibility. Black levels were elevated as well which caused blacks to look a bit washed out. Detail in dark areas and shadows revealed good visible structure and depth of field. The higher brightness being a contributing factor of course. Lowering the brightness setting on my display just a couple of clicks improved things. Images were cleanly resolved with firm clarity and definitive resolution. The lossless audio presentation was quite good and capably handled the elements contained with the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue was crisp with depth and intonation that offered an improvement over what I heard in the first film. Similarly the surrounds and subwoofer saw limited use. This sound mix seemed to generate a slightly more diverse surround experience though. Ambiance, along with a few discrete atmospheric effects created a sound field that at times had a fairly immersive quality. I had no trouble detecting subtle sonic detail within the mix which I attribute to lossless audio’s higher fidelity. The music score sounded sweet as it delivered silky smooth highs and excellent tonal depth.
The Godfather Part III comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p AVS encoded video that has an average bitrate of 31 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.6 mbps.
This video presentation was the sharpest of the three and boasted colors that were a bit punchier with a more diverse palette. Colors were naturally rendered with vivid hues and good tonal balance. Grain was finely layered and exhibited consistent texture over the length of the film. Images had good dimensional perspective and definition which allowed fine detail present within the frame to be perceptible. Contrast and Black levels struck a good balance which translated positively to the images onscreen. The audio presentation for The Godfather III is clearly the standout of the three and it sounded quite good. Dialogue is rendered with crystal clarity and descriptive tonal variation. The front channels carry the majority of the soundtrack’s elements however the soundstage has excellent depth and above average room penetration. Dynamic range is solid which gives sound effects good impact and clear articulation. The mix made ample use of the surround channels to deliver spatial cues and front channel enhancing detail. On several occasions I felt as though the background filling ambient detail was mixed just a bit too high in relation to the front channels. This made it the front and rear soundstages feel a bit disjointed. There was no real deep bass contained in this mix however the low frequencies present integrated well with the rest of the system as well as with the source material.
I feel that the work done on these films to restore them has born fruit. They look and sound better than they ever have on any previous home video release.
Paramount has included one of the most if not THE most comprehensive collection of bonus supplements I have ever seen. There is over four hours of content that spans the full gamut of this body of work. Fans can marvel in the accumulated knowledge base that exists herein. Enjoy!
2001 DVD Archive
The Godfather films (particularly Parts I and II) represent two of the most influential films in filmmaking history. Their impact can be felt outside of filmmaking circles which is a testament to their significance. The release of these films in high definition has been anticipated by fans since the formats adoption. This restoration and Blu-ray Disc release of Francis Ford Coppola’s most critically acclaimed work is truly the best that these American Cinematic Classics has ever looked on home video. It comes complete with a collection of bonus supplements that is indeed worthy of praise. Paramount has done a superb with this set and had made movie fans an offer that they can’t refuse. Highly Recommended.