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Winner of the Best Picture Academy Award in 1972, The Godfather has blazed its own path of infamy through many critics’ top ten lists and some “Best Film Of All Time” lists. And now, Paramount presents the films on four discs (The Godfather Part II is spread over two discs) with all the extra features on a fifth disc.

Godfather Collection, The
The Godfather introduces audiences to the Corleone family, an extremely powerful Italian-American family whose patriarch, Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), is head of one of the most powerful Mafia families in New York. The film opens with the infamous scene of The Godfather appearing at his daughter’s wedding, however, he is constantly barraged with individuals who wish to speak with him (ask him favors and thanking him for the honor of being invited to the wedding.) Coppola has done an outstanding job in filming, and presenting just how powerful this man is in the New York syndicate.

Enter Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the youngest son to Don Corleone who has consistently tried to keep his distance from the illegal activities in which his namesake participates. That is until his escape to Sicily, where he meets and eventually marries an innocent native and is drawn into the Corleone violence. Michael is then drawn back to the family’s history of violence in an effort to seek revenge.

The Godfather, a great picture is an equally great introduction to one of the most popular fictional Mafia families in the history of film. Performances are solid, strong, and stunning, which drive this dialogue laden film.

Two years later, Coppola made The Godfather Part II, and by some accounts is by far the better film of the two. The Godfather Part II continues the story of Michael Corleone’s rise to Mafia kingpin and also tells a parallel story of Don Corleone and how he rose to the ranks of Mafia kingpin.

Robert DeNiro stars in Part II as the younger Don Corleone and he certainly rises to the job in a performance as strong as Brando had done a few years earlier. Pacino also returns as Michael, who once again gives a powerful performance as the new don who must control his family in a time in America’s history when the Mafia began to be put under a microscope by the American government. This second film is not only the story of the rise of a powerful family and its heirs, but the story of American life, immigration, and the opportunity that America presented to foreigners in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. This film not only addresses Michael’s further trials and tribulations, but also answers the questions of what made Don Corleone the man he was later in life.

Coppola has created a fantastic sequel detailing the epic story of a family. The Godfather Part II was awarded the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1974, the first sequel to ever win such an award when its original counterpart was also given the award.

Finally, the trilogy was capped off with 1990’s, The Godfather Part III which some say is the worst of the films. However, I disagree. The third film is a different film, than the first two. And as it should be, it is 20 years later and the Corleone family has seen its share of successes and failures.

This time, Michael is seen as the older patriarch, faced with actually dealing with the sins he has committed over the years. He is also faced with the possibility of actually becoming a legitimate businessman without having to murder or maim. Sofia Coppola is featured as Michael Corleone’s daughter and although she isn’t exactly the strongest actress, I still felt she did a decent job in this film. Al Pacino also returns and once again, he has nailed this character down, and has also acted in such a way that it is actually believable that this feared man actually wants to quit the family business.

The Godfather Part III is vastly different from the previous films in that it seeks to delve further into the mind of Michael Corleone, and I think on some levels it succeeds. It is by no means a joyous film, but rather a nice conclusion to a family’s rise and growth through the years from crime to the quest for redemption.

Godfather Collection, The
Overall, I think Paramount has done a good job on the transfers of these classic films. All are presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio and are anamorphic.

The Godfather appears great compared to some of the VHS versions I have ever viewed but it should be noted that it is not stellar and does contain its share of distractions. There are numerous scratches, blemishes and grain marks. At times, some of the colors appear to be rich and strong while in other scenes, they seem a bit washed out. I can only assume that these inconsistencies are due to a lackluster print of the film. Overall, however, the transfer and appearance is better than anything that has ever appeared on VHS.

The Godfather Part II is a considerably improved transfer than that of the first film. There were still noticeable moments of scratches and graininess; however, it didn’t seem to appear throughout. The print appears to be relatively smooth and clean. Some viewers may notice a bit more graininess then what I am mentioning, but I think it is maybe the way Coppola wanted the film to appear because some of the story takes place in an older time period, so this gives it the older, vintage look.

The Godfather Part III is by far the better transfer of the bunch. However, keep in mind that this film was made in the early 90’s and thus film preservation technology has advanced and the fact that it is a much newer film will also have an affect on the print used. Once again, I did notice a few blemishes, but not too bad, and not too distracting. It appears to be much cleaner, and the colors are rich and strong.

Paramount Pictures has presented all three films in a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround audio track that is fantastic. I should add that this is a newly remixed track from the original audio tack. Overall, these films sound great and in fact, even better then the VHS versions (although for that I am not surprised, this DVD afterall.) The sound is extremely clean and is filled with a new life from the sound alone.

Now granted these films are not the typical Hollywood blow ‘em up, smash ‘em and crash ‘em and largely dialogue driven, however, in some of the scenes that the action takes place, the surround is absolutely amazing!

Fans of the Godfather films will be pleased to know that Paramount have come out with an extensive set of extra features, all contained on one disc aside from the commentaries.

First there are the audio commentaries for each film. Francis Ford Coppola provides the commentary that was maybe one of the best I have ever heard. Coppola shares a wealth of knowledge on each commentary, offering stories of the production including the difficulties that faced him as a film maker as well as the impact these films have had on his life and career. There are the occasional silent moments, but overall, the commentaries are outstanding and should not be missed.

Next is the documentary, The Godfather Family: A Look Inside which features Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert DeNiro and other members of the cast and crew discussing their experience on the Godfather films. The documentary is 75 minutes long and features clips from each of the films as well. This piece was informative and interesting and I believe it will have a rewatchabilitiy that some documentaries do not.

Paramount has also included eight shorter in length feautrettes each on the production of the films.
First, The Locations of The Godfather, a six minute tour of the locations within New York City. Second, Francis Ford Coppola’s Notebook, a feature running 10 minutes and features an interview with the director on his notes of the novel and the screenplay.

The Music of the Godfather features two featurettes on Carmine Coppola, Francis’ father and Nino Rota. This feature features narration and footage of the composing sessions. An interesting if not curious extra about the music of The Godfather films.

Puzo and Coppola on Screenwriting features interviews and discussion on how all three of the films came to light. Viewers will also get an inside look into the script meetings that took place between Puzo and Coppola.

Gordon Willis on Cinematography is a four-minute feature on how Willis made choices with how the films were going to be framed. We are also in for an additional treat in which other cinematographers offer their comments on the influence of Willis’ cinematography and how they were influenced by it.

Other features include storyboards from The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III and the original Godfather making-of featurette. Then, a neat little feature which includes additional scenes and The Godfather Chronology, which is divided into sections. Each section represents a timeline in the Corleone family and features text of the events of the three films. The additional scenes contains 34 segments that display the numerous scenes that were added for other versions of the scenes while others are scenes that make us understand why they were cut to begin with.

The Godfather Family Tree is really enjoyable to look at. This feature is probably aimed more at the audiences, who are not completely familiar with the Corleone family, however, I thought it was a rather inventive extra. It’s actually very easy to trace each character’s lineage across the tree and it also supplies filmographies of the actors who played that character. Also included are filmographies for some of the crew.

Finally, there is a section titled Galleries. Here we are presented with three theatrical trailers, one for each film. Acclaim and Response is a section that includes a text of awards and nominations, the original introduction to The Godfather’s network television airing and five Academy Award acceptance speeches and finally two still galleries, Photo Gallery and the Rogues Gallery.

Godfather Collection, The
I don’t know how much I can say that this is a fantastic collection of the classic Mafia films on DVD. As movies as a whole, The Godfather Part I and Part II are excellent additions to any collection. Although The Godfather Part III was panned by critics and audiences, I still think it is a fine film as a worthy conclusion to the Coreleone family.

While some of the video transfers may be less than stellar, this is certainly better then any VHS version I have seen. In addition, the audio 5.1 is also fantastic and really breathes new life to these already popular films. Paramount Pictures has outdone itself this time with a fifth disc filled to the brim with extra features that bring a new insight to these classic films.

As of this writing, these films are only available in this boxed set, so viewers only wanting the first two films are out of luck. Regardless, this is a memorable set and no DVD collection should be without it.