The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration

Based on the novel by Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather is one of the greatest films of all time. Widely considered the best sequel of all time, Part II went on to win six Oscars, including Best Picture. Nearly 16 years later, Coppola completed the saga with The Godfather, Part III, a very good film in its own right, but it had big shoes to fill and didn't quite meet expectations. Chronicling the lives of the Corleone family over nearly 80 years—from the rise of Vito (Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro) as a young criminal to the struggles of Michael (Al Pacino) to legitimize the family business after taking over for his father.

The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II underwent extensive frame-by-frame examination and restoration supervised by Robert A. Harris of the Film Preserve under the direction of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis. The Godfather, Part III didn't need the meticulous restoration, but it received a new remastering for release on both Blu-ray and DVD.

The AVC encodes range from jaw-dropping to average, depending on the particular scene and movie. Part I is the roughest looking of the three due to the cinematography and its advanced age. The restoration has done wonders to the print, with nary a blemish or scratch. The exterior shots from Sicily have never looked better, with phenomenal detail and rich color saturation.

Part II has a similar look to Part I, with a brownish hue and elevated black levels, although the backgrounds show a lot more detail than I've seen on previous viewings. Detail is very good in both close-ups and longer shots—in fact, I've never seen the film look this good.

Part III is the best looking of the bunch, but the print is less than 20 years old, so it should look superior. Details are a bit sharper, especially in the backgrounds, and colors look more natural and vivid compared to the earlier films. Black levels are more on the inky side, creating a very dynamic picture with exceptional color saturation.

All three movies have Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks, with Part I and II offering Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural as well. The soundtracks of the first two films are very front-loaded—as you would expect from the original mono elements—with mostly intelligible dialog and decent dynamics. Brando mumbles most of his lines, requiring a higher volume level than I usually set. Gunshots and explosions sound good given the source but not as dynamic as a newer film. Part III offers the best audio experience, with an active ambience in the surround channels and cleaner and crisper dynamics.

The bonus features are outstanding, with a full-length commentary by Coppola on all three films. The rest of the supplements are contained on a single BD25 disc and explore the complexities of the restoration process. They also reveal how the film almost didn't come to pass as we know it. "The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't" (HD) relates the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of casting issues between Coppola and Paramount and contains interviews with the cast and others involved in the productions.

Other new features include some short films based on The Godfather, a family tree, a crime-organization chart, a wedding album, and some supplements ported over from the 2001 DVD release.

It's been over three decades since The Godfather saga hit the silver screen, telling a timeless tale of crime and drama. The restoration is phenomenal and does these classic films justice in every sense. Highly recommended.

Release Date: September 23, 2008

The Godfather 10 out of 10
Picture: 6 out of 10
Sound: 6 out of 10

The Godfather, Part II 10 out of 10
Picture: 7 out of 10
Sound: 6 out of 10

The Godfather, Part III 8 out of 10
Picture: 8 out of 10
Sound: 7 out of 10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD30

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector