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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Godfather
The Godfather
Paramount // R // October 9, 2001
List Price: $105.90 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 1, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Godfather Review | The Godfather II Review | The Godfather III Review |The Godfather Bonus Disc Review

The Movie:

Although the DVD release calendar offers little in the way of releases of major new films lately, this three week period offers a series of riches - "Citizen Kane" came out in a wonderfully restored edition with extensive supplements; "Snow White" is coming out soon, with its animation supposedly richer than ever. The third title is certainly one that many DVD fans have been excited about and eagerly waiting for: the "Godfather" series. Although the films are not available separately, Paramount has provided a solid box set for the trilogy.

As with my review of "Kane", it's rather difficult to go over any ground that's not already been covered elsewhere. Still, I will discuss opinions on why I think it's an important picture. Elements like the fact that Ford Coppola, working with a terrific screenplay and a marvelous crew, has created this world from top-to-bottom through great production designs and cinematography. The film doesn't even seem dated years later.

The film stars a wide variety of highly talented actors, all of whom are working with superbly written and well-crafted characters. Many of these individuals are introduced effectively in the film's opening sequence at a wedding. The film opens with Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in his study, bringing in various folks who would like to ask a favor of the Godfather on his daughter's wedding day. One of the people we meet is Michael Corelone, the son of the family who is looking to get away from the family business and marry Kay (Diane Keaton). Vito unfortunately becomes the subject of an attack, resulting in Michael being pulled farther back into the family business.

It's strange and entertaining to listen to director Francis Ford Coppola's stories about the studio's worries and anxiety over what was going on during filming, since the elements were obviously in place to make a strong picture from the get-go. The film itself is nothing short of a dream cast - besides the incredible set of leads in Brando and Pacino, there's wonderful support from Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton and a wealth of others. The film's crew was also terrific; Gordon Willis's dark, rich and textured cinematography still remains haunting and effective. Dean Tavoularis's production design offers an incredible amount of detail, as well. Last, but not least, there's Nino Rota's classic score. Losing none of its power years later, "The Godfather" remains a masterpiece.


The DVD

VIDEO: "The Godfather" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount and American Zoetrope studios. Although not entirely perfect, this is generally a very enjoyable, if occasionally problematic presentation. Sharpness and detail are generally superb throughout the picture, with Gordon Willis's beautiful cinematography translating well to this small-screen experience.

Unfortunately, there are some noticable and occasionally distracting problems with the picture quality. These mainly revolve around print flaws, which inconsistently were visible. While some sequences showed mild grain, speckles, marks and the occasional scratch, other sequences appeared largely clean and clear. In other words, print flaws were not an issue throughout the entire movie, but when they did appear, they caused mild to moderate concern and occasional distraction. It's unfortunate that the elements don't seem to be in great shape (apparently, the film has reportedly not been terribly well-preserved), or that some sort of restoration/cleaning effort could not have been done. Other than that, I noticed a couple of light instances of pixelation and edge enhancement, but neither of those problems caused nearly as much concern as the wear that sometimes became visible.

Colors still looked rich and bold after all these years, with the warm colors of the interiors and the golden colors of the exteriors both looking nicely rendered and free of concerns. There are some blemishes on occasion throughout the movie, and although I certainly wasn't amazed with the transfer, it certainly presented an watchable viewing experience.

SOUND: "Godfather", as with many older Paramount titles, has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Strangely though, the original mono soundtrack has not been included. The newly redone surround-sound presentation didn't seem entirely necessary, as "The Godfather" remains a film that's almost completely dialogue-driven. The audio successfully opens up the sound well with the score (the opening piece sounds especially haunting as it drifts into the listening space), but there are a few ambient sounds that didn't sound entirely natural. Audio quality remained pleasant throughout the picture, as the music sounded crisp and clean. Ambient sounds faired okay (a bit of thunder sounded suprisingly full at one point) and dialogue - although somewhat unnatural sounding at times - didn't sound thin or harsh.

MENUS:: What most will find very enjoyable is the fact that the usual Paramount "Warning" menus don't show up on "The Godfather". Aside from a little "rating reason" screen, the film simply starts up after its inserted. The menus themselves are very subtle, with only a lightly animated main menu and basic sub-menus.

EXTRAS::

Commentary: This is a commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola. I've enjoyed the director's commentary tracks that he's provided for several pictures now and this one is no less entertaining and informative. The director has a wealth of stories about what it was like to work on the production - as well as quite a few stories about the studio's unease about how the film was going, as Ford Coppola talks about feeling like he'd be getting fired during several periods while the movie was filming. Ford Coppola also provides a lot of insight about working with the actors and also, changing the way that the story was originally going to be told. A strong commentary and the director only has a few minor gaps of silence here and there, which is impressive, given the fact that the film is nearly three hours.

Final Thoughts: "The Godfather" is a marvelously written, wonderfully directed and powerfully acted piece that remains a classic. Paramount's DVD provides audio/video quality that's certainly watchable/listenable, but comes in somewhat under expectations. Ford Coppola's commentary is a welcome and very enjoyable supplement. Recommended.

Further reviews in the "Godfather" set will be arriving during the next week.

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