The Godfather DVD Collection Review
This five-disc collection comprises of The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III (all reviewed separately) plus a fifth bonus-disc with exclusive bonus material...
As you would hope for Paramount's highest profile release to date, the Godfather trilogy is presented with some fine extras, which do an excellent job of putting the film into context both cinematically and historically. While not quite reaching Criterion standards, or even the very best Fox releases, there is still a wide variety of material here that, combined, is more or less a definitive view of the trilogy. It's pointless trying to summarise everything, so here are the individual reviews of the best parts:
'A Look Inside' Documentary
It seems almost churlish to describe a very candid and very interesting 75-minute documentary as missing a few things; however, the documentary unfortunately does. While the inclusion of some truly priceless footage from the first 2 Godfather films (including a fantastic de Niro screentest for Sonny) makes this a must-see, far too much of the documentary is taken up with clips, as well as undue emphasis on the third film (yes, it's very underrated, but we'd still rather see footage from the making of the first two); the problem with the documentary is that it was produced around the time of the last film's release, and thus hovers perilously close to promotional exercise from time to time, lacking the perspective to address the film's obvious flaws (Sofia Coppola's casting, for instance.) Therefore, a minor disappointment, but still a great documentary in its own right.
As you would expect from two of the greatest films ever made (the third film only has an alternate opening on the disc), the cut scenes are of an extraordinarily high standard (and were indeed revived for various TV edits of the first 2 films); highlights include some great scenes with Sonny realising the burden of becoming a Don, some fine scenes with the young Vito Corleone taking revenge on his parents' murderers, and even some extra scenes of Brando powerfully mumbling. Sensibly, they are presented in chronological order, so it's possible to watch this abbreviated version of the saga develop from the early 1900s to 1979.
There is a lot of material here, which, if edited together intelligently, might have produced another full-length documentary. The highlights include a section on Coppola's notebooks, in which he discusses his adaptation of the screenplay from the novel; the 'locations of the Godfather' with the production designer, which is a brief but interesting look at how 1970s New York was aged between 30 and 60 years; the music of the Godfather, including short sections on Coppola working with his father Carmine and Nino Rota; and other short segments, including an original making-of featurette for the first film, an interview with the cinematographer, interviews with Mario Puzo and Coppola on the story and even some storyboard galleries. Although mostly technical in nature, all of this stuff is genuinely fascinating; my own favourite bit was Coppola discussing the (surprisingly noticeable) influence of Hitchcock on the films, including the original's famous restaurant assassination.
There is a lot of 'standard' stuff on the disc, with the trailers, cast and crew bios, photo galleries etc; however, most items have a nice twist to them. Therefore, the cast bios can be reached through a 'family tree', which explores the characters' relationships with one another, which is a useful tool for remembering precisely who was brother to who. The photo gallery is captioned, in a useful touch, explaining who all the various camera-wielding men are, and which film they are making. My own personal favourite piece in this section was the Academy Awards piece, where Coppola, in a succession of hideous 70s evening wear, is shown winning Oscar after Oscar. There's also a few nice Easter Eggs scattered about the place; two are very easy to find, but the last requires a bit more, shall we say....ingenuity.
A fitting set of supplements complement three excellent films. I have minor reservations about the main documentary, and the over-subjective tone of the supplements generally; however, these are still a highly entertaining way to spend a few hours.