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Paramount Studios presents
The Godfather DVD Collection: Bonus Materials (2001)

"It's the continuing saga of this Corleone family, of this... march through life... that Francis is investigating."
- Eli Wallach (Interviewee)

Review By: Jesse Shanks  
Published: October 16, 2001

Stars: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, Talia Shire, Carmine Coppola, Al Pacino, James Caan, Gordon Willis, Nino Rota, Dean Tavoularis
Other Stars: Robert Duvall, Walter Murch, Joe Montegna, Andy Garcia, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Eli Wallach
Director: various

Manufacturer: american zoetrope
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some strong language)
Run Time: 03h:28m:00s
Release Date: October 09, 2001
UPC: 097361564746
Genre: documentary

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DVD Review

In several places among the various Bonus Materials, two particular themes emerge in Francis Ford Coppola's remarks when describing the creation of The Godfather films. One is the importance of family, both for the Coppolas and the Corleones. Members of the Coppola clan are interwoven within these films: appearances by the director's children; the music of his father, Carmine Coppola; the fact that the realization of Kay's character is based, in part, on his wife Eleanor; his sister portrays the young Corleone sister and more. This also encompasses the larger family that represents the people who worked on The Godfather, then came back for the sequel and again 16 years later, to re-unite for the third film.

The second theme is the importance of the original source material employed for in series. Coppola states flatly, if somewhat modestly, that "what is good about the films came from Mario Puzo's book." This is where my own membership, at a great distance, in the Godfather Family was born. The Godfather novel was an incredibly popular book in the late 1960s, a time that was desperate for compelling, escapist fare. Roman á clef novels had reached a new level of popularity in America and The Godfather was the perfect blend of thinly described, true-to-life characters, actual crime history, sensational subject matter and absorbing, page-turning pulp fiction. One of the most popular parlor games in America, once the movie rights were sold, was trying to determine who was going to play whom in the film.

It was a different era then for movies in this country, with ticket prices so cheap, censorship so strict and entertainment alternatives so much more limited. It is difficult to comprehend, looking back from this current era of super-hype, what an absolute sensation the release of The Godfather film was. Articles reported that the filmmakers had deals with real-life Mafia figures so that no trouble would occur during production—so long as the word "Mafia" was not used in the original film. Tabloids reported confrontations between Frank Sinatra and Mario Puzo over the character of Johnny Fontane being based on the singer's life, including rumored connections with gangland figures. How can the youthful film fan of today really understand the feeling of sitting in the theater and hearing Marlon Brando, as Don Corleone, intone those classic lines from the novel: "Bonasera, Bonasera... what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?"

Brando's performance, even 30 years later, still ranks as one of the single greatest acting performances in film history. One of the pleasures of the DVD is the chance look carefully at each of his scenes and watch Brando act at such a high level. Watch him in the opening sequences handle an unruly cat on his lap as he listens to the lament of the undertaker. What other actor could possibly or would even dare to play his most important, establishing scene with a cat? Coppola tells the story in the Inside Look documentary on this disc that the use of the cat was a last second decision and the feline was literally a stray that was wandering around the set! In the featurette, Francis Coppola's Notebooks, the director notes that the Don is the most important character in the movie, yet he is almost killed early in the film and ultimately takes only a portion of the total screen time. Brando simply makes the most of his scenes and ultimately won the Academy Award® for Best Actor. Look carefully at the scenes where Don Corleone interacts with other characters and watch how Brando is like an elastic chameleon of expression and gesture among stone statues in a garden. The scene in which he is informed of his son's death and the following scene where he delivers the body to the undertaker are both among the most immortal moments in film. In the documentary, Coppola again tells the legendary story of a casting meeting with Paramount executives in which one says, "As president of Paramount Pictures, Marlon Brando will never appear in this picture!"

There are a few anecdotes about Brando in the bonus materials, but he never appears in any interview format. Still, the tale emerges of an actor who had been a screen legend for two decades, working with a young director and young actors, who were not yet the household names we know today. James Caan won the coveted role of Sonny Corleone and we find out from the Additional Scenes that some of his best work was left on the cutting room floor. Al Pacino, who plays the youngest son, Michael (over constant objections from the executives), tells us in the documentary how he knew little about making movies and was constantly worried about being fired and therefore would not laugh at the practical jokes of his more experienced co-stars. Robert Duvall played the crucial role of the adopted son, Tom Hagen, the fascinating lawyer who, although an office of the court, has no qualms whatsoever discussing the establishment of criminal enterprises and the use of—as it is called in the third film—"Reason... back by murder."

Other fine actors "made their bones" in the Godfather films. Diane Keaton, later of Annie Hall fame, unfortunately has not received the recognition she deserves for the potency of her performance in all three films. John Cazale created the unforgettable character of the weak middle brother Fredo and went on to appear in such outstanding films as The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon and The Conversation before dying tragically of cancer in 1978. Robert DeNiro startled the naysayers by stepping into the role of Vito Corleone as a young man in The Godfather Part II, evoking the power of Brando's performance, yet making the role his own. Andy Garcia portrayed the illegitimate child of Sonny Corleone in The Godfather Part III and continued the tradition of young actors rising to the occasion in the series.

The reminiscences of these actors, the writers, crew members, and, of course, Coppola, are priceless material for any fan of The Godfather films specifically and filmmaking in general. There are special materials that go a long way toward placing the film within its time, as well as demonstrating its timelessness. This disc is neck-and-neck with any DVD ever released for the most interesting and compelling set of extras ever created. Ultimately, with the quality and importance of the films and the in-depth nature of the material added to the release, this might simply rank as the best DVD collection yet. The extras included on this disc focus most closely on the first film, but there are also fascinating tidbits about the latter two.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


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Aspect Ratiovariable - Full Framevariable - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: We have a wide variety of source material gathered here and the producers of the disc have done a remarkable job in making sure that all the clips are imminently watchable. Mostly full frame, except the trailers (which are in widescreen), I have very little to complain about, even though some of the material is pretty rough, especially the 1971 Behind the Scenes featurette and the deleted scene from The Godfather Part III.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Similar to the image transfer, there is an astonishing range of audio source and quite a good job was done in raising the quality of the sound. Fortunately, almost all the material is subtitled in English and French and this can be a great help in those times when the spoken words are less than clear. Nice job!

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English, French
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Original Trailer(s)
34 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
12 Featurette(s)
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Godfather Chronology
  2. Family Tree
  3. Picture Gallery
  4. Rogues Gallery
  5. Awards and Nominations
Extras Review: The interactive menus on the Bonus Materials are superior to the menus on the film discs, with a more attractive look. Included in the menus are audio clips that seem to be outtakes from the films' audio tracks. I have to admit, I did not listen too closely, in order to savor at a later time.

An Inside Look: The Godfather Family(73m:24s) This documentary will be familiar to most hardcore fans, having been on laserdisc and released to movie channels like American Movie Classics. Still, it is an enjoyable mélange of anecdotes, trivia, screen tests and interviews.

On Location (6m:55s) - Production designer Dean Tavoularis narrates a short but interesting glimpse into the work that went into creating the tremendous period detail for the first two films. There is just no underestimating the impact of the locations of the Lower East Side of New York on the visual quality.

Francis Coppola's Notebook (10m:12s) The director describes his techniques in adapting The Godfather novel for the screen. The DVD gives us a great opportunity to freeze the frames of the notebook and see things not pointed out in his narration. (Hey guys, you know that you could have scanned this and put it on the disc in DVD-ROM material?) There are close analyses and comparisons of the Sollozzo murder scene and the shooting of Don Corleone outside his office. This is an invaluable bit of insight into the working methods of this award-winning screenwriter.

The Music of the Godfather - This section is broken into two separate featurettes. The first (5m:29s) presents a cassette recording of Coppola working with Nino Rota on the themes of the first film and is fascinating. The visual accompaniment is very well conceived, a winner for uniqueness and interest. The director's father, Carmine Coppola (3m:16s), played an important role in the music of all three Godfather films and this second short clip is a nice tribute. There is also a touching description of the additional scene involving a young Carmine fictionally playing his flute for young Vito and Clemenza in his father's machine shop.

Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting (8m:06s) This puts The Godfather author Mario Puzo up front and details the working relationship he and the director enjoyed during the creation of the films. Puzo discusses his desire for the power to get The Godfather Part IV made....

Gordon Willis on Cinematography (3m:45s) Gordy, the Prince of Darkness, narrates interesting facts about how the visual look of the films was conceived, often through necessity. For example, the lighting that was necessary to deal with the Brando's makeup influenced the lighting of the entire film.

The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971 (8m:56s) This is a perfect souvenir of Hollywood arcania that hypes the upcoming release of the original film. Interesting to see the actors talking about their performances at that time, especially knowing the stories of the troubled nature of production. This is one of the features on this disc that helps place the first two films in their times. Intriguingly, if you look closely, you will see several scenes that did not ultimately appear in the finished film and several casual clips that were shot during the production. This is my favorite extra on the disc.

Acclaim and Response - Although, we do not get Brando's representative refusing his Best Actor Oscar®, we do get four other charming acceptance speeches that also contribute to the historical context for the films. Note that in the Best Director category of 1974, Coppola was competing against his own work on The Conversation. And check out Francis' green tuxedo from the 1972 awards!

The Godfather, Best Screenplay 1972 (2m:24s)
The Godfather, Best Picture 1972 (1m:47s)
The Godfather Part II, Best Director 1974 (1m:50s)
The Godfather Part II, Best Picture 1974 (1m:02s)

Storyboards: The Godfather Part II 24 individual storyboards from the second film.

Storyboards: The Godfather Part III (4m:23s) Here the storyboards are combined with a narration and actors actually reading lines that detail the scene in the third film where Vincent Mancini is assaulted by two thugs while he is entertaining Grace Hamilton in his apartment. Nicely done!

Additional Scenes (1901 1979) Here is the meat of the Bonus Materials disc, with 34 deleted scenes that total over 56 minutes. I have seen The Godfather series in so many incarnations, the films are so lengthy and some of the deleted scenes are so short that I sometimes get confused as to what is actually in the each movie and what is not. This clarifies it somewhat and the scenes are presented with some nice title cards that detail their origins, placement and context. I don't want to spoil anyone's enjoyment of what surprises might be contained here. It will suffice to say that the scenes range from trivial to riveting. It is definite that James Caan and Robert deNiro both suffered from the time constraints that caused some of their scenes to be cut. There are two scenes featuring Michael that I just can't understand how they could have been left out.

Godfather Chronology (1892 1997) This series of screens details the notable events in the history of the Corleone family in the context of actual historic events. This is a wonderful piece for those who know little about this area of our country's history and want to understand how the fictional story relates very realistically with the history of organized crime in America. This is a tribute to the writing of Puzo and Coppola.

Family Tree A very nice representation of the fictional Corleone's genealogy that provides biographies of both the characters and the actors. In an interesting parallel, the biographies of the actors, in most case, end with the deaths of their characters (Tom Hagen sometime in the seventies).

Photo Gallery One hundred and seven stills that range from portraits to behind-the-scenes shots. There is some great stuff here for fans of the films.

Rogues Gallery An odd addition here, featuring 10 portraits of the "villains among villains" found in the series. I am not certain why this is separate from the other Photo Gallery, but I have scanned it fruitlessly for Easter eggs.

Trailers While most of the supplements on the Bonus Materials disc are full frame, all the trailers are presented in widescreen. It is interesting to note that in each, the title of the film does not include "Mario Puzo's..." as had been Coppola insistence, to emphasize the importance of the writing.

The Godfather trailer (3m:40s) is an excellently conceived trailer that uses stills from the film in a montage over an extended version of the theme, which is almost a suite.

The Godfather Part II trailer (4:14) puts the Oscar nominations received by the two films up front and the lush visuals in the film.

The Godfather Part III trailer (4m:24s) emphasizes how the third film follows on the other two and the mysterious Vatican plotline.

Awards and Nominations lists all the Academy Award® recognition the films have received. It is easy to forget, with all the negative press for the third film, that it did receive seven Oscar® nominations, including Garcia as Best Supporting Actor and the customary Best Picture and Best Director nods.

1974 Network TV Intro (1m:34s) is an interesting bit of trivia. In an introduction recorded for the network premiere of the first film, we see Coppola at his editing station working on the second film. He details his efforts to personally supervise the editing of The Godfather for content and standards, points out that each family must make its own decision as to the appropriateness of the material, emphasizing that the audience should not judge an entire group by the fictional activities of a few.

Filmmakers shows fairly detailed biographical information about the technical members of the Godfather family, including Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, Gordon Willis, Dean Tavoularis, Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola.

Don't forget to forage around in the DVD Credits section to find a very humorous (hidden) bit from the cast of The Sopranos.

Extras Grade: A+


Final Comments

Anticipation of this release has been high ever since Paramount reported that The Godfather Collection was coming to DVD. It is safe (if somewhat unoriginal) to say that this is one offer you can't refuse. The heralded Bonus Materials disc delivers with an extensive collection of fascinating features that add texture to, increase our understanding and enhance our enjoyment of this classic movie trilogy.


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