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The Godfather (1972)


I remember the first time I viewed The Godfather. It was 25 years to the day after its initial theatre release, and it was being re-realased, as many films were at the time, for their anniversary. So, trotting to the Mercer Mall General Cinemas on Route one (I literally trotted, I was without car and always looking over my shoulder for fear of getting run over by one of those infamous New Jersey drivers (of which I am a member)), I bought my ticket and proceeded to get the seat, front and center, as normal, in one of the smaller screens in the theatre. As I recall, the last movie I had watched in there was Night Falls on Manhattan with Richard Dreyfuss, Ian Holm, and Andy Garcia. I had seen the famous first moments before, knew the parodies of it back and front, but had never seen the film itself.

In Italian: Molto bene.

The Godfather, as described perfectly in You’ve Got Mail, is a man’s ‘I Ching.’ It is the source of all knowledge. As a guy once told me as I was renting The Rocky Horror Picture Show, ‘You’re not a man until you see this movie.’

One of the jewels in the crown of the 70s cinema (as some describe it, the Golden Decade), The Godfather tells the story of the Corleone family. Itialian immigrants, caring people, and mafioso. From the first frame in which you see Marlon Brando’s face lit from in front and above like a dark angel to the last frame of the last film in which Al Pacino’s wineglass falls out of his hand as he slumps, the family gone and destroyed, The Godfather is the holy trinity of mob films. Every film after it has its influences in it, and, much like some people look towards the Star Wars trilogy for an answer to every question, many people do so for The Godfather.

As scary as it is intelligent, as funny as it is touching, The Godfather is a prime example of the way cinema should be: excellent telling of complete stories. It is the film to top all films, one of the finest motion pictures not only of our time but of any time. As trite as all of these labels may sound, they are true. The Godfather has already stood the test of a quarter century, which equates to a quarter of the history of film. It will stand the test of time as time continues to plod on. As long as they teach cinema, they will teach The Godfather.

And it’s been a long, long time, but The Godfather is finally out on DVD. Or DVDs, I should say — this boxed set of the entire series comprises five discs. By my calculation, if you add up the movies, their commentary tracks, and the bonus materials, you’re looking at a solid 24 hours of Godfather. Amazingly, almost all of that 24 hours is pretty good stuff. Copolla’s commentaries on his three films are the highlights, but aficionados will dig the copious documentary features and about an hour’s worth of deleted scenes (arranged chronologically). Admittedly, these aren’t the best clips (those can be found in the movie…), but they put a lot of scenes in context and add even more depth to the richness of the trilogy.

In 2008 a new version of the trilogy has become available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, remastered and restored by Coppola and including all the extras from the 2001 DVD edition plus a number of new featurettes about the making of the film, red carpet premieres and short films about the classic.

Continued in The Godfather Part II.