Review by Michael Jacobson

Box Set ****

The Godfather was both a cinematic landmark and a cultural phenomenon.  As a film series, it built upon age old movie gangster traditions and spun them into new, dynamic, and dramatic directions.  It brought us face to face with a family who lived, loved, fought, and carried on a criminal organization together.  As an audience, we had never gotten so close to such larger than life figures, nor seen them so much for what they really were behind the muscling and posturing.  We couldn't help but like what we saw in spite of ourselves, and when it came time to continue the story of the Corleones, we were always ready for the next chapter.

It introduced a whole new lexicon into our vocabulary, chiefly owing to Marlon Brando's legendary performance (an inimitable one, to be sure, but it hasn't stopped multitudes of would-be godfathers from trying).  It did not celebrate the Mafia, or even try to sympathize with it.   Author Mario Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola saw their characters as family first.  What they did for a living was strangely secondary, although it was always ready to intrude with a dramatic twist that altered the course of both the story and its characters. 

An offer you can't refuse...

Now, these beloved movies have finally made their way to DVD courtesy of Paramount.  The Godfather DVD Collection is an impressive box set, as generously created as any of the Don's magnanimous deals.  With all three movies included on four discs, plus an extra one just for features, it's definitely one movie fans will cherish.

I decided to review all three films separately, with their own individual comments on video and audio quality, but chose to discuss the features en toto here.  To see a specific movie review, click on the link below, otherwise, continue down to read about the extras included with this box set:

The Godfather

The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part III

Features ****

The most prized of all the included extras for me are the Francis Ford Coppola commentary tracks...what movie lover wouldn't want to hear this legendary director to discuss three of his most prolific films in depth?  He doesn't disappoint, with a straightforward narrative style that's filled with details on both technical and philosophical levels, as well as peppered with good stories along the way.  You'll hear, for example, about some of what made the first film a difficult experience for him.  Later, he'll tell about how he was finally convinced to return for the second part, despite major initial reluctance.  Film students and casual observers alike are liable to learn plenty from what Coppola has to say.

The remaining features are all on the fifth disc, starting with extensive behind-the-scenes extras, including a look inside the Godfather family, pieces on location, the music, Coppola and Puzo on screenwriting, Gordon Willis on cinematography (short but great), a production featurette from 1971, plus a look at storyboards from the first two films and Coppola's own notebook.

The additional scenes are extensive and well indexed...34 in all, broken down by time periods in the family chronology.  For added insight, a timeline is included as well, so viewers can track the history of the Corleone family in American with just a few clicks.  Some of the extra scenes were part of The Godfather Epic, which presented the first two films in chronological order with some bonus footage.  Others are merely deleted or altered scenes.

There is an interactive family tree that allows you to follow the Corleone genealogy, and keep track of your favorite characters,  There are also some photo galleries, talent files, trailers for all three films (none of them particularly good, actually), and a section on "Acclaim and Response"...you get to see footage of some of the movie's Oscar night triumphs, as well as listings of all awards and nominations, and Coppola's own special introduction for the first ever airing of The Godfather on network television in 1974.


The Godfather DVD Collection is everything movie fans could want and more...three indelible films with beautiful new anamorphic transfers and 5.1 mixes, with commentaries by Francis Ford Coppola and an entire disc containing arguably the year's most complete, extensive and valuable extras package.  It is indeed, by any definition, an offer you can't refuse.

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