Finally. After years of waiting, movie buffs and collector geeks alike have finally had one of their biggest wishes granted. This past week, after years of waiting, Paramount Home Video released the entire Godfather saga in a special edition, five-disc DVD set.One of the most celebrated movie series in history, Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather movies have established a firm place in the mythos of the modern world, creating a plethora of imitators, and setting a benchmark for crime drama that most would say has yet to be lived up to, although Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas comes close. The films also truly launched the careers of many of their stars, most notably Al Pacino.
Although many people know the famous lines, and remember the famous scenes, most still only think of the Godfather series as three movies about the mafia, no different from any others, just more hyped. What these people forget, however, is the incredible human drama present in every frame of the Godfather, with themes ranging from simple family disagreements, to full-out brotherly betrayal. More than anything, these films are family dramas, simply using the crime motif as window-dressing, to make it more exciting.
These films follow the cycle of power in the Corleone crime family, starting with Marlon Brando at the head, and moving on to Pacino’s Michael Corleone following the death of Brando’s Don Vito in the first film. Transference of power is not easy though, as only through betrayal and the resultant death of his brother Sonny (James Caan) does power fall to Michael, an originally unwilling recipient.
But sitting here reciting the plots of all three movies is not what this review is for, as that would ruin the fun. These films need to be seen to be fully appreciated, and even though sitting through the more than eight hours of their running length may seem like a daunting task, rest assured you will be rewarded in the end. And yes, even the third installment is well worth your time, no matter what you may have heard. No, it does not live up to the first two, but what movie could? Godfather III has gotten an unfair reputation as the ruining element in the Godfather series. Yes, there is a weak performance by Coppola’s daughter Sofia as Al Pacino’s daughter Mary, but it’s nothing the performances of Pacino, Diane Keaton in her third appearance as Michael’s wife, and Andy Garcia as Michael’s loose-cannon nephew, can’t compensate for. Yes, the plot does drag at times, but the movie is still necessary in the series, and with a slightly liberal use of the fast-forward button, is just as powerful as the first two. It provides a compelling conclusion to the story of Michael Corleone, as it shows that despite his attempts to escape a life of crime and become a truly legitimate businessman, he can’t escape his destiny (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”).
Presented in glorious DVD format, this five-disc set is what collectors have been waiting years for. Director Francis Ford Coppola provides in-depth commentary for the entirety of all three films, and the fifth disc is composed entirely of fascinating supplementary features, such as an all-new 73 minute documentary, as well as deleted scenes from all three films, the original 1971 featurette about the film, Coppola’s notebook, and an interactive Corleone family tree and Godfather timeline. The films have also been digitally remastered, a term bandied about frequently, but all it really means is that the movies look even better than they would as a normal DVD, which is already pretty damn good.
Fans of the films who are interested in upgrading their collection should get the special edition DVD, which runs upwards of $90, but even if you don’t run out and buy this set instantly, do rent all three Godfather movies, set aside an evening or weekend afternoon, and watch this masterful trilogy from beginning to end. And that is an offer you can’t refuse.