The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration

Started by MacGuffin, July 14, 2008, 01:09:17 AM

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'The Godfather': A restoration offer they couldn't refuse
The trilogy's face-lift took a team of experts, several hundred thousand dollars and two years. Expect more color and clarity, especially in key scenes.
By Bill Desowitz, Los Angeles Times

Fans who pick up the recently announced "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration," due out from Paramount Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 23, are likely to see things in the 1972 Mafia saga and its two sequels they've never noticed before. The differences could be subtle to the casual observer, but the improved color and clarity give new visual punch to some of the most cherished sequences in recent cinema history.

"We wanted the blacks to be truly black, and the first image of Bonasera [Salvatore Corsitto] was to appear out of that," said Francis Ford Coppola, speaking via e-mail about the opening scene of his landmark drama.

The restoration was a sizable undertaking that required a team of technicians, several hundred thousand dollars and two years of effort, largely because the negative for "The Godfather" had been nearly destroyed by overprinting and mishandling.

"I believe that there were only five or six shots in the first 20 minutes that were still original," said restoration supervisor Robert Harris, who previously had worked to restore films including "Vertigo" and "Lawrence of Arabia." "Virtually every splice was held together with Mylar tape. Tears went into image in hundreds of frames. Sections were totally without perforations."

The restoration might never have happened, though, without the intervention of Coppola's old friend Steven Spielberg. He persuaded Paramount Chairman Brad Grey to greenlight the undertaking, which included full-digital restorations of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather: Part II" and the remastering of "The Godfather: Part III."

"The restoration took so long because the former Paramount policy was not to spend money," Coppola said. "I called [Spielberg], knowing how much he believes in restoration and how much he had expressed to me that he loved this film."

Although Coppola was not directly involved in the restoration effort, he offered Harris several directives in "bringing the [first two] films back to what they were in 1972 and '74." Harris, in turn, relied on Gordon Willis, the trilogy's cinematographer.

Known as the "Prince of Darkness," Willis typically underexposed light to heighten the mood of a scene and maintained strict control of how the negative was printed.

" 'The Godfather' [films] were designed to have a kind of classic retrospective look," Willis explained by e-mail from Massachusetts. "The lighting structure came out of a need to present [Marlon] Brando properly as an aging, monolithic don. My choice was to use overhead lighting to enhance Marlon's makeup."

The most dramatic enhancement, however, was to "The Godfather's" pivotal restaurant sequence, in which Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) guns down Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and Capt. McCluskey (Sterling Hayden). Because of a printing error, half of the sequence always looked faded.

"This was one sequence that we held to the very end of the restoration," Harris said, "as we had [inspection technician] Joe Caracappa looking through hundreds of [film] cans from which we could attempt to harvest a better image . . . and the sequence finally looks as it should. You can really see the tension on Michael's face for the first time."
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

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American Cinematographer article on Godfather restoration

Title: The Godfather
Starring: Marlon Brando
Released: 23rd September 2008
SRP: $72.99

Further Details:
Paramount has announced The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Collection which includes fully restored editions of Godfather Part I and II and a newly remastered version of The Godfather Part III. The 5-disc collection will include all of the features of the previously released collection, along with a 5th disc of bonus material. This will include multiple featurettes (Godfather World, The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't, ...when the shooting stopped, Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather, The Godfather on the Red Carpet), and four short films on The Godfather (The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II, Cannoli, Riffing on the Riffing, Clemenza). Retail will be $72.99. Titles will also be available individually for $19.99.

Also available from the 23rd September will be a Blu-ray release of the collection. The 4-disc set will be presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, and English Mono tracks (except The Godfather: Part III). All of the above extra material will be included, with many of the features also being presented in HD. Retail will be $119.99. The Blu-ray discs do not appear to be available seperately.


The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration
1972-1990 (2008) - Paramount
Released on Blu-ray Disc on September 23th, 2008

Film Ratings (I/II/III): A/A+/B-
Video (1-20): 19.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Extras: A+

All right... I'm going to say three things right up front about this title. First, I guarantee that some yahoo with a DVD review website on the Net is going to crack this case open, spin the discs for five minutes each, and then say that the films look like crap and the set sucks. Second, this person will be wrong in the extreme, and will have just revealed themselves as both a non-expert and an idiot.

Third and finally, Paramount's The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration is, in my opinion, the current favorite for best Blu-ray Disc release of 2008... at the very least in terms of classic film presentation and restoration in high-def, if not overall. Yes, it's that good.

Now, we've reviewed these films before here at The Bits, so I'm not going to get into a discussion of the films themselves. Suffice it to say, these are among the most important and influential American films ever made, and if you're any kind of self-respecting film enthusiast, you already know that. What you may not have known, however, was just how badly these films had deteoriated over the years. The original negatives are in disastrous condition, which meant that if a new restoration wasn't done now, the first film (and possibly the second as well) would simply have been lost to us in any kind of quality presentation. Thankfully, a couple years ago, director Francis Ford Coppola contacted Steven Spielberg (then newly partnered with Paramount and Viacom) to see if Spielberg might be able to use his clout to help save the films. This he did, and so a complete physical and digital restoration was eventually done under the supervision of our very own Robert A. Harris and his Film Preserve (with the help of many talented artists - and artists they are, believe me). To make a very long and complex story short, the best photochemical elements from around the world were gathered, allowing the films to be reconstructed literally piece by piece. The footage was then scanned in 4K resolution so that print damage could be repaired digitally and the original color-timing could be recreated precisely. The result is that the films have not only been rebuilt and saved, they've been restored to quality as good or better than the original theatrical presentations - quality consulted upon and approved by both Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis. The bonus of all this effort, is this new Blu-ray Disc release, which captures the films in their most pure and most perfect presentation quality to date (particularly for home viewing), and which accordingly belongs in the collection of EVERY serious film aficionado.

Now... I've seen these films projected theatrically a number of times over the years. But I had NEVER seen them looking as good as they do now. Last year, Adam and I had the good fortune to see the newly-restored Godfather and Godfather, Part II projected in 2K digital at the Ross Theatre on the Warner lot (where much of the restoration work was done by the good folks at MPI). It was a jaw-dropping experience. So I can tell you from firsthand experience that these Blu-rays capture exactly the essence of that experience.

Fans will know that Willis worked very carefully to give these films a particular look. They have a certain grain texture, the color palette is washed with a specific "brassy yellow" patina, the whites are a hair overblown, the blacks are crushed such that there's little detail in them. All of this was by design. Willis wanted the films to have a certain look and feel, reminiscent in many ways of an old photograph. This is exactly what's been captured on Blu-ray - the films just as Willis and Coppola meant for them to look. What this also means, of course, is that these discs don't have "The Look and Sound of Perfect." If you buy these discs expecting quality that's like looking out a window, you're going to be disappointed. You're going to see light grain and lots of it. You're going to see some shots that aren't as sharp as you're used to in films like... say... Wall-E. You're going to see subdued colors and shadows with very little detail (so you MUST watch these discs in a completely darkened room to enjoy the films properly). You're going to hear Dolby TrueHD audio that's largely front-biased, with only light and atmospheric use of the surrounds. But let me tell you, while this might not be PERFECT video and audio on Blu-ray, it damn sure is perfectly RIGHT. The experience of The Godfather on Blu-ray is simply a revelation, and I'll guarantee that the vast majority of you have NEVER see these films at this high level of quality before.

As if the restored, high-definition image quality wasn't enough to justify this set's purchase, Paramount has seen fit to include a great batch of bonus material as well, including EVERY SINGLE EXTRA THAT WAS ON THE PREVIOUS DVD COLLECTION BOX SET. You get all three audio commentaries by Coppola. You get all the deleted scenes. You get all the featurettes, all the storyboards and the filmmaker bios. You get the Family Tree, you get the photo galleries. You even get all four Easter eggs (in roughly the same place they were on the DVD set) AND a new one as well. Plus you get the trailers, now presented in HD. That's just for starters - and keep in mind, all of that material was pretty awesome in its own right.

But there's newly-produced material here too, exclusive to this Blu-ray release, all of it in full HD - something like 2 hours worth of new featurettes in all, including new interviews with Coppola, Willis, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and many other filmmakers, technical people and more. The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't (30 mins) examines the history of the production and how, as you might guess, it almost never came to be. Godfather World (11 mins) features filmmakers, actors and others discussing the impact of the film. When the Shooting Stopped (14 mins) features stories from the editing room and post production by those who were involved. The best of the new material, in my opinion, is Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather (19 mins) in which Harris and others talk about the process and the effort involved in restoring these films. There's a ton of interesting information here on the subject of restoration, all well explained and illustrated. Of less interest is The Godfather on the Red Carpet (4 mins) in which various actors and celebrities comment on the films. And the "four short films" (The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II, Cannoli, Riffing on the Riffing and Clemenza) are basically just short bits of interview footage that didn't really fit anywhere else - interesting stories, anecdotes, etc. (They're not actually self-contained films in their own right, just so you know.) Also newly-included (if unremarkable) are a "wedding album" with about a dozen photos taken on set during Connie and Carlo's wedding from the first film, as well as a Crime Organization Chart that allows you to read the FBI rap sheets on each of the key members of the Corleone crime organization. Finally, you get a liner notes booklet that's stuck to the back of the slipcase with that weird rubbery glue that isn't really glue. Oddly, it's just slightly too big to actually fit INTO the slipcase, but I solved that problem by trimming the top of the booklet just slightly with a pair of scissors. (Once you do that, it tucks into the case just fine.) The bottom line of all this - what you really need to know - is that the old extras were fantastic and they're all here, and most (if not quite all) of the new extras are great too, making what was already a fantastic set just that much better.

People often ask me, "Why Blu-ray?" Well, folks... THIS is why. Sets like The Godfather (and last year's Close Encounters and Blade Runner sets) are EXACTLY why serious film fans should upgrade to Blu-ray. The very best thing about this format, in my opinion, is not its ability to show off the latest eye-candy blockbusters in total perfection. No, the best thing about Blu-ray is its ability to show you films that you've loved, in some cases for your ENTIRE life, in the kind of quality you've NEVER seen them in before. The kind of quality that was only ever available in a handful of the very best theatres when the films were first released. If you love the cinema, Blu-ray releases like this are a revelation, that serve to expand that love and appreciation even more. And isn't that, after all, what home video formats like DVD and Blu-ray are all about? The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration is a jewel, and should be regarded - along with Warner's How the West Was Won on Blu-ray - as a new benchmark for the presentation of classic films in high-definition.
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

Skeleton FilmWorks


The transfers are GORGEOUS! So vibrant and clear, yet keeping the grain that makes it look like a home movie like Coppola wanted. The extras are okay, nothing that outdoes the ones from the 2001 edition. Coppola is here again, Spielberg and Lucas. The process of how the prints were cleaned up, going back to find the best reels possible, is very interesting. The worst DVD extra is Godfather on the Red Carpet. I really don't give a shit what the stars of Cloverfield (a Paramount film, mind you) think about the Godfather.

Also, added a poll to the thread.
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

Skeleton FilmWorks

last days of gerry the elephant

Shit... now I never liked this series at all, but reviews like this make me want to buy the blu-ray set.

And in my defense...


Quote from: omuy on September 26, 2008, 11:19:12 AM
I never liked this series at all
And in my defense...

Defending yourself for not liking two great films by linking to The Family Guy is like saying you don't like the smell of fresh baked cookies while wearing a shit moustache.


i got to give them props for including every extra from the previous box.

that is neglected so much and very frustrating.
I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.

last days of gerry the elephant

Quote from: RegularKarate on September 26, 2008, 01:22:43 PM
Quote from: omuy on September 26, 2008, 11:19:12 AM
I never liked this series at all
And in my defense...

Defending yourself for not liking two great films by linking to The Family Guy is like saying you don't like the smell of fresh baked cookies while wearing a shit moustache.

Correction Karate Kid, three "great" films. I never liked any of them.


I was skeptical as to how much better these would really look but I just popped in #1 last night and it was really remarkable. They managed to keep the grain in tact while really making those browns and blacks come alive.
My assholeness knows no bounds.


I finally have a completely justifiable reason to get a blu ray player.

Now if I could just find some money.
"Sex relieves stress, love causes it."
-Woddy Allen


I haven't had he chance to see all three films restored on blu ray in a decent screen until last week. These are some of my favorite movies, and I've seen them all countless times since I was a teenager. At least once a year all of them for a long time. But fatherhood and too many movies to see actually made me miss a couple of years without seeing them.

The transfer in 1 & 2 is just incredible. One of the most uniquely beautiful films in history. There have been a lot of films that with blu ray, is like seeing them for the first time (taxi driver and lawrence of arabia, for example) and these two are just like that.

With age my favorite of the three has changed several times. Number 3 was my favorite when I was younger because it was much more accessible. Then it was number 1 because it works so well as a classical hollywood movie. But now is definitely number 2.

Godfather 3 has a ridiculous amount of problems. I didn't know until now that Paramount basically forced Coppola to do it under very unfriendly terms. The film feels rushed and characters underdeveloped, particularly Andy GarcĂ­a's Vincent. He goes through a transformation not so different from the one Michael has in the first film, but there things took it's time. Here he goes from dumb tough guy to cold mastermind in what feels like days.

The absence of Tom Hagen is probably the biggest flaw. Something is missing and you can feel it. i read the original storyline had him as an informer for the FBI, which would have been fantastic.

Also, there's something really weird with this version of the 70's, because it totally feels like the late 80's. No one seems to be in the 70's here. There's a hat Sofia Coppola wears that makes her look like she's in a Madonna video.

Now, about Sofia. Well, she's awkward. In another movie, her naturalism may have worked, but here, along a bunch of ACTORS who understand the operatic nature of the material, she feels out of place. However, like a miracle, she and Pacino manage to portray a moving relationship.

Pacino is the one who always gets the more shit from people around this movie. Something strange happened to me on this view. During the first half of the film I just couldn't buy him as Michael anymore. All I saw was the Pacino of the 90's, his screaming voice, making jokes, much more sympathetic than the cold monster at the end of Godfather 2. But once he gets ill, for some reason, it all started to feel ok. I read on imdb some dude saying that for him the performance worked because this is supposed to be Michael mellowed by age and sickness, but also in a kind of comfort zone, about to finally achieve his goal of going "legitimate", which has him relaxed. I buy that. But to me, the real moment when his performance starts making sense is when he confesses to the priest. It's a beautifully staged and acted scene, and one of the highlights of the film and to me, of Pacino's career. I lost my shit during this scene both because of the sadness in the character and the beauty of the filmmaking choices made. Then, at the end when he screams like that, is heart wrenching. And the reason that works is not only because this is a scream that is long in the coming, but because you've been 2 hours and 40 minutes with this new Michael, you've seen him defeated and you know he will never escape his ghosts, yet also you hope he will make it. That long masterful sequence in the opera (which to me turns the film into a great one despite it's flaws) never fails to make me feel gruesome and on the edge of my seat. No matter how many times I see it it never loses it's power, and I always hope that somehow, the Corleones end up safe.

I think Coppola was really ballsy with all three films. they're each very different, and number 3 was a big gamble because it took the character and turned him on his head. That said, Pacino's hair was really terrible. He should have never let that happen.


I heard through an insider at 20th century fox that George Lucas sold his Lucas empire to Disney after Coppola refused him to digitally alter the Godfather trilogy.