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4K Ultra HD Review: The Godfather Trilogy: 50th Anniversary

March 22, 2022

By John Corrado

Released in theatres on March 24th, 1972, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is one of the most acclaimed American movies ever made. The film is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and Paramount is honouring this milestone by releasing The Godfather Trilogy in 4K Ultra HD for the first time ever.

The box set bundles together new 4K remasters of the 1972 film, along with Coppola’s equally acclaimed 1974 sequel The Godfather Part II and The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, Coppola’s very good 2020 re-edit of 1990’s The Godfather Part III.

The original theatrical cut of Part III and Coppola’s 1991 “Final Director’s Cut” are also included in 4K, but the fact that they are in the bonus features package makes it pretty clear that Coda is now intended to be the definitive cut.

The press release for the set notes that:

• Over 300 cartons of film were scrutinized to find the best possible resolution for every frame of all three films.

• Over 4,000 hours were spent repairing film stains, tears, and other anomalies in the negatives.

• Over 1,000 hours were spent on rigorous colour correction to ensure the high dynamic range tools were respectful of the original vision of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis.

• In addition to the 5.1 audio approved by Walter Murch in 2007, the original mono tracks on The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II have been restored.

• All work was overseen by Coppola.

And this is quite the restoration, providing an upgrade even over the previously definitive 2007 Blu-ray remasters. The movies have a beautiful, filmic look to them (the opening flashbacks of Part II in Sicily and on Ellis Island are quite visually pleasing), and the depth and clarity of 4K nicely compliments the shadows of Gordon Willis’ rich cinematography (especially around Marlon Brando’s face in the classic opening scenes of The Godfather). It’s not really an exaggeration to say that this is maybe the closest the films have looked to how they were first presented theatrically.

The three individual films are held in their own slim cardboard cases with plastic trays, which have some nice artwork on the front and inside, as well as a quote from each of the films on the back. We also get a thicker case that holds both the 4K disc with the two earlier cuts of Part III, as well as a regular Blu-ray containing a number of new bonus features and legacy content (detailed below). The outer cardboard case holding them is a bit flimsy (as was the case with other recent Paramount 4K box sets for Indiana Jones and Star Trek), but it features an embossed logo over a deep red rose design.

The opening line of The Godfather is “I believe in America,” and the film remains one of the great American pictures, an epic saga of fathers and sons, familial loyalty, organized crime and mob violence carried out to entrench and gain power. Brando’s riveting performance as the titular Vito Corleone is an example of screen acting at its finest, and Al Pacino’s transformation as Michael Corleone from wayward son to taking his father’s place at the head of the family business remains compelling to watch.

Serving as both sequel and prequel, Part II beautifully compliments the first film in every way, drawing parallels between Michael’s story and the rise of a young Vito (Robert De Niro), with powerful themes of betrayal between family and ruthless backstabbing (John Cazale’s tragic, sympathetic portrayal of Fredo remains one of the most underrated aspects of the two films). Along with the retooled cut of the third one, this set offers a worthy upgrade of this timeless trilogy.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

As mentioned earlier, the majority of the bonus content is housed on a Blu-ray disc. Commentary tracks are also included for the first two films, and Coppola’s short introduction to The Godfather, Coda (the sole bonus feature from the Blu-ray release) is also ported over. Digital copy codes for The Godfather, Part II and Coda are also included in the package.

A limited “Collector’s Edition” is also available including art prints and a hardcover photo book.

New Bonus Content:

Introduction from Francis Ford Coppola (2 minutes, 54 seconds): Coppola reflects on it being fifty years since he made the film, and how it coincided with the birth of his daughter Sofia. Included on the disc with The Godfather.

Full Circle: Preserving The Godfather (16 minutes, 21 seconds): An in-depth look at the restoration process with the Paramount Pictures archivists who worked on cleaning up the prints and remastering the films. It’s quite interesting, with a lot of technical details.

Capturing the Corleones: Through the Lens of Photographer Steve Schapiro (13 minutes, 21 seconds): Steve Schapiro reflects on being the on-set photographer for the film, and capturing some iconic images of the actors.

The Godfather: Home Movies (9 minutes, 4 seconds): Exclusive 8mm home video footage that was shot on the set of the first film in 1971 at the Norton Family Estate on Staten Island’s Emerson Hill.

Restoration Comparisons: A pair of highlight reels of scenes from the first two films, showing the surprisingly noticeable upgrade in quality between the 2007 restorations and the new 4K remasters.

The Godfather: Scan Element Comparisons (5 minutes, 19 seconds):

The Godfather Part II: Scan Element Comparisons (5 minutes, 24 seconds):

Legacy Bonus Content:

The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t

Godfather World

Emulsional Rescue – Revealing The Godfather

…When the Shooting Stopped

The Godfather on the Red Carpet

Four Short Films on The Godfather

The Godfather vs. The Godfather: Part II

Cannoli

Riffing on the Riffing

Clemenza

The Family Tree

Crime Organization Chart

Connie and Carlo’s Wedding Album

2008 Credits

Behind the Scenes

A Look Inside

On Location

Francis Ford Coppola’s Notebook

Music of The Godfather

Nino Rota

Carmine Coppola

Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting

Gordon Willis on Cinematography

Storyboards – The Godfather: Part II

Storyboards – The Godfather: Part III

The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971

Additional Scenes 

Galleries

Trailers

Acclaim & Response

Additional Material 

The Filmmakers

The Godfather Trilogy: 50th Anniversary is a Paramount Home Entertainment release.

Street Date: March 22nd, 2022

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