I know what you are thinking, this is a cigar website why the hell are they reviewing a movie? In order to answer that question allow me to fill you in on some backstory. My name is Barry Stein. I am one of the co-hosts for the popular podcast, The Cigar Authority. In the 47 years since this movie was released when I was 2 years old I have never seen the movie. The reaction you just had is why I kept this going for so long. On a recent episode where we discussed some of our favorite movies, it was shared that Mr. Jonathan hasn’t seen it either and not wanting to be in the same category as him I broke down and requested the movie for Christmas.
We touched on my opinion during the show this past weekend and host of the show David Garofalo suggested a full in-depth review.
Movie Review: The Godfather
Movie Release Date: March 24, 1972
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 9, 2017
Run Time: 177 minutes
The DVD: The Blu-Ray comes in a standard clamshell case with Marlon Brando on the front in black & white. In terms of releases, this bare bones release features your basic subtitles and dubbed languages, but it lacks anything like a director’s cut or commentary. There are many versions of the Blu-Ray available and I plan to buy the Coppoloa Restoration Box Set of all three movies which has deleted scenes, the making of, documentaries, and so much more in the 4 disc set. It’s something all fans of the movie should have, and I now consider myself one of them.
The Movie: The Godfather is considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time ranking 2nd on the IMDB top 100 right behind The Shawshank Redemption. The movie is based on a book by Mario Puzo that saw the rights purchased by Paramount pictures for $80,000. It took a while for the movie to get off the ground as the first few director’s offered the movie, turned it down prior to Francis Ford Coppola accepting the challenge. However, the studio and Coppola butted heads over who would play the roles of Don Vito Corleone and Michael before coming to an agreement on Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
Prior to the movie shooting, the Italian-American Civil Rights League wanted all uses of the words “mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” to be removed from the script, in addition to feeling that the film emphasized stereotypes about Italian-Americans. The league also requested that all the money earned from the premiere be donated to the league’s fund to build a new hospital. While the word mafia was only used twice in the book and Cosa Nostra was never mentioned the words were removed from the screenplay. In the end, the movie donated money from the premiere to the Boys Club of New York.
The controversy continued once the movie was released, however this time it came from animal rights activists who were upset about the scene involving a severed horse’s head. The iconic scene used a real horses head obtained from a dog food company who was going to kill the horse regardless according to the director, but the scene which showed how violent Corleone could be, was met with an uproar.
The movie begins in 1945 with Don Vito Coreleone hosting his daughters wedding. The long drawn out scene gives the beginning of The Godfather the feel of a home movie, but it gives an important look into the family and it helps set the tone for the three hours ahead. For me I had a hard time getting past the dated feel which prevented me from settling into the movie on the first viewing. However, this is the look Coppola wanted as he instructed Cinematographer Gordon Willis to not utilize any modern filming devices, helicopters or zoom lenses. Coppola and Willis chose to use “tableau format” utilizing low light levels and shadows to showcase certain elements. He also underexposed the film to create a yellow tone for scenes like the wedding and Sicily to give the film a softer more romantic feel. The two contrasting styles worked magically once realized as the movie began.
The result was the highest grossing movie in 1972 earning $81.5 million dollars in it’s initial release which would equate to $489.5 million today.
Final Thoughts: One of the greatest mob movies ever made, The Godfather set the bar for the Gangster genre. It is the movie that all mob movies will forever be compared to. For my first viewing I was a bit disappointed by the dated feel, however once we take into consideration what the director and cinematographer were trying to create the movie needs to be viewed differently. I gave the movie a second viewing and subtle differences in filming based on the scene, created an added depth to the movie and it helped showcase the subject matter. Is it my favorite gangster movie? No, for me that still belongs to Goodfellas as it has a more familiar feel to me growing up in Brooklyn while The Godfather is a close second.