The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (4K UHD)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola
Stars: Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone Rizzi), Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini), Eli Wallach (Don Altobello), Joe Mantegna (Joey Zaza), George Hamilton (B.J. Harrison), Bridget Fonda (Grace Hamilton), Sofia Coppola (Mary Corleone), Raf Vallone (Cardinal Lamberto)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1990 / 2020
Country: U.S.
The Godfather 4K UHD
The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corelone

Note: I went back and forth on whether I should watch The Godfather Part III prior to watching Coppola’s re-edited version, which has been retitled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. I had not watched Part III in close to 10 years and have only seen it a handful of times, so I am not deeply familiar with it. However, in the end I decided not to, opting instead to watch Coda and try to evaluate it on its own merits, rather than in comparison to Part III. Afterwards, curiosity got the best of me, and I went back and scanned through and watched large sections of Part III. So, any comparisons I make between the two films was done in this manner.

Eighteen years after the release of The Godfather (1972), Francis Ford Coppola’s career-defining, industry-reinvigorating masterpiece, and 16 years after the release of its sequel The Godfather Part II (1974), Coppola returned on Christmas Day in 1990 with The Godfather Part III, which he again co-wrote with Godfather novelist Mario Puzo. Given the international stature of the first two films (both of which won the Oscar for Best Picture), the lengthy amount of time that had elapsed since Part II, and the fact that the 1980s had been rough on Coppola critically, commercially, and financially, it is the height of understatement to say that much was riding on Part III. And, even though it earned seven Oscar nominations and fared decently at the box office, it has always been viewed as a letdown, an insufficient follow-up to two of the greatest modern American films.

Of course, it is hard to imagine that Part III had any chance of being seen otherwise considering the multiple acts it had to follow. Not only was it the second sequel to one of the New Hollywood’s most canonical films, but the previous sequel had done the unimaginable by arguably besting its predecessor in quality and accolades. How could another sequel possibly match that feat? Complicating things was the status of Coppola’s legacy: having been the former “great white knight who made it,” as his protégé George Lucas called him in describing Coppola’s ability to break into the fabled Hollywood studio system as a young man and bend it to his will, Coppola had struggled throughout the Reagan years. He was hobbled by several financial fiascos, including the disastrous One From the Heart (1982) and The Cotton Club (1984), and his attempts to develop new means of filmmaking such as extensive previsualization and editing on video earned him scorn from multiple quarters. His ambitious dreams of turning his production company, American Zoetrope, into its own studio floundered, and he spent most of the decade producing a slate of films that, while often very good, nevertheless felt beneath the work of the man who, in 1974, won both the Best Picture Oscar for Godfather Part II and the Palm d’Or for The Conversation (which, incidentally, was also nominated for the Best Picture Oscar).

So, when he produced another Godfather film at the end of the decade, it seemed, on its face, something of desperate gambit, a bid to reclaim his former glory by going back to the story and characters that had established him as one of the most important, powerful, and acclaimed figures in international cinema. It did not help matters that Coppola had to acquiesce to the studio’s demands that the film be completed in time for a big Christmas release, which meant rushing virtually every stage of production, from writing the script, to editing and postproduction. He was also unable to cast the film as he wanted, since the studio refused to meet Robert Duvall’s salary demands, meaning that consigliere Tom Haden, a crucial moral balance in the previous two films, had to be written out.

Thus, it should come as little surprise that Coppola has always been unsatisfied with Part III, which is why he went back and reworked it, changing the order of several sequences (including moving to the beginning a sequence that occurs 40 minutes into the film), cutting out about 15 minutes of footage, tweaking the ending, redubbing some dialogue, and giving it a bold, if somewhat unwieldy, new title: The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. Coppola is no stranger to reworking his finished films: there are no less than three different versions of Apocalypse Now (1979), which was also rushed to completion (he infamously declared that he didn’t know if it was finished when it premiered at Cannes), and he changed The Outsiders (1982) and The Cotton Club (1984) by adding multiple scenes that had been cut from the original release. In 1977 he edited footage from the first two Godfather films into a single, chronological television miniseries, and in 1992 he added the footage from Part III, turning it into a nearly 10-hour epic.

The Godfather Part III has always been a substantially different film than its predecessors, as Coppola viewed it less as a third “part” and more as an epilogue to the first two films, hence his use of the word “coda” in the new title. Although there was no direct narrative impetus at the end of Part II to continue the story (in fact, that film’s ending is a near perfect visualization of Michael Corleone’s moral collapse), the depth and potential of the subject matter and the immediacy of the characters in the pop-culture landscape virtually demanded that they be revisited at some point (and there had been many, many failed attempts to make a third film throughout the late 1970s and ’80s). Cynics and naysayers wrote it off as Coppola’s attempt to jump-start his flagging career, and such criticisms unfortunately clouded judgment of the film itself, which, although not in the league with its predecessors, is still an invigorating, deeply felt piece of work.

If mafia don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) had sunk to his lowest levels of humanity by the end of Part II, Coda is about his bid for redemption. Having sold off all his illegal interests and gone completely legitimate, Michael finds himself at a crossroads in life in which his past looms too large and omnipresent to escape—an existential fatalism haunts the film. Pacino is aged with make-up and a spiky gray crew-cut that emphasizes the length of his face and the sunkenness of his cheeks, visually distancing him from the round-faced young war hero in the first film. His powerful performance suggests Michael Corleone near the end of his years, reaching the same place in life that Vito occupied in the first film, thus bringing the links between father and son full circle.

Coppola had had great success in casting the first two Godfather films, bucking the wishes of Paramount executives by hiring Pacino when he was an unknown (the studio wanted Robert Redford) and Marlon Brando when he was considered too difficult to work with and insisting on Robert De Niro in the role of the young Vito in Part II. All of these casting decisions turned out to be astounding successes—the right choice in every sense of the phrase. Thus, it is of deep irony that Part III would be most harshly criticized for a casting choice: Coppola’s decision to fill the critical role of Michael’s late-teenage daughter, Mary, with his own daughter, Sofia Coppola.

He had originally cast Winona Ryder, but she had to bow out after two days due to health problems, which is why he turned to his own daughter, an amateur actor whose lack of experience shows in her performance. Although physically ideal for the role, she simply cannot carry the weight of the character, and the film suffers as a result. Coppola has made a number of slight edits and re-recorded a substantial amount of dialogue in a bid to improve her performance, which yields some benefits, but not enough to entirely disguise her limited range (of course, Sofia Coppola has gone on to become a first-rate director, which is where her true gifts clearly lie). The critical invective hurled at her performance and its perceived drag on the film as a whole was hyperbolic if not downright ugly at times, which is, unfortunately, sometimes par for the course when it comes to critics who have axes to grind.

Yet, her presence is never detrimental to the entire effort, and the tweaks Coppola has made brings into tighter focus the film’s relative strengths and how it has some real moments of incredible and terrible grandeur. A memorable scene in which a ballroom full of aging Mafia dons is decimated by helicopters filled with machine guns is horribly beautiful in the same manner as the infamous slaughter at the end of the first film. Coppola wisely brings the story back to its roots in Sicily, and even when the convoluted narrative regarding corruption in the Vatican becomes too strained to follow, he always keeps us focused on the characters we have grown to know and maybe even admire. Michael Corleone has done many terrible things—even he believes he is beyond forgiveness—but we are always reminded of his basic humanity, which we see with particular clarity in his attempts to reconcile with his embittered ex-wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), who has since remarried and wants to push Michael to allow his son, Anthony, to pursue a career in opera.

The circularity of human violence, which we first saw embodied in the transition of power from Vito to Michael, now finds its voice in Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the illegitimate son of Michael’s eldest brother, Sonny, who was gunned down in the first film. Vincent, now a young man, is looking to find his place in the family. Like his father, he is quick to anger and has little restraint in lashing out at his enemies, which we see most forcefully when Michael encourages him to bury the hatchet with New York boss Joey Zaza (Joe Mantegna) and instead bites off part of his ear. Garcia has a magnetic presence—he is arguably the best thing in the film—and the combination of his quickfire temperament, handsome face, and brutal willingness to do whatever it takes to secure his place makes him both hypnotic and terrifying. He essentially combines the characteristics of all the major Corleone figures: Vito’s charming intelligence and drive, Sonny’s violent temper, and Michael’s focused ruthlessness. Unfortunately, the romantic relationship he develops with Mary never rises to the prominence it has within the narrative because Garcia and Coppola have little on-screen chemistry.

In the end, Coppla’s reworking of Part III into Coda is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. Those who find value in it will still find value, and those who think it fails to live up to Coppola’s best work will likely still hold that opinion. The changes Coppola has made are interesting, and I am glad that he got the chance to make them and bring the film closer to what he and Mario Puzo originally intended, although I am not sure they have a significant effect on the overall experience of the film. It is still a film worth seeing, especially for the way it brings all the final threads together in epilogue-like fashion, which is precisely what Coppola intended.

The Godfather Trilogy 50th Anniversary 4K UHD Box Set

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 (all three films)
Audio
  • The Godfather 4K
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Italian Dolby Digital 5. surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • The Godfather: Part II 4K

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone 4K

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround
  • Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • The Godfather Part III 4K

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround
  • German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Subtitles The Godfather 4K: English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish; The Godfather Part II 4K: English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish; The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone 4K:English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Swedish, Thai; The Godfather Part III 4K: English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
    Supplements
  • Audio commentary on all three films by director Francis Ford Coppola
  • Video introduction by Coppola
  • “Full Circle: Preserving The Godfather
  • “Capturing the Corleones: Through the Lens of Photographer Steve Schapiro” featurette
  • The Godfather: Home Movies” featurette
  • “Restoration Comparisons” featurettes
  • “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” featurette
  • “Godfather World” featurette
  • “Emulsion Rescue: Revealing The Godfather” featurette
  • “...When the Shooting Stopped” featurette
  • The Godfather on the Red Carpet” featurette
  • Four Short Films on The Godfather
  • The Corleone Family Tree
  • Crime Organization Chart
  • Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album
  • The Godfather Family: A Look Inside retrospective documentary
  • The Godfather Behind the Scenes” 1971 featurette
  • Additional scenes
  • Trailers
  • Galleries
  • Godfather Chronology
  • James Caan Screen Test
  • The Sopranos
  • Puzo “For the Money”
  • The Godfather Around the World
  • Cosa Nostra & Coppola
  • The Filmmakers: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, Gordon Willis, Dean Tavoularis, Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateMarch 22, 2022

    COMMENTS
    Having reviewed DVDs, Blu-rays, and now 4K UHDs, I recognize that there are times when I get it wrong. To wit, here is a sentence from my review of the Robert A. Harris-led restoration of The Godfather trilogy that was released on Blu-ray in 2008: “this new digital restoration … seems to have brought the films as close as they will ever come to how they looked theatrically.” Well, I was wrong, and I am happy to say so in light of Paramount’s truly stunning new 4K boxset, which features all-new restorations that benefit not only from the increased resolution and color that 2160p/Dolby Vision offers, but also the discovery in the ensuing years of additional and better film elements for the transfers. As detailed in the supplements, the restoration and archival teams at Paramount and American Zoetrope painstakingly pieced together all of the best known surviving elements to create all-new transfers that noticeable improve upon the previous restoration (which is rightfully commended as the foundation upon which this one could be built). The image boasts demonstrably better detail, which we can see, for example, in Connie’s wedding dress, which used to be mostly blown-out whites, but now has visible lace patterning. The image is still fairly heavy with grain and slightly soft, but the grain is much finer and less noticeable, which also enhances minute details throughout (the general softness is the intended look and any attempt to sharpen it would be disastrous). Colors also get a significant boost, giving the films a more natural palette of strong reds and blues to complement the blacks and earth tones, rather than reds that are a bit orangey and blues that lean toward teal. Thousands of hours were also spent repairing dirt, nicks, tears, and splices, leaving the films all but pristine. Obviously The Godfather, being the oldest of the films and the one whose original 35mm negative took the most abuse, benefits the most from the restoration, but Part II also looks demonstrably better in all those categories, as well. All three films were shot by cinematographer Gordon Willis, which gives them a visual consistency despite spanning 18 years of production. The image on The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corelone is mostly likely just the full 4K presentation of the transfer of the new re-edit that we got on an individual Blu-ray release last year. These are films of dark shadows, heavy contrast, and golden lighting, and the 4K transfers are truly gorgeous, with deep, rich, warm imagery that is alive with grain and texture, making the experience of watching them again feel that much more rewarding. The soundtracks for the films appear to be the same Dolby Digital True HD 5.1 surround remasters we got on the 2008 Blu-ray set. The forlorn horns that greet us at the beginning of each movie have exquisite depth and resonance, as does all of the music. The first two films, both originally recorded in monaural, are necessarily limited to an extent, with most of the soundtrack coming from the center speaker. Gunshots and explosions are given added impact, and directionality and imaging are used sparingly but effectively, with only a few instances sounding forced.

    The supplements are extensive, drawing together almost everything that was included in the original 2001 DVD set and the 2008 Blu-ray set and then adding several new supplements. All of the supplements, with the exception of the audio commentaries, are housed on a separate Blu-ray disc, which is convenient. I should also note that the original theatrical cut of The Godfather Part III is included on a 4K UHD disc in the same case with the supplements disc, which is appropriate since Coppola now views The Godfather Coda as the true third film. However, it is nice for us completists that the original theatrical cut is not only included in the boxset, but has been given first-rate 4K UHD treatment.

    First, the new stuff: We can lead off with the 16-minute featurette “Full Circle: Preserving The Godfather,” which focuses on the new restoration of the film. It includes interviews with numerous archivists and restoration experts and gives us a fascinating glimpse into the work that was done to create this new release. “Capturing the Corleones: Through the Lens of Photographer Steve Schapiro” is a new 13-minute featurette in which set photographer Steve Schapiro reminisces about his time documenting the production. “The Godfather: Home Movies” consists of 9 minutes of silent 8mm footage shot on set during the production of the opening wedding scene. And, finally, there are about 10 minutes of visual comparisons of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II that demonstrate how substantial the difference is between this new restoration and the one from 2007.

    From the 2008 Blu-ray set, we have two featurettes: “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” (29 min.) and “Godfather World” (11 min.), which feature interviews with an impressive list of people who were either involved in making the films or have been somehow affected or influenced by them. The former category includes director Francis Ford Coppola, editor Walter Murch, then-Paramount vice president Peter Bart, and then-senior vice president Robert Evans, and the latter category includes everyone from Coppola friends and fellow New Hollywood luminaries George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and William Friedkin, to directors Kimberly Peirce and Guillermo del Toro, Sopranos creator David Chase, films critics Kenneth Turan and Mick LaSalle, South Park co-creator Trey Parker, and actors Joe Mantegna, Jon Turturro, and Alec Baldwin. “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” explores the film’s conflicted production history and how it came close to never making it into production, while “Godfather World” is an intriguing and often amusing look into the films’ vast cultural impact. It focuses a great deal on how they influenced The Sopranos, but we also get clips of hilarious Godfather parodies from The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, and SCTV (as well as that infamous Audi commercial), plus clips from Seth Isler’s amazing one-man stage-show The Godfadda Workout, in which he recreates much of the film playing all the roles himself. More information about the film’s actual production can be gleaned from “…When the Shooting Stopped,” a 15-minute look at the film’s postproduction with particular emphasis paid to the film’s score.

    Those interested in the films’ difficult 2007 restoration will enjoy “Emulsional Rescue,” an in-depth 19-minute look at how the badly damaged original negatives were scanned at 4K by Motion Picture Imaging and restored. We get some great behind-the-scenes footage of the lab work taking place, as well as interviews with restoration expert Robert A. Harris; cinematographer Gordon Willis, who shot all three films, and Allen Daviau, who served as consulting cinematographer for the restoration; Martin Cohen, executive vice president for postproduction at Paramount who oversaw the restoration; and a host of digital artists who made the work happen.

    After that the supplements start to get a bit thin. “Godfather on the Red Carpet” is simply four minutes of various actors gushing about the film on the red carpet for the premiere of Cloverfield (there was no small amount of Paramount synergy at work here, especially with the presence of so many of the actors from the then-upcoming Star Trek reboot). “Four Short Films About The Godfather,” which run 7 minutes total, feel like outtakes from the longer featurettes that didn’t naturally fit anywhere (these include debates over which is better, The Godfather or The Godfather Part II and Coppola explaining why Clemenza’s death is a bit fuzzy in the second film). The Corleone Family Tree and Crime Organization Chart are pretty cool interactive features that give a fairly ridiculous amount of information about the characters and the actors who played them (if you’ve ever wanted to see Sonny’s rap sheet, this is for you). Finally, there is “Connie & Carlo’s Wedding Album,” which is stills gallery of 25 photos from the opening wedding sequence.

    Also included is the entire archive of supplements from the 2001 DVD box set. First up is director Francis Ford Coppola’s commentary—actually, his commentaries. Coppola fills an entire commentary track for each of the three films, and they are all outstanding. Perhaps it is because Coppola is such an experienced and knowledgeable director; perhaps it is because the films themselves are so deep and rich in meaning and history; or perhaps it is because Coppola had so many years to sit back and reflect on his achievements and failures. Most likely, it is a combination of all three, but whatever the reasons, these commentaries are definitely worth listening to, especially the one for Part III in which Coppola discusses the less-than-enthusiastic response to the film and offers a defense of it.

    The Godfather Family: A Look Inside is a 73-minute retrospective documentary produced by Paramount in 1991 after the completion of Part III. It includes numerous interviews with those involved, including Coppola, novelist/screenwriter Mario Puzo, producer Fred Roos, and actors Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall, among others. Most intriguing, though, is the inclusion of numerous screen tests conducted for the first film, including tests of James Caan and Martin Sheen playing the role of Michael Corleone. The behind-the-scenes supplements include six featurettes. The first, “Francis Ford Coppola’s Notebook,” is a 10-minute interview with Coppola in which he discusses an enormous “prompt book,” which he describes as a “multi-layered roadmap” that he used to plan the film down to the smallest detail. “Music of The Godfather” contains two sections, a five-and-a-half minute recording of a meeting in 1972 between Coppola and composer Nino Rota in which Rota plays for Coppola the famous waltz music for the first time. The second part is a three-minute interview with composer Carmine Coppola (Francis’s father) filmed while Part III was being scored. “On Location” is an interesting bit in which production designer Dean Tavoularis returns to the street on the lower East Side of Manhattan that was literally transformed for Part II. This featurette includes still images from the production as well as an extensive bit of black-and-white footage from a documentary shot during Part II‘s production. “Coppola and Puzo on Screenwriting” consists of eight minutes of interviews with Coppola and the late Mario Puzo on how they collaborated to write the three films. There are a few interesting bits here, including Puzo’s dislike of Coppola’s decision to have Michael order Fredo’s murder at the end of Part II and his desire to make a Part IV that would focus on Sonny during the 1930s. The last featurette, “Gordon Willis on Cinematography,” is actually an excerpt from the excellent documentary Visions of Light, coproduced by the American Film Institute. Also featuring interviews from noted cinematographers Michael Chapman, Conrad Hall, and William A. Fraker, this featurette is a crash course on The Godfather‘s visual style and the great risks Willis took in making it look the way it does.

    Also included is a nine-minute promotional featurette on The Godfather produced in 1971. Presented in scratchy, faded full-frame, it offers little insight into the film itself although it is interesting as an example of how Paramount was trying to position the film during its theatrical release. Additional supplements include an astounding 34 deleted scenes, many of which long-time Godfather fans will recognize as having been included in the re-edited 1977 The Godfather Saga, which cut together the first two films in chronological order. A number of the scenes, however, had not been seen before. The extra scenes are organized chronologically by year as the would appear within the entire saga, and each is preceded by a brief description of the scene and how it would fit into the larger narrative.

    There are also a number of storyboards from Part II and Part III, an extensive stills gallery of production and behind-the-scenes shots, the Corleone family tree with personal histories of all the major characters, a timeline of events in all three films, archival TV footage of Coppola and others accepting their Oscars in both 1973 and 1975, and theatrical trailers for all three films presented in anamorphic widescreen.

    Copyright © 2022 James Kendrick

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    Overall Rating: (3.5)




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