The Godfather appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The restored transfer offered visuals that seemed to be close to the original footage.
Sharpness was strong. If any notable instances of softness materialized, they escaped me, as I thought the movie displayed fine clarity and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge enhancement was absent.
In terms of source flaws, the movie exhibited only a few. I saw about a dozen small white specks throughout the flick and that was it. Grain was prominent at times, but it remained within appropriate levels for a movie of this one’s age and visual design. It’s a very dark flick, so the grain was quite reasonable given that factor.
Not exactly a bright Technicolor extravaganza, the palette of The Godfather remained decidedly low-key. Orange-tinted yellows dominated the flick, though reds also came through at times. Only a few scenes boasted more dynamic tones; for instance, the opening wedding scene went with fairly natural colors, and some brilliant hues emerged there.
Otherwise, this was a nearly monochromatic affair. Those yellows looked awfully heavy – heavy enough that I occasionally wondered if the transfer mucked with the original color design. Given the talent involved with this restoration, I trust that the hues do represent the 1972 intentions. Director Francis Coppola, cinematographer Gordon Willis and noted film preservationist Robert Harris supervised this sucker, so I have to believe they tried to keep things faithful.
In any case, while the heavy yellow tone could become a bit of a distraction at times, it wasn’t anything truly problematic. The transfer represented those hues in a clear manner, and the occasions during which the flick went with other hues became positive. As I alluded, the wedding scene looked solid, and the other occasions that featured more vivid tones seemed strong. This was an unusual palette, but the disc represented it well.
Black levels came across as deep and dense, and they acted as one of the transfer’s strengths, as the dark tones were sumptuous and rich. Contrast was quite good, and shadow detail seemed up to the task in this dimly-lit flick.
Most of the low-light situations appeared to be appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. Sure, parts of the movie were quite dark, but that seemed to represent the original visual design; I saw no signs that the transfer suffered from excessive opacity.
Only the smattering of print defects concerned me, and they knocked this down to a “B+” presentation. Remove those and this would be a solid “A”.
I found some ups and downs via the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of The Godfather. Taken from the film’s original monaural stems, the mix attempted a pretty wide soundstage.
The audio stayed primarily located in the forward spectrum, but it spread elements out across the front speakers. Quite a lot of ambient effects cropped up in the sides, and the music showed nice stereo separation as well.
Surround usage appeared minimal for the most part. During a few scenes – such as those that involved trains or planes – the rear channels kicked to life fairly nicely, but for the most part, nothing more than general reinforcement came from the surrounds.
Audio quality created some minor concerns, most of which stemmed from artificial reverb added to the mix. Speech showed this light echo much of the time.
I suppose this intended to give the lines a feeling of place, as the reverb was supposed to place us in the action. This didn’t work, however, as the echo made the dialogue sound less realistic and more distant. The reverb wasn’t a terrible distraction, and the lines remained intelligible and reasonably warm, but I felt it was unnecessary.
Effects also showed some echo, but not to the same degree. These elements worked acceptably well. Though the effects tended to show their age and suffered from a little distortion, they usually appeared reasonably clean and full.
A few of the effects elements also came across as pretty powerful and dynamic. When Tom Hagen’s plane lands in LA, and when the train roars by while Michael’s in the restaurant, I found the track to offer good reproduction and force to these bits. Another scene in which thunder roared provided solid breadth and depth. I could have lived without the reverb, but the effects were generally fine for their age.
Music acted as the best aspect of this track, as the score showed generally good reproduction. Yeah, the music had a little too much reverb as well, but I didn’t find much fault with that part of the track. Overall, this was a decent remix, though one I couldn’t grade above a “B-”, largely due to the bouts of reverb.
This version also provided the monaural track that accompanied the flick’s theatrical run in 1972, and I thought it offered the most satisfactory audio experience. Sure, it lost the moderate expansion of the soundfield, but it gave us cleaner audio.
In particular, speech was clearer and more natural, as it lacked that annoying reverb heard in the remix. I felt the monaural audio was smoother and more direct, so it’s the track I recommend.
How did this 2017 “45th Anniversary” Blu-ray compare to the original BD? Both were identical – literally, as the 2017 disc simply reissued the old release.
Only one extra appears here: the same audio commentary from director Francis Ford Coppola found on all prior discs. The director provides a running, fairly screen-specific affair. Although the track suffered from a fair number of empty spaces, I had little problem with the gaps, largely due to the length of the movie itself; at nearly three hours, that’d be a lot of room for Coppola to cover.
I also didn’t mind the blanks too much due to the quality of the commentary itself. I wouldn’t call this a great track, but Coppola offers a lot of solid information and he does so in an engaging way.
In a refreshing move, he mainly covers problems encountered during the making of the film. Many commentaries suffer from “happy talk” syndrome, but that definitely isn’t the case here. Coppola never seems petty or bitter – he who laughs last and all that – but he does relate the difficulties he encountered in a frank manner. Ultimately, he ads a lot to the table during this interesting and informative commentary.
The Godfather earned the second position on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 films. 45 years after its initial release, I find it hard to quibble with that choice. The Blu-ray provides very good picture, acceptable audio and an informative commentary. This turns into a quality release, though not one needed by fans who own the prior Blu-ray, as it simply reissues/repackages that Blu-ray.
To rate this film, visit the Boxed Set review of THE GODFATHER