Today! Because I believe in America –
The Godfather (1972)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (x3)
Starring Marlon Brando (x2), Al Pacino (x5), James Caan (x4), Robert Duvall (x3), Diane Keaton (x5), Talia Shire (x5), John Cazale (x3), Richard Castellano, Abe Vigoda (x3), Sterling Hayden (x2), John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Gianni Russo (x2), Al Martino, Morgana King (x2), Lenny Montana, John Martino, Alex Rocco (x2), Julie Gregg, Simonetta Stefanelli, Franco Citti
As mentioned at some length back in #82, The Godfather was my dad’s favorite movie. While I often saw it growing up bookended by the past and future sequences from II, the original movie would run intact and in order, and so didn’t require any mental gymnastics to track. And no, this is not a kid’s movie any way you look at it, but that didn’t stop me from seeing this film from as far back as I can remember. I don’t have the slightest guess the first time I watched The Godfather, which seems weird in retrospect.
But while I never really considered it before, if I had to concoct a theory as to why I ended up so obsessed with movies and from a fairly young age, I can track it back to an anecdote from Rosco. The Godfather was released in theaters in 1972 and first aired on television two years later (on NBC, over two nights!). Home video was still many years away, and this was the biggest hit in history for a few years, so it got re-aired often, but not always in prime time, as there were only like four channels back then and this was highly coveted broadcast real estate. But with no other way to see the film – as the world was completely at the mercy of TV programmers – Rosco would set alarms and get up in the middle of the night to watch it when it aired on TV. He had a job and kids and whatnot and would still arrange his life around broadcasts of The Godfather. With that sort of dedication to moviewatching built into my DNA, I guess it goes to follow that I’d turn into the sort of person who’d dedicate multiple years to chronicling his 400 favorite movies to no certain audience.
To loop back again to HBO’s The Godfather Epic cut from a few years back – while it didn’t do anything revolutionary to the structure of the Saga/Complete Novel for Television – keeping basically the same scenes and composition – it was the first time the whole thing had been presented in HD, to my knowledge. AMC also aired this combo in 2012, though, so maybe that was also in HD? Nonetheless, this was the first time it was available on-demand, for what it’s worth. Because it is 424 minutes long, it wasn’t broadcast a ton of times, even with the eight different HBOs comprising the network package, so on-demand was the way to go. Rosco was still watching the same old VHS copy of the dubbed Saga he had been for decades, and HBO wasn’t going to offer this monstrosity forever, so utilizing my clunky DVD burner (so elaborately discussed yesterday) I was tasked to finally put this thing on disc. Even if it came across in standard def (it’s not that fancy a burner!), it was still better than the continuously decaying VHS version! I didn’t utilize this burner to record things from on-demand (because why the hell would I) so it took some trial and error, and no little amount of time expenditure to finally get a halfway decent version together.
I realize this isn’t a terribly interesting story, in and of itself. Hell, I’m not even sure it’s legal, is it? When I was a kid, it seemed like this was the point of VCRs – to record things off television – but what the hell good are DVD burners, really? So if you really enjoy tales of borderline video piracy, this has been a great one for you, I’m sure. I only mention any of this – and not to go too far down this path – because this was one of the last things I got to talk to my dad about. I got the discs finished, but I didn’t put them in the mail immediately, figuring there was no particular rush. Later on I would regret this, but later on I would regret a lot of things I hadn’t done.
The Godfather doesn’t make me sad, though, like you might think. If Rosco hadn’t been so dedicated to it, who knows when I would’ve seen it, and to spend any period of your life unfamiliar with this movie is to deprive yourself of a truly wonderful piece of entertainment. Like other timeless film classics, e.g. Gone With the Wind or It’s a Wonderful Life, the surprise with this movie isn’t that it has such enduring popularity – it’s the unquestionable greatness of the film itself. Sure, these things could go hand in hand, but more often this isn’t the case – excellent films that don’t manage to capture the public excitement or purely popcorn films that hit big and then disappear from the consciousness. The Godfather was briefly the highest grossing movie of all time and still sits as the second highest rated film on IMDB, plus it won Best Picture at the ’72 Oscars and was ranked 2nd on the AFI Top 100 list in 2007.
Much like Star Wars, there is nothing I can say about the movie itself that hasn’t already been said. Tackling one of the most acclaimed and discussed films ever will lead to areas like this. So instead I got sidetracked down this sentimental road. Hey, do you want to see the Godfather board game we used to play as kids?
This is Coppola’s third and obviously final film on the list, following II and #350 Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Look, as much as I admire Apocalypse Now, I didn’t grow up with it, so the hyper madness of that movie struck me as just that when I finally saw it. It’s great, but more a fever dream than a film. And Pacino, Keaton, and Shire make further strides on the acting side, joining the Fives!
Coming Monday! Goodbye to 1979, hello to 1980 –