With the release this week of The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (wow, what a title!), an updated, recut take on Coppola’s much lambasted Godfather III, I thought it time to revisit the original and see if it’s really as bad as we remembered. Spoiler alert: It is. And it’s not something a little re-editing can hope to fix.
Coppola is a director who seems unwilling to leave his old films alone. Just last year he released a third version of Apocalypse Now. Apart from the fact that he’s putting back scenes he knew to cut the first time, he has stated that he believes all of his films to be on a par with each other. That The Cotton Club is as good a film as The Godfather. He actually believes that if viewed as a whole body of work today, audiences wouldn’t rate his masterpieces (Godfather I + II, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation) any higher than they would, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula or, God forbid, Jack.
All this to say, the man might be lacking perspective on what it is that made those early films so great, and those later films…not so great. Hence, not the best position to be tinkering with his old work.
There’s an Italian saying that basically translates as (I’m paraphrasing), if a stick is covered in shit, no matter how you try to pick it up, you’re going to end up getting shit on you. And Godfather III is a stick in shit. And I don’t need to see the new Godfather Coda to know that it’s basically the same movie, because changing the beginning and ending and maybe trimming 5 minutes from the overall is not enough to save it from itself; at the end of the day Coppola still has to work with the same materials he shot the first time around. The same performances, the same plot, and the same script. He built a house out of straw and mud; he can’t expect to change the very fabric of the foundation just because he’s moved a window.
What follows is an in-depth, intended to be (hopefully) funny but also informative video review and essay on GODFATHER III as well as the first two GODFATHER films and their place in American culture.