Growing up, my dad introduced my brothers and me to things he held closest to his heart: family, faith, sports, and The Godfather. For years, we would sit around the living room TV and watch his worn out collection of old VHS tapes on a VCR that would cause the picture to get fuzzier with each passing scene. This meant that the movie would usually be unwatchable by the time Michael Corleone pulled the trigger on Sollozzo and McCluskey in that dimly lit Italian restaurant.
I’ve picked up new and improved versions since then, whether it be on DVD, Blu-ray, or the 2022 restored box set containing all the Godfather movies in 4K (which also includes The Godfather Coda), and each time I see things I once missed in the dozens of times I’ve watched Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic. This most recent set, which is lightyears beyond anything that’s come before it, has quickly become my favorite and is like watching the movie for the first time all over again. Here are a few examples why..
Connie’s Wedding Reception
As far as I am concerned, The Godfather has one of the best opening scenes of all time with Connie Corleone’s wedding reception. From the soft and subdued moments like the opening frames of Amergio Bonsera asking Don Vito Corleone for a favor, to the loud and celebratory traditional Sicilian wedding songs, there’s so much going on here. I’ve watched this scene countless times over the years, but there are two times where I’ve been incredibly moved by it: when I saw a 35mm print at a theater with my dad about a decade ago, and now with the 4K remaster for The Godfather’s 50th anniversary.
You can really see the work that went into restoring the film from a handful of shots in this sequence. First, the upset undertaker’s heartbreaking monologue is no longer dark and muted, but vibrant and crisp. Then, the party looks like it was filmed today, not 50 years ago. Those blurry frames are now clear, the colors bold, the features distinct.
Jack Woltz Wakes Up With A Horse Head
The section of The Godfather where Tom Hagen visits Hollywood producer Jack Woltz in hopes of getting Johnny Fontane released from his contract ends with one of the most violent scenes in the entire movie, which is saying something for a three-hour crime epic. You know the scene, the one where Woltz wakes up in his palatial California estate the morning after telling Hagen that he couldn’t be intimidated by the Corleone family only to find the severed head of his prized racehorse under the covers.
This was another moment that left a lot to the imagination on that old VHS copy I grew up with, but the latest 4K re-release, with its thousands of hours of restoration, gives you a crystal clear picture of the brutality of the scene. The way the blood shines on the sheets, the way the head looks blankly into the distance. It’s terrifying, it’s stunning, and it’s the best it’s ever looked.
Michael Shoots Sollozzo And McCluskey
The scene in which Michael Corleone shoots and kills crime boss Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo and crooked police captain Mark McCluskey is one of the biggest turning points in all of cinema and also one of the best scenes of The Godfather. This scene has always looked great with its moody lighting at a nondescript Italian restaurant, but the 4K restoration of this pivotal moment in the movie makes it so much better.
The way the light bounces off of Michael’s face (like in the picture above with the neon sign in the background) makes him pop off the screen when he’s speaking with the crime boss before killing him. And then when he pulls the trigger, the mist of blood and cloud of smoke from the gun float in the air and just draw your eye in. Then he repeat with the dirty cop. It’s short (only a few seconds), but that cloud of death just hangs there like a sign saying we’ve crossed the point of no return.
Sonny Is Ambushed On The Jones Beach Causeway
The brutal murder of Sonny Corleone by the Barzini family remains one of the most violent and heartbreaking deaths in the entire Godfather saga. Whenever Connie calls the Corleone family compound and her older brother picks up the phone, my heart sinks. Then it sinks even more when Sonny pulls up to the toll both on the Jones Beach Causeway, because I know what’s going to happen.
Watching this scene play out in 4K was like experiencing it for the first time all over again, the visuals and details were that rich. The bullets, shattered glass, and blood flying about Sonny’s shot-out car and the concrete surrounding it are so vivid, so realistic, I again forgot I was watching a 50-year-old movie. As tough as the scene is to watch, it sure does look outstanding here.
Michael Surprises Kay Upon Returning From Sicily
Even smaller and less violent scenes in The Godfather look outstanding in the new 4K release, including a short and sweet scene in the film’s second half that shows Michael Corleone visit his former girlfriend, Kay Adams, after returning from exile in Sicily. In the beginning of the scene we see Kay walking with a group of school children with their red hats standing out in deep contrast against their surroundings.
And then again, moments later, when Kay and Michael are walking (with a security detail not far behind) and catching up after not seeing one another for several years. The scene always looked fuzzy, but the images are now as crisp as the autumn setting in which the characters walk. It’s subtle, but oh so beautiful.
Vito Playing With His Grandson In The Tomato Garden
Although every character who dies in The Godfather does so at the hand of their enemies, Vito Corleone is afforded a rather happy and peaceful death while playing with his grandson in his tomato garden. The scene has always had a special place in my heart because Vito spent his life avoiding and surviving attempts at his life and here he's going out as he’s being chased by his grandson at home.
It looks incredible now that it has been restored. The red tomatoes look as if you could pull them from the vine and sink your teeth into them. And, you get a great glimpse at the oranges on the table, which have long been Francis Ford Coppola’s sign of danger, much like the Xs in The Departed.
The Baptism Killings
It is hard to think of a better way of showing how far Michael Corleone has come throughout The Godfather than the outstanding scene at the end of the film where he orders the the assassinations of all his rivals just as he’s becoming his nephew’s godfather. This intensely violent and shocking scene gets only better now that you can see all the finer details of it.
Bouncing from shots of Michael taking an oath in a crowded church to his associates preparing to take out the likes of Moe Green and the New York families, you are treated to small details like the police badge of one of the hitmen, the ceremony of the baptism, and the foam of shaving cream a man is having applied to his face. In a movie about small details adding up, this best illustrates that.
You can watch all of these scenes and others on The Godfather trilogy 4K set, which is available on Amazon. But, that isn’t all, because there are even more Godfather deals out there in celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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