By Brad Cook | September 23, 2008

I’m not the sort of DVD viewer who obsesses over things like edge enhancement, but when “The Godfather” films arrived on disc in 2001, the imperfections in the prints stood out like a sore thumb. In particular, the first and second films displayed a surprising amount of damage, considering how much hoopla accompanied the release.

Looking at the movies again in the Coppola Restoration set, however, not only are the imperfections gone, but the prints are more vibrant. Comparing them side by side, I was struck, for example, by the opening of Part II, when Fredo kisses Michael’s hand. On the original DVD, you could hardly see Fredo’s face, but now the detail is there. In addition, faces no longer look pale, and bright colors, such as the flower on Vito’s tuxedo at the beginning of Part I, pop off the screen. Part II is now contained on one disc, whereas it was spread across two in the original set, but that doesn’t seem to have impacted the image quality.

On the basis of the video alone, I would recommend double-dipping to get the new set. (I’m sure the Blu-ray version looks even better.) All of the original bonus features have returned, along with a fifth platter that contains about 80 minutes of new supplements. None of them are of the must-see nature of the original bonus materials, which included a comprehensive documentary and many deleted scenes, but it’s fun to watch “Sopranos” creator David Chase discuss the movies’ influence on him, or hear producer Robert Evans talk about the trials and tribulations involved in getting the first film made, or see film restoration expert Robert Harris show us how badly the original prints had degraded and what was involved in bringing them back to life.

I’m not sure, though, what the point was in having the director of “Cloverfield” and some of his cast members talk about “The Godfather” while on the red carpet at the film’s premiere. Here’s a wild guess: You could achieve the same thing at just about any other movie premiere’s red carpet, except maybe Paris Hilton’s “The Hottie and the Nottie.” Why “Cloverfield,” other than the fact that it’s also a Paramount film?

And, yes, Coppola’s commentary tracks from the original DVDs have returned. As I mentioned in my reviews of the standalone releases of Part II and Part III, Coppola comes across as your avuncular grandfather who just happened to have an award-winning career as a movie director. Just when you thought you knew everything about these movies, he pulls you back in with a few new nuggets of information.

The tracks are all worth a listen, even the commentary for Part III. As someone who doesn’t care much for that film (Sofia Coppola’s acting ranks as her second-best performance in a Godfather movie), I’m glad that the plans for Part IV, which Coppola discusses at the end of his commentary, were scuttled. “The Godfather” story should end with Part II, where we see Michael alone on his throne, secure in his power but having tossed away the familial bonds that his father treasured. He’s king of the world, but he sold his soul to get there.

Completists will probably complain that Coppola’s re-edited “Godfather Trilogy,” where he put all three films in chronological order for TV, isn’t included. Coppola also produced “Godfather Saga,” which did the same for Parts I and II. The deleted scenes in disc four of this set cover the additional footage found in “Saga,” along with an alternate opening for Part III, but not everything in “Trilogy.” While I don’t see the point in watching the films in chronological order, which in particular destroys the parallels developed in Part II, it would have been nice to have all of the extra footage in this set.

I suppose that’s something to save for yet another home video release of these movies, since Hollywood has shown that it doesn’t mind milking its most successful properties to death. Now that the video quality is as good as it’s going to get, where do you go from here?

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