I remember watching the 434-minute Godfather Saga on NBC some 34 years ago. It played four consecutive nights, and I stopped my life to take part in it. I was like a priest doing vespers. I knew I wasn’t watching a “better” version of the first two Godfather films, and that the Saga was just longer (including 75 minutes of previously un-seen scenes) and chronological, etc. But I loved sinking into the all of it, the sprawl of it.
And it’s really not right, I feel, for Francis Coppola to stand in the way of releasing the full Godfather Saga on Bluray/DVD. All 434 minutes’ worth, I’m saying, just like before. And with no recognition or acknowledgement whatsoever of the miscarriage known as The Godfather, Part III. In the hearts and minds of serious Godfather-heads that movie never happened.
Coppola reportedly went along with assembling and airing The Godfather Saga in ’77 in order to raise money for Apocalypse Now. I’ve heard he doesn’t want The Godfather Saga out on DVD/Bluray because he wants his Godfather legacy to be defined by the theatrical versions, and because Saga doesn’t really add anything — it just expands the story and puts it in chronological order.
Well, I have news for Coppola. He doesn’t own the Godfather films or the religion (as opposed to a cult) that has grown and thrived in their honor over the last 40 years. All he did was direct them. Those efforts occupied him in 1971 and early ’72, and again in ’73 and ’74. What happened after was between the films and the public. He sired them, but they went on to make millions of connections with millions of people — a process that Coppola could only observe from the sidelines. In a sense he hasn’t really been part of it. He’s just the father.
The Godfather films belong to America, to film culture, to you and me. And whether Coppola likes it or not. that includes The Godfather Saga. He put it out there, guys like me really got into it, and he owes it to Godfather fandom to supply that version.
Not because he’s proud of this assemblage or is perhaps moderately ashamed of it, or because the Saga is any kind of richer, grander, more satisfactory telling of the 1902-1959 story — it’s not. But because we want it out there as a viewing option the way we sometimes like to pig out on pizza or ice cream, and because Coppola hasn’t the right to deny us this. He can’t make or re-make something of public importance and then put it into a cardboard box and store it in the attic and forget about it.
I’m not talking about a Bluray/DVD of The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic, the 386-minute version of The Godfather Saga that was released on VHS in 1981. And I’m definitely not talking about a Bluray of The Godfather Trilogy: 1901 – 1980, a chronological edit composed of all three Godfather movies. (I don’t want to know about The Godfather, Part III, and I mean it. There are only two Godfather movies, and it’s time to re-release the most needlessly extended, wind-baggiest, absolute longest and ass-draggiest version of those classics in all their meticulous and drawn-out splendor.