Blue-chip restoration guru Robert Harris has been working on a photo-chemical restoration of all three Godfather films for the last few months, and the results may be digitally viewable as soon as December (a Danish DVD site is stating that restored DVDs of the first two Godfather pics are due for release on 12.6.07). Harris declined comment, but Francis Coppola said after an 8.6 Godfather III screening at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn theatre that Steven Spielberg is the restoration project’s financial savior.

Coppola said that Paramount was initially not interested in funding the restoration (deemed necessary due to the original negative having been “purposefuly damaged by idiots…misued, cut up”) but all that changed when Spielberg stepped into the breach and said, “This is going to happen.”

According to an 8.18 posting by “Adam S.” on a Godfather restoration discussion at Home Theatre Forum, “Coppola showed up on Monday August 6th, after a screening of Godfather III at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn theater. He didn’t arrive until about an hour into a six person q & a with a variety of people in or attached to the film. He said it was a bit surreal to be there after we’ve been watching Godfather III because he had just come from the first viewing of the new restoration of the original Godfather, which he said ‘it looks ‘incredible.’

“Coppola also mentioned that the negative was basically going to dissolve, or very close to complete loss and it would have cost millions of dollars to restore. Paramount was not going to foot the bill for it, he said, but that after Paramount became Dreamamount Spielberg himself made sure they knew they had to restore The Godfather, and the restoration went forward. [But] there was absolutely no mention of a DVD release.”

I called Paramount Home Video’s Brenda Ciccone on Friday afternoon to learn what I could learn, but the whole lot is taking Friday afternoons off during the summer — a Brad Grey idea.

Paramount management was probably taking the view that the film was fine as long as it existed in good digital form, but any responsible archivist will tell you that photo-chemical film elements have to be restored and preserved because they comprise the core elements in their original state — the actual “film” in its pure and most pristine form — and that these elements will enable home-video technicians to deliver top-grade transfers in the decades to come as well as ensure the film’s general future survival.

I for one would love to one day see a mint-condition chronological Godfather Saga with all those deleted scenes that were shown on broadcast TV in the late ’70s. But with the remastering of both films, this seems like a perfect opportunity to also remaster all the deleted scenes and put the big saga on DVD as a stand-alone separate release.