Early this morning HE reader Frank Booth, commenting about the Francis Coppola/Robert Harris restoration of the Godfather films, made a good point about an irritant in the original 1972 film — one that’s been bothering me for decades and which could have been fixed, if Coppola had been so inclined.

He was speaking, of course, about the second-act beating scene in which James Caan‘s Sonny laughably air-punches Gianni Russo‘s Carlo. [See YouTube clip.] There’s no missing the mistake because the shot is perfectly positioned to catch it — a nice clean side-angle. And it’s so distinct that it takes you right out of the film. When Booth saw a theatrical screening “it took a minute or so of the Sicilian wedding for the audience to stop giggling,” he says. “Very unfortunate.”
And yet despite all the digital re-dos and remasterings, not to mention that massive re-edit of Parts I and II that resulted in The Godfather Saga in the mid ’70s, Coppola has left that mistake in — minor, yes, but one that slightly interferes with the enjoyment of this film each and every time. All he would have to is cut away from the Sonny-Carlo beating for a a second or two and show…whatever, one of the hoods standing nearby, one of the little kids watching the fight, a master shot from a different angle. There must be extra footage lying around. All Coppola would need is 24 to 36 frames.
If you had directed The Godfather, would you want that mistake to remain in the definitive print for centuries to come? I wouldn’t. If George Lucas can make Greedo shoot first, Francis Coppola can fix Sonny’s air punch. And then Paramount Home Video can put out a whole new Godfather on Blu-ray and DVD. Honestly? I would buy it. I really would.