From the Archives: Dave McIntyre’s 1972 review of “The Godfather”

Fifty years ago this week, Evening Tribune columnist Dave McIntyre criticized Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” after it opened in San Diego at Cinema 21 in Mission Valley.

From Vespers Tuesday, Thursday 23 March 1972:


Groups drawn from the theaters where “The Godfather” opened yesterday, at Cinema 21 here as well as in other cities, confirm the certainty that this film version of Mario Puzo’s popular novel will be a huge success, probably the film of the year with the largest viewership.

So the question is, will the crowds be satisfied? Is the excitement created by this production justified?

One way to answer the question is to say that almost everything in Puzo’s book appears on the screen.

The history of the “family” underground business (the word Mafia is never used) in the New York-New Jersey area immediately after World War II is presented in rich detail. Some cases are shortened, of course, some background is eliminated to save time. (As it is, the movie lasts only 4 minutes out of 3 hours.) But all the characters are there and the mood fits almost perfectly. Therefore, anyone who enjoyed “The Godfather” as a novel is likely to react positively to it as a film.

Those who approach the film without prior knowledge of its story may face a small problem. It is possible to explain the character relationships on the printed page, but this can only be displayed on the screen, and because these relationships in “The Godfather” are rather complicated, some confusion can occur, especially in the first part of the image.

But there are many rewards, including some great performances.

Brando has been doing his best acting for years

First of all, Marlon Brando is doing the best acting he has shown in years in the eponymous role. You do not know that it is Brando, something that does not happen in his recent photos. He is Don Corleone, a well-meaning but stable ruler of a Mafia family (shame on me). An experienced job in makeup helps, but the characterization he projects from the inside is what makes the role come alive.

But Brando is not the most impressive action in “The Godfather”. This honor goes to Al Pacino, who plays Corleone’s youngest son, Michael. He is absolutely perfect in developing the role from the naive, flawless war hero in the first scenes to the cruel, lifeless murderer who becomes after his father has been seriously injured in a family quarrel.

Among many other good performances are those of James Caan, as Sonny, the unstable, earthly son of Corleone. Robert Duvall, as Tom Hagen, the lone non-Italian member of the union. Richard Castellano, a heavy lieutenant of Brando. Sterling Hayden, a crooked cop. Al Martino, a singer who became friends with the godfather. John Marley, as the head of a film studio that finds the severed head of his beloved purebred in his bed, after refusing to play Martino in a movie, and Richard Conte, the head of another family. Women are more or less kept in the background, reflecting the customs of the narrow Sicilian tribes, but they all do well.

The Italian flavor of the story emerges wonderfully, in fact. It shows the elaborate wedding party in the first scenes, at table gatherings and scenes in the godfather’s house, with many children always running. It shows in the devotion that exists between father and sons and between brothers. And this gives the image its special attractiveness. Because of this, it becomes a drama of faith and family respect, as well as a drama of violence and sudden death.

Coppola emphasizes action

Director Francis Ford Coppola approached the story with his head. Makes the camera as discreet as possible, emphasizing the action and not the cinematic technique. His design and location teams were also very successful, giving “The Godfather” an atmosphere that perfectly conveys the image of time and place in history.

The “Godfather” has a strange result. It leads one to accept and even forgive the ruthless actions of a man who ordered other human beings to be killed or mutilated as calmly as he asked for a glass of wine. But it also makes us understand him and makes us believe that his goal was to end evil, not to commit it. If he had acted differently, he would not have been Don Corleone, the godfather.

From the Archives: Dave McIntyre’s 1972 review of “The Godfather” Source link From the Archives: Dave McIntyre’s 1972 review of “The Godfather”

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