Book Review: The Godfather: The Official Motion Picture Archives by Peter Cowie

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Anyone with even a passing interest in Francis Ford Coppola’s famed trilogy of Mafia films would do well to check out Peter Cowie’s The Godfather: The Official Motion Picture Archives. Not only does the book detail the making of the films (with a primary focus on the 1972 original) via text and photos, there are several inserts containing removable facsimile documents from the Archives of Paramount Pictures. More than a simple novelty, the reproductions (contained in sturdy envelopes firmly secured throughout the book) take the reader further inside the world of the films.

The text itself it limited to just under 100 pages, a surprisingly low page count for such a robust hardcover coffee table volume. This is due to the extra thickness added by the enclosure envelopes. Following an introduction, 18 chapters take us through the conception, creation, release, and reception of the initial film. Fans looking for in-depth of coverage of 1974’s Part II or 1990’s Part III will have to look elsewhere; only one chapter each is dedicated to those sequels. Each of the chapters reads like a pithy essay, with particularly interesting examinations of the violence depicted in the film and of the various scenes deleted from the final cut.

Of the removable documents, the more obscure ones are the most interesting. Folded reprints of the three film’s theatrical one-sheets are unlikely to provoke super-enthusiastic reactions (perhaps high quality miniature versions, suitable for framing, might’ve been preferable). For those interested in minutia, however, most of the inserts are quite fascinating. There’s a Paramount press release touting the film’s opening day attendance figures. A letter from the MPAA details issues concerning the process of assigning a rating to what was then groundbreaking violence on film. One of the more surprising inclusions is a brochure from The Journal of Dental Practice that covers the prosthetic teeth used by Marlon Brando as well as dental work done on Al Pacino.

Discovering these little treats (there are 15 in all) is what makes reading through The Godfather: The Official Motion Picture Archives so entertaining. While much of the background information covered throughout the book may be familiar to serious Godfather aficionados, the wealth of rare photos and documents makes this Insight Editions publication more than worthwhile for anyone.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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