Just when you thought the curtain had closed on the Corleone crime family, director Francis Ford Coppola is pulling moviegoers back in to his "Godfather" trilogy. Paramount Pictures announced Thursday it will release a newly edited and restored version of “The Godfather Part III,” available in select theaters this December along with a later digital and DVD release.
“It was not meant to be part of a trilogy, but rather a coda to the first two films, and we wished it could be given a different title, one more appropriate," Coppola wrote in his newly penned forward for “The Godfather” book’s 50th anniversary. "Neither of us had the power to insist on our title but in my mind, the film will always be called 'The Death of Michael Corleone.'”
Along with a newly edited beginning and ending, the film will also have a new title that rivals the running time of Coppola’s epics: “Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.”
The third installment in the iconic saga of the Corleone crime family, starring Al Pacino at the helm as Michael Corleone, is a much more haunting and melancholic look at an older Michael who is trying to distance himself from his past transgressions as Don of the Corleone clan. Viewers relive the numerous deaths occurring in “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II,” including the time when Michael orders his brother Fredo Corleone’s death.
Although Pacino was praised for his performance, the third installment in the series did not live up to the standard set by its predecessors. Now, on the film’s 30th anniversary, Coppola said this is his chance to rewrite the disappointing conclusion to his Shakespearean series on family, violence and betrayal (cue composer Nina Rota’s “The Godfather Waltz").
Released on Christmas Day in 1990, the film famously ends with the killing of Mary Corleone, after a failed assassination attempt on her father, Michael. However, Coppola said both he and Mario Puzo — the author of the 1969 “The Godfather” novel on which the films are based — had a different vision for the ending of the film that will be fully realized in the re-release.
“Godfather III’ as ‘The Death of Michael Corleone’ is doubly painful because at the end he doesn’t die, but he does worse than die,” Coppola said in a 2019 interview with Deadline. “He loses everything he loves — and he lives. There are certain things in life that are worse than death.”
Critics of Coppola’s third film were especially harsh on his casting decision of Mary Corleone, played by Coppola's daughter, Sofia Coppola — now an acclaimed director in her own right. Upon seeing the movie, New York Times film critic Janet Maslin wrote, “Sofia gives a flat, uneasy performance that seriously damages Mary's impact as the linchpin of this story.”
Even with its mediocre reviews, the film landed seven Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director. In total, the trilogy boasts a staggering 28 nominations, taking home nine between the three films.
In an interview with “Deadline,” Coppola said he hoped the new version will paint his daughter in a new light “because she is so beautiful in it and so touching. She wasn’t an actress. But she was the real thing, playing that 19-year-old Italian girl in love with her own cousin.”
“Mr. Coppola oversaw every aspect of the restoration while working on the new edit, ensuring that the film not only looks and sounds pristine, but also meets his personal standards and directorial vision,” said senior vice president of Paramount Archives, Andrea Kalas, in a statement.
This isn’t Coppola’s first re-released movie. He put out his nearly four-hour-long “Apocalypse Now Redux” to audiences in 2001, which featured 49 minutes of never-before-seen footage. Yet, during his interview with Deadline, he said he regrets putting in some scenes and hopes to release “Apocalypse Now: Final Cut.”
His penchant for never being satisfied seemingly stemmed from his friendship with Puzo, with whom he collaborated closely in the making of the "Godfather" films. In fact, before Puzo’s death on July 2, 1999, Coppola strongly considered making a fourth film in the series and even drafted a script, according to an article in GQ with Coppola.
“I learned so much from Mario (Puzo), perhaps most importantly the need to rewrite and keep rewriting and not be daunted by doing more and more drafts,” he wrote in the forward for “The Godfather” book’s 50th anniversary.