The Godfather (1971)

The Godfather poster

Make him an offer he can’t refuse. Go to the mattresses. Leave the gun, take the cannolis. The Godfather is truly the I Ching, non vero? Mario Puzo’s novel is gripping but kinda schlocky, Francis Ford Coppola saw a way to imbue it with a kind of classicism at a time when the few Mafia movies that had been made were really just cheap-ish thrillers. The story is that of family, brothers, inheritance, murder and mayhem. If you do the Paramount Studios tour (and I thoroughly recommend it) you can see the NYC set where Michael takes out the crooked cop and the rival who’s tried to assassinate his father Don Vito – a friend obsessed with production design asked me if the floor (tiled) was still there and I had to disappoint them. But it was a thrill. Because no matter how many times you see this film it lures you in, just like they do Sonny to the tollbooth on the Causeway (jeez, the first time I saw this I didn’t go to bed till 2 in the morning. The image of James Caan being rattled like a ragdoll under machine gunfire is unforgettable and horrible. Never mind the horse’s head…)  Watching Pacino transform from the good youngest son to the efficiently vengeful killing machine is really something – his movement under the greatcoat and bowler at the movie’s end makes you weep, and that closing shot, when his wife is literally shut out in that long shot … Oh, I feel like I’m turning into Edward G. Robinson:  Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?!  Coppola did a fine job in making over the material so that you feel like you’re watching a parable about America rather than a tale of scuzzy mobsters. But he knew mid-production there was a scene missing and so he asked screenwriter and script doctor Robert Towne to help him out: the result being the garden scene when the Don is handing over the family business to the war hero son he thought would become a Senator. You can read about that in my book about Towne: What a fabulous film.


I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

I Wanna Hold Your Hand poster.jpg

For some of us who saw the film of the Beatles at Shea Stadium it may well have been our best concert ever – even if the band couldn’t hear a note they played over the hysterical fans’ screams! Bob Zemeckis’ directing debut from his screenplay with co-writer Bob Gale captures some of the craziness as four New Jersey teens head for NYC intending to do anything to score tickets for the Fab Four’s first appearance on US TV on the fabled Ed Sullivan show. Familiar 70s faces – Nancy Allen, Bobby DiCicco and Eddie Deezen!!! make the most of this very fun outing for us and them. Good jokes about mop tops (literally!), corridors (though not as many as in The Shining) and a lot of good visual and audio trickery to show that ‘The Beatles’ are in the movie (Cuban heels, Liverpool accents…). And aside from the high jinks, it’s graced with songs by the legendary performers, in all their analog finery. Terrific production (by Steven Spielberg) and the follow up by Zemeckis and Gale is the BRILLIANT Used Cars (and if you haven’t seen that, you’re missing one of the most hilarious films ever!) There’s a very good skit here featuring a clock tower, electricity and lightning …. wonder where they might have used that again?! The protest song fan Janis is played by Paul Newman’s daughter under the name Susan Kendall Newman.