Film Discussion

The Godfather – Revenge as an Unseen Dish Served Cold

A popular image used to publicise The Godfather on its initial release features Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in a scene, just one of several, that didn’t even make the final cut.

Francis Ford Coppola’s initial cut of The Godfather ran to over four hours. Before shooting The Godfather Pt II he was tickled by the idea of an extended edition, with Pt II edited together with the first to form one long feature, The Godfather Saga. Paramount disabused him of this – they were less than thrilled by the low box office returns that would arise from his notion that “you have to call out sick and take the day off because you know you’re going to be sitting in the theatre for 8 hours!”

The Godfather Saga (or alternately, The Godfather: A Novel For Television) as one complete entity, eventually ran on NBC over three nights, at nine hours long, in 1977. Several previously unseen sequences from the theatrical cuts were reinserted into the narrative, but the following did not.

After Michael has personally eliminated bent police chief McCloskey and rival gangster Sollozo, thereby committing himself body and soul to the corrosive family business, he is spirited away to Sicily. He waits it out in rural exile while the internecine mob war for control of the New York territories blows over.

Walking through the countryside with his bodyguards one day, he is struck by “Un colpo di fulme” -the lightning bolt of love. He falls for and marries local beauty Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli), foregoing Kay (Diane Keaton) back in New York. However, his bodyguard Fabrizio (Angelo Infanti) has been bought off, and booby traps Michael’s car, killing Apollonia, who rises early to drive the unfamiliar new found toy around the grounds of their retreat.

In the dropped sequence, back in New York, Michael’s sources have tracked Fabrizio down to New York, where his boss has set him up in business running a pizza restaurant. After seeing off Barzini, Rizzi and the other threats to the Corleone family, Michael and Neri drive to the restaurant. Foregoing what he had told Sonny before he killed in another restaurant, Michael makes it his business to take personal retribution. He sweeps in, looking more like his later role Tony Montana, in dark suit and pale snap brim fedora, wielding “his little friend” – Fabrizio’s discaded Lupara, or Sicilian shepherd’s shotgun.

A soundtrack flashback to Sicily over the present day: Michael crying out “Apollonia, no!” and the sound of the car exploding. Fabrizio sees Michael, and knows death has come knocking. Michael drops his coat, revealing the lupara. He blows him away repeatedly, reloading several times. He stands over the traitor’s bloodied corpse, discarding the weapon on his body as a sign, before leaving. The camera stays on the spreading pool of blood on the tiles as Michael’s footsteps echo towards the door.

Although the restaurant exterior is filmed in New York at the Imperial Pizza parlour on 35th Street, it was impossible to film inside because of the heavy traffic outside on the Fourth of July weekend. Ironically, the interior murder was shot in a Sicilian restaurant dressed up to look like an American pizza joint. The studio wouldn’t cover the cost of sending make-up artist Dick Smith, who professed himself disappointed with his Italian counterparts work. They soaked Angelo Infanti in so much fake blood it looked like it had been applied with a paint roller.

Although it would have been a powerful moment, it negates the impact of the restaurant shooting where Michael necessarily got his hands dirty earlier. He is no capo, he is The Godfather in waiting. His corruption of the soul must be more wide ranging than mere personal revenge.

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