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Book Review: The Godfather Family Album, Edited by Paul Duncan

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The Godfather Family Album is an excellent look at Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy through the lens of photographer Steve Schapiro. The main focus of this massive tome, coming in at over six pounds and running 444 pages, is Schapiro's amazing photographs, created from the original negatives, taken on the set and behind the scenes during the shooting of all three films.


Taking advantage of the book's 9.7" x 14.7" dimensions, editor Paul Duncan presents Schapiro's work in various sizes, from 3.5" x 2" to two-page spreads. The photos capture the brilliant work of legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis and the entire production design team. With time to linger over the images, it's readily apparent how Willis earned the nickname "The Prince of Darkness" because he makes exquisite use of it in his compositions.

After the introduction, the photos are laid out chronologically by film as they tell the story of the Corleone family. Those dismissive of the final chapter will be relieved to know editor Duncan appears to be of the same frame of mind because the first two films each get about 160 pages devoted to them while Part III only gets a measly 40 pages.

While the book is filled with many of the iconic visual moments from the films, Godfather fans should most enjoy the behind-the-scenes material. The standout photos are Brando getting his Vito make-up put on and grinning as he's taken up a flight of stairs in a gurney, James Caan with the wires and squibs in place for Sonny's death scene, and though they don't appear in Part II there's a great shot of DeNiro and Pacino in costume together.


Some of the photos are accompanied by text from a number of sources. There's an excerpt from author Mario Puzo's The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions; articles from Life, Show, Premiere, Newsweek, Sight and Sound, and The New York Times (by Nicholas Pileggi); and Playboy interviews with Coppola and Pacino. The only thing missing that would have made this the definitive Godfather book would have been an inclusion of the screenplays.

Previously restricted to 1,000 Limited Edition copies and 200 Art Edition copies at price tags of $1800 and $4000 respectively, Taschen has now made available an unlimited trade edition of The Godfather Family Album for $69.99. That price is an offer fans can't (or at least shouldn't) refuse, and some retailers have it for even less, making the book a must-have.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS