class=”alignleft wp-image-168084″ title=”The Godfather -The Official Motion Picture Archives” src=”” alt=”The Godfather” width=”277″ height=”299″ />

The key ingredient to the success of any film book is to what extent the source is illuminated by the work. Given the critical and commercial success of Francis Ford Coppola’s film and the legacy which has been poured over by both fans and academics what new light can be shone on The Godfather?

It has become something of a tradition when creating highly illustrated movie books to mine the archives for rare and often unpublished photos, memos and other movie miscellany which are reproduced to support the book’s text. Peter Cowie has done just that, and you would be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive visual document of the film that this one. That said the commentary provided can seem superfluous and excitable, with the access granted it’s a shame that a more candid approach wasn’t taken.

In terms of setting the scene the combination of the archive images and the annotations give over the deep mythology of the Corleone family, and the process of adapting Mario Puzo’s source material makes up for some of the most interesting sections of the book. The facsimile items are a nice touch, but not essential (although the copy of The Journal of Dental Practise concentrating on Brando’s prosthetic dentistry has to be one of the strangest inclusions in a book of this nature). As is usual the images tell the story for us, and it is quite something to see many new pictures from a film (and its production) which has been written about many times before.

My only complaint about the format would be that we jump from page to screen to character to actor across the course of the film’s production. If there was ever a case to be made for a straight up narrative of the struggle to get this epic book onto the screen then this would be it.  Cowie knows his stuff and builds a considerably detailed picture of the pressures facing the filmmakers and the studio in taking on such a project. Quite rightly the first film carries the lion’s share of coverage in this book (the third film is relegated to a couple of pages at the end) and Cowie focuses on the constituent parts (costume, cinematography and so on) as well as biographies of the main actors and their characters. It’s certainly comprehensively put together and Cowie’s love for the films shines through. For a movie whose legacy is writ large on many similarly themed films and TV series this is a good place to discover the impact and importance of the place where it all began.