It was movie critic Judith Crist’s second review in the March 20, 1972, issue (cover line: “Honor Thy Pasta”), a few hundred words stuck at the end of a lengthier analysis of The Sorrow and the Pity, “an extraordinary documentary about Nazi-occupied France.” Coppola’s masterpiece, she wrote, was “you see, as ‘good’ as the novel — as therefore, in its new incarnation and availability to the illiterate, for more dangerous.” Why so dangerous? “[T]he function of the film is to show us that Hitler is a grand sort of family man, gentle with children, daring and ruthless with enemies, implacable in the matter of honor and so loyal to the ties of blood that even a brother-in-law, to a sister’s sorrow, must go (juicily garroted) if he happens to have betrayed a son of the house.” (Um: “Happens to have betrayed”? Carlo set up Sonny to be brutally murdered in a toll booth!) But Crist didn’t hate it entirely: “You can’t say the trash doesn’t get first-class treatment.” No, you can’t.
Thirty-five years ago tonight, The Godfather premiered at the Loews State Theater in Times Square. The good people at Variety remind us of this milestone, and to mark it run their original review on Variety.com. (“[I]t is also overlong at about 175 minutes (played without intermission), and occasionally confusing,” the film-land bible’s critic, A.D. Murphy, wrote in 1972. “While never so placid as to be boring, it is never so gripping as to be superior screen drama.”) Over at the Times, Vincent Canby was more impressed: “Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” What did New York think? Not so much, apparently.