Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" turns 40 this weekend, a surprisingly ripe old age for a movie that hasn't aged a bit.
One of the great American movies, "The Godfather" hasn't stopped influencing popular culture since the day it was released. Martin Scorsese owes much of his career to it, "The Sopranos" wouldn't have made sense without it, and VH1's reality show "Mob Wives" is a winking travesty of it.
The film's alluring portrait of the mob as Old World charmers with ice-cold hearts appears again and again in crime films, comedies, video games, comic books, hip-hop videos -- the list goes on. In fact, nearly anything that focuses on organized crime, corporate gamesmanship or the glories of patriarchy -- from HBO's "The Wire" to AMC's "Mad Men" -- seems unable to escape the long, broad-shouldered shadow of "The Godfather."
But for all its heavy themes (immigration, politics, business, the American dream), "The Godfather" is also vastly entertaining. It's a grand, macho soap opera full of unfettered ids, violently settled scores and men wearing enviable suits. And talk about a bromance: Have you ever seen so many guys hugging and kissing in a Hollywood movie?
On the 40th anniversary weekend of the film's release, here are five reasons to love "The Godfather."
1. Marlon Brando's accent At the time, Brando's cotton-cheeked portrayal of Don Corleone came in for some mockery, not unlike Tom Hardy's barely audible villain Bane in the previews for "The Dark Knight Rises." Nevertheless, Brando's hoarse, mumbling, world-weary Don -- "What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?" -- remains one of the most memorable figures in moviedom.
2, The one-liners If you know any colorful Mafia slang, chances are it came from "The Godfather," which gave us gems like "sleeps with the fishes" and "an offer he can't refuse." It even turned the commonplace phrase "it's strictly business" into a quoteworthy line (usually uttered after taking down a friend or co-worker). And don't forget the ultimate hit-man mantra: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
3. Those crazy Corleone kids There's Connie (Talia Shire), who marries an abusive bum; Sonny (James Caan), the arrogant firstborn with no impulse control; Fredo (John Cazale), a nice boy but soft in the head; and Michael (Al Pacino), Daddy's favorite who eventually takes over the business. Mafia families -- they're just like us!
4. Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi An actual enforcer for the Colombo family, the fridge-size former wrestler made his screen debut as Brasi, a brainless, brutish killer with doglike devotion to his Don. In his first acting role, Montana not only got one of the film's best and longest death scenes (ambushed, stabbed and garroted), he also created a meathead mobster archetype for the ages.
5. It happened here In Mario Puzo's novel, the Corleone fortress was in Long Beach, though the connection isn't so explicit in the film. Still, Coppola (schooled at Great Neck North and Hofstra University) shot at least two key sequences on Long Island. Sonny's death was filmed on an unused runway at what was then Mitchel Field in Hempstead, and the famous horse-head scene took place in Falaise, a 26-room manor house in Port Washington's Sands Point Preserve formerly owned by Newsday's founder, Alicia Patterson, and her husband, Harry Guggenheim.