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The French Connection

The French Connection – 1971
A $32,000,000 chase turns into the American thriller of the year!
William Friedkin

Robin Moore (novel)
Ernest Tidyman (screenplay)
Howard Hawks uncredited
Edward M. Keyes novel (uncredited)

Philip D’Antoni producer
G. David Schine executive producer
Kenneth Utt associate producer

Gene Hackman – Det. Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle
Fernando Rey – Alain Charnier
Roy Scheider – Det. Buddy ‘Cloudy’ Russo
Tony Lo Bianco – Salvatore ‘Sal’ Boca
Marcel Bozzuffi – Pierre Nicoli, Hit Man
Frédéric de Pasquale – Henri Devereaux
Bill Hickman – Bill Mulderig
Ann Rebbot – Mrs. Marie Charnier
Harold Gary – Joel Weinstock
Arlene Farber – Angie Boca
Eddie Egan – Walt Simonson
André Ernotte – La Valle
Sonny Grosso – Bill Klein
Ben Marino – Lou Boca (as Benny Marino)
Patrick McDermott – Howard, Chemist (as Pat McDermott)
Alan Weeks – Willie Craven, drug pusher
Al Fann – Informant
Irving Abrahams – Irving, Police Garage Mechanic
Randy Jurgensen – Police Sergeant
William Coke – Motorman Coke
Sheila Ferguson – The Three Degrees (as The Three Degrees)
Valerie Holiday – The Three Degrees (as The Three Degrees)
Fayette Pinkney – The Three Degrees (as The Three Degrees)

Review by Jack Gattanella

The French Connection (1971)

what Friedkin set out to do, he accomplished tremendously; Hackman’s at a peak,
Although not the very best film of 1971, The French Connection packs enough of a wallop to continue significance as a serious, but un-shamefully entertaining, thriller. William Friedkin, the director, has said about the film that he wanted to “infuse the documentary style.” And in this rare time in Hollywood when the flood-gates opened, no one stopped him. This works for fascination on the technical side at the start, that all the edits in certain sequences (chases and such, not the notorious one), and particularly how they’re filmed by the two significant cameramen, Owen Roizman and Enrique Bravo (the later the lighting cameramen. There were other films, mostly in Europe, that were making movies like this, but there is also this implicit urgency that Friedkin is conveying here as well; it’s gritty, sometimes in the action there’s so many chances of spontaneity that it can practically do no harm.

But without going into detail about the specifics of the good in the style, one only has to look at the strengths in the story. For its time it broke ground in dealing frankly with the street/drug scene and its networking, even as by now there are thousands of TV programs and movies that show similar stuff every week. Yet there is a purity in it all too, where the story is so focused upon there isn’t too much time for deep character delving and such. This doesn’t make a problem for the actors though, as the actors fit the type like pegs. Gene Hackman, in his first Oscar winning turn, is Popeye Doyle, a cop with recklessness and total professionalism as one of the two key cop roles (the other, of course, Dirty Harry). It may not be Hackman’s best, or some might say it is (whatever ‘best’ means), but it is one that compliments the film, essentially down the line and not un-willing to take prisoners. Roy Scheider is also well cast as Hackman’s partner, with enough to do during Hackman’s ‘big’ scenes. The surprise success in casting is Fernando Rey of Bunuel’s films, who is one of the convincing old-European elegant big-time drug dealing business man in all of the films that followed it. It’s almost as if the same character from those Bunuel films wasn’t in a surreal-mode.

This is just one of those ‘cat & mouse’ movies that clicks. For some the parts may even be greater than the whole (and they’re practically on all highlights reels of clips from 70’s films nowadays), and for others it may even prove more satisfying than it was for me.

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