The French Connection, Blu-ray (1971)

by | Mar 4, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The French Connection, Blu-ray (1971)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
Director: William Friedkin
Studio: Fox [Release date: Feb. 24, 09]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color, 1080p HD
Audio: English, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DD Surround, Spanish & French DD 5.1, English PCM mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese
Music: Don Ellis Orchestra
Extras: Friedkin’s Introduction, Commentary track by Friedkin, Commentary track by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, Trivia track, Isolated score track, D-Box, Deleted scenes, “Anatomy of a Chase,” Hackman on Doyle, Friedkin & Grosso Remember the Real French Connection, Scene of the Crime, Color timing, Cop Jazz: The Music of Don Ellis, Rogue Cop: The Noir Connection, BBC documentary: “The Poughkeepsie Shuffle,”  “Making the Connection: The United States of The French Connection.”
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: *****

Based on a true story, this action-thriller won five Academy Awards in 1971 and provided Gene Hackman one of his best-known roles.  As “Popeye” Doyle and his buddy Buddy (Scheider) the two NYC detectives seek to break into a narcotics-smuggling ring and to ultimately catch the dapper Frenchman (Rey) who is behind it.  Doyle is known for stopping at nothing in his efforts to get the baddies, which has already resulted in his accidental shooting of a fellow policeman. The film is really more about the cynical, lawbreaking activities of the NYPD Narcotics Division than it is about the heroin shippers and dealers.  The group operated with almost no supervision, and in the end 300 lbs. of the heroin confiscated in the final raid in 1968 was stolen by several of the other detectives and end up on the street anyway.

Hackman’s Popeye is a pretty disgusting person, but an amazing cop.  He grabs on like a bulldog and never lets go. The Brooklyn elevated car chase is truly unique in showing his dogged determinism, and according to Friedkin they just went ahead and shot it without getting any permits at all.  The mayhem, injury and death Doyle causes in his unstoppable pursuit is shown, clearly laying out the ends-justify-the-means approach.   The film should not be seen as supporting the war on drugs because it seems to justify the tactics of Doyle and Buddy.  It is an indictment of their uncontrolled means.  The film was such a success that it spawned not only an equally-good sequel five years later, but also another spin-off with Scheider in the leading role.

In his short introduction to the film (he also promises to return to speak at the end but never does) William Friedkin says that for the very first time in this Blu-ray version is the public able to see The French Connection exactly as he had envisioned it originally.  That means a lot of rather grainy and underexposed footage, but it all fits perfectly into the gritty story line. The surrounds tracks are about what you would expect from a film not originally shot with surround sound.  The original score by the Don Ellis Orchestra is a fine fit for the story line, with its edgy, rhythmically strong but often atonal searing strings.  The bonus features will keep fans very busy for some time.

– John Sunier

Related Reviews