The Screening Room
french connection
In terms of gritty 1970s cinema, "The French Connection" is perhaps one of the best known. Gene Hackman is excellent as "Popeye" Doyle, a tough New York City Cop who's on a mission to take down a drug syndicate. In the 1975 sequel, Hackman travels to France to try and take it down again.

“The French Connection” and "The French Connection II" are now available on Blu-ray.


Director William Friedkin created a bleak vision of New York in the '70s that resonated with me when I was old enough to watch "The French Connection." This was a dark city in which even the cops were questionably moral.

Friedkin was one of the early 1970s directors who pushed the bar on violence and strong language in movies. The film, seen today, is fairly tame. The long zoom shots, the grainy film footage, the hand-held camerawork, and the coarse language don't quite hold well. Perhaps so many movies since this was made have borrowed from its gritty style. So it doesn't feel as fresh as it once did.

The film, though, is very well made and acted. Hackman just can't do wrong in the role of "Popeye" Doyle. He's always been such a credible actor. The car chasing the subway scene is still gripping and worth watching again.

The Blu-ray picture quality on "The French Connection" is at first very good. But upon getting into the film, the grainy texture began to wear on me. It wasn't the original film grain, at least from what I could see. It seems as though the film was digitally remastered to empasize the grain structure and to my eyes, it's distracting. Much of the movie takes place in dark locations, so the grain is augmented.

The DTS-MA sound mix is very well done, though I prefer the more natural and original mono soundtrack. The new mix is clear as a bell with nicely remixed music. The sound effects, which for years sounded terribly distorted, are loud and clear. I'm not sure if they were re-recorded, but I can say that the sniper gunshot in the projects scene startled me. The mix is tastefully done.


In the 1970s, it was unusual for a major studio like 20th Century Fox to bankroll a sequel to an Oscar winning film. Paramount did it with "The Godfather." I'm imagining that Fox saw how successful Paramount was, so "The French Connection II" was greenlit. And no "French Connection" was this follow-up.

Gene Hackman resprises his role as "Popeye" Doyle. This time he's in France to track down the drug syndicate he chased in the original film. He's still excellent in the role, cursing and beating up the bad guys with glee. John Frankenheimer's direction is steady as usual and he keeps the pace of the movie brisk. Unfortunately the storyline isn't quite as strong as the original's.

The Blu-ray is very good with a solid and natural looking picture. It looks like the film stock of the 1970s, as well it should. The picture quality isn't pumped up like it is on the original film, which is a relief.

The sound is mono, but it's been clearly rendered on the Blu-ray. It may not be exciting as the remix on the original film, but it's natural and sounds fine.

Fox has done an excellent job in bringing back these two films into the Blu-ray age. It would've been nice if "The French Connection" wasn't so pumped up, though.   

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse

cover icover ii


Two gritty '70s films now on Blu-ray

Director: William Friedkin
John Frankenheimer  

Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider 

Numerous commentary tracks, deleted scenes, recent interviews


Picture: Very Good (with reservations)
Sound: Excellent (original film)
Very Good (sequel)

Check out those threads and those cars

Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)

DTS-MA 5.1
Dolby Digital mono 

February 17, 2009
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