1971 • The French Connection

The French Connection 1971

France and US connected by drugs

After returning from a New Years weekend trip to South Dakota, Lauren and I spent what was left of our Sunday night by watching the 1971 Best Picture winner, The French Connection.

The movie involves a huge shipment of heroin from Marseilles, France to New York City.  Two detectives, Russo and Cloudy, suspect something is up at a table after a visit to a bar one night after work, and do some investigating.  Turns out they’ve stumbled onto this massive drug deal.  Highlights of the movie include the memorable car chase scene where Russo chases down a hitman on a subway using a civilian’s car.

Gene Hackman was the star of the show and played an excellent hard-nosed detective.  He went with his gut feeling throughout the entire movie, and was almost always right about everything despite little or no evidence to back up his instincts.

As always, I like to do a little background research into the movie before watching it, and learned there was a real French Connection a few years earlier.  A book about this event was written by Ernest Tidyman, and then the fictionalized screenplay was produced.

Something struck me as very odd about the real life French Connection.  The lead detectives on the case were Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.  They were the ones who broke this huge drug case wide open.  It seems to me the fame they must have encountered as a result of the ensuing book and movie got to their heads.  These guys were actors in the movie (though they didn’t play themselves) and then Grosso wound up becoming a movie producer and minor actor, being involved in 36 projects.  I get the feeling they made one big strike as detectives and got out on top and capitalized on the success of the movie loosely based on them, completely giving up detective work and concentrating on film.  Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what it seems like.

Overall The French Connection was a really good movie, good for 13 of 40 on my rankings to this point.  I thought the chase scenes were intense and the story was easy to follow (even for me!).  It helped to have the subtitles on.  It didn’t run on for too long (1 hour, 44 minutes) and rarely strayed from the main storyline.

Next up, we dive into the Godfather movies.

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