Category Archives: Gene Hackman

Ten crime films about drug trafficking to see after The French Connection

In the process of researching and writing my latest piece for the CrimeReads site, on the real-life drug trafficking network that inspired William Friedkin’s ground-breaking 1971 crime film, The French Connection, I compiled a list of other movies directly or indirectly related to the film’s themes, the actual events that informed it, or that were influenced in some way by Friedkin’s classic. I didn’t have the space to include these details in my CrimeReads piece, but the list is below.

Panic in Needle Park (1971)

Around the same time that Popeye Doyle and Buddy Russo were pursuing Frog One through the winter streets of New York, The Panic in Needle Park was giving cinema goers a very different picture of the city’s heroin trade. Based on a 1966 novel and adapted for the screen by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunn, Jerry Schatzberg’s film is an incredibly downbeat look at the trouble romance between two denizens of New York’s heroin scene, young addict, Helen, the very underrated Kitty Winn, and small-time dealer Bobby, played by Al Pacino. It has been a while since I’ve seen The Panic In Needle Park but from memory it depicts the full spectrum of drug scene related experiences, including police harassment, prostitution, and the chemical highs and lows of addiction.… Read more

The real French Connection

My latest piece for the US site CrimeReads is a look at the real-life crimes that inspired William Friedkin’s 1971 classic, The French Connection. It is a tangled tale of Corsican gangsters, international heroin smuggling, the CIA and the war in Indochina – with a dash of my own experience in Laos. You can read the piece in full here.Read more

Parker on the screen #2: The Split (1968)

Several years ago on this site I referred to the 1968 film The Split as a Blaxsploitation style riff on Donald Westlake’s character, Parker. I have seen other reviewers make the same mistake, I suspect mainly on the basis that it was an action film starring a black man, ex-pro-footballer turned actor, Jim Brown, in the role of McClain (as the character of Parker is called). Not only did The Split appear several years before that cycle of films kicked off (1971 with the release of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft), but it displays none of the extravagant sexual and violent action stylings of that canon.

The second film in my series of Parker on the screen, The Split is a workmanlike neo noir based on Donald Westlake’s Parker novel, The Seventh. It is no Point Blank. I don’t even think it is as good as the 1967 French film, Mise a Sac, based on Westlake’s The Score, my first entry in the Parker on the screen series. But neither is it as bad as lot of people think.

The heist in The Seventh – stealing the ticket takings from a stadium football game – is over in the first dozen or pages of the book.… Read more

Rewatching French Connection II

Can we talk for a moment about just how good John Frankenheimer’s 1975 movie French Connection IIis?

It did okay but not spectacular business on release but I feel like it has never received much love from critics and crime film fans alike, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is a sequel and with few exceptions, like oft citedThe Godfather II (1974), we are always pretty meh about sequels, and rightly so.

Second, is the shadow of the 1971 original, The French Connection, which won a tonne of Oscars, including best picture, best actor for Gene Hackman as Detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, and best director for the then wunderkind, William Friedkin, and is one of the most famous, if not the most famous American crime film of the 1970s.

Third, is the director, John Frankenheimer, who started his career strong with The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and The Train (1964 ), but with a few exceptions – 52 Pick-Up (1986), the nasty little film he did for Canon, and The Island of Dr Moreau (1996), which I know a lot of people hate on but I love – didn’t seem to do a whole lot else of particular note. It is a filmography I have always found hard to engage with and I probably need to make more effort.… Read more

Post coital fondue with Harry & Ellen

On his site, Hard Boiled Wonderland, Jedidiah Ayres is currently doing a series of posts In February on the theme of ‘Felonious Valentines’ – romance in crime cinema. I stopped by with a few words on one of my favourite scenes in 1970s American cinema and (to my knowledge), the only one featuring post coital fondue. The scene, featuring Gene Hackman and Susan Clark, is in, Arthur Penn’s existentially bleak 1975 neo noir, Night Moves. You can my post in full here.

Pass me a fondue fork.… Read more