Category Archives: John Frankenheimer

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

Reading John Frankenheimer’s Seconds

Early in this excellent monograph on John Frankenheimer’s criminally underseen 1966 film, Seconds, by Jez Conolly and Emma Westwood, the authors ask the reader at what point they first viewed the movie and what they made of it. For me it was a random VHS store pickup on a slow Saturday night sometime in the late 1990s. I can remember being as confused as I was impressed by the sheer bizarreness of Seconds. I was particularly perplexed by the presence of Rock Hudson. What was this major American actor, best known for the series of romantic comedies he did with Doris Day, doing in a downbeat, existentially bleak fusion of science fiction, thriller and noir?Watching the film more recently, with the benefit of considerably more knowledge of film history and Hudson’s career, I was blown away by the brilliance of Seconds.  

Conolly and Westwood begin with the proposition that the film very much deserves a second life, a notion that is also central to its plot. Seconds concerns a bored, ennui riven middle class wage slave, who through an almost Faustian pact with a mysterious entity known only as the Company, is given a new body and face, and second chance at life. Escaping from everyday domestic responsibilities, particularly the possibilities for self-discovery and erotic adventure that this promised, would become a key topic of American film and literature from the mid-part of the 1960s onwards.… 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

The marathon man: 6 great roles of Roy Scheider

Scheider 1I’ve been a long time fan of American actor Roy Scheider. But it was only after a recent viewing of his performance in the Alan J Pakula’s 1971 film, Klute, I realised despite having seen and liked him in a number of films I knew very little about his overall career.

I recently reviewed Klute on this site here, so I won’t go into further detail about the film except to say that Scheider is great as Bree Daniel’s former pimp, Frank Ligourin. His is not a large role, just one or two short scenes, but his presence elevates the entire movie and gives it an additional layer of malevolence. That’s Scheider in every movie I’ve seen him in. He elevates and heightens what’s already present.

Scheider could act and had a great presence, his ropey, perpetually suntanned body and his slightly askew, angular face with the broken nose, a legacy of his time boxing in New Jersey’s Diamond Golden Gloves Competition.The first time I can remember seeing him was when my parents took me to see Steve Speilberg’s Jaws upon its release in 1975. That was probably his best-known role but it was just one among many. He got his start in television and gradually moved into the big screen.… Read more