The French Connection (1971) Blind Spot Review

Happy 88th Birthday To Gene Hackman!

I didn’t even realize it was Hackman’s birthday when I decided to review this today as my first Blind Spot movie of 2018. What are the odds?! (Umm… 1 in 365, I guess???). Anyway! Happy Birthday, Mr. Hackman! Here are my thoughts on finally seeing The French Connection for the first time…

The French Connection (1971)

Directed by William Friedkin

Based on The French Connection by Robin Moore

Starring: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi, Frédéric de Pasquale, Bill Hickman, Ann Rebbot, Harold Gary, Arlene Farber, Eddie Egan, André Ernotte, Sonny Grosso

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.

My Opinion:

I’ve actually already managed to watch 4 of my 2018 Blind Spot choices and I’m not all that impressed so far. Here’s my ranking (I’ll review 1 each month):

4. Atonement
3. Gleaming The Cube
2. The French Connection
1. Citizen Kane

Well, the top two are clearly leagues ahead of numbers 3 & 4. But I didn’t like The French Connection nearly as much as I thought I would considering that I do love a good, gritty, manly 70’s film (I’m a weird girl). It was okay. The famous car chase was pretty cool. But, man – Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle was hard to like. That’s quite a popular character – I knew that name before even seeing the movie. He’s a jerk. But I realize that’s kind of the whole point. I’ll come back to that in a bit…

This movie won the Best Picture Oscar. I didn’t realize that when I watched it. I’ve added it to my ranked list of Best Picture winners I’ve seen HERE (I put it as 26th). It beat Oscar nominees: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof (another Blind Spot choice! Not seen it yet), The Last Picture Show & Nicholas and Alexandra (Oh wow – I’ve never even heard of this). Hmm. Yes, it deserved to win over those I’ve seen although I do like the controversial A Clockwork Orange.

“Crime drama” will never be a favorite genre of mine but I do appreciate when one is really good. This one is very good but I’ve seen better in the genre. I watched The Untouchables, another crime drama, for this Blind Spot thing last year. That was fantastic! I think a big part of that was the fact that I really liked the characters. Well, the Ennio Morricone score helped too. Fantastic score with well-developed, likable characters always works for me. I can’t currently remember the music in The French Connection (think it was jazz?) and I can’t say the characters are exactly likable. These reasons will be why I didn’t connect (ha!) with it quite as much but it’s certainly worth watching if you haven’t seen it. I do understand why it’s so well regarded.


Gene Hackman & Roy Scheider, who play the NYC cops in The French Connection, are both very good (Hackman won the Best Actor Oscar & Scheider was nominated for Best Supporting Actor). Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle is an iconic character & he plays it well. I know this is based on a true story & these characters are (loosely?) based real-life people. I don’t know how true to life the characters are. The thing that some people (aka: millennials. I may get in trouble for that. 😉 ) might struggle with when watching this nowadays is Popeye’s womanizing, racist ways. He’s not easy to like but, as I said, that’s kind of the point. He’s determined to solve the drug smuggling crime in this film and it seems he will do whatever it takes, no matter who gets hurt. This specific job becomes an obsession for him and I do appreciate the strong characterization. However, it does make it hard to root for the supposed “good guys” in this film.

Overall, I did enjoy this film although it won’t become a personal favorite. I do approve of its many awards & its status as a classic. As for Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, he’s an iconic character. He’s flawed but he feels real. I’d rather watch a movie with strong characters like these, even when unlikable, than watch a movie whose characters have no depth.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Exorcist (1973) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from C Taylor of Celluloid Junkie. A big thanks to her for taking part in this IMDB project! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about The Exorcist, IMDB rank 205 out of 250…

There are still a few movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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After the 12-year old daughter of a famous actress, Chris MacNeil, begins displaying signs of demonic possession, Chris turns to a Catholic priest in hopes that an exorcism will restore her daughter’s health.

Starring Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, Jason Miller as Father Karras, Max von Sydow as Father Merrin, Linda Blair as Regan, and Mercedes McCambridge as the voice of PazuzuThe Exorcist is directed by William Friedkin based on the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty.

The Exorcist is a once-in-a-generation film.  It’s the kind of film whose far reaching influence continues to touch and inspire creative endeavors all around the world.  It has been referenced in countless other films, television series, cartoons, and comedic stand-up routines.  This year, December 26th, will mark the 40th anniversary of The Exorcist‘s release.

The version of The Exorcist I screened for this review is the 2000 theatrical re-release entitled The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen.  I was lucky enough to get a copy of the film on DVD years earlier and am happy to use it now because it includes the restored “spider-walk” scene originally cut from the film by director Friedkin.  It is a scene so chilling, despite it’s short length (from start to finish, I believe it’s less than 30 seconds of screentime), it renewed the fear I felt upon watching The Exorcist for the first time decades earlier.

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Friedkin believed the spider-walk effect didn’t work technically in 1973 because the wires used to aid the contortionist (Linda R. Hager) in the scene could not be fully removed in post-production.  It’s unfortunate because of its importance to the plot.  This scene is arguably the moment when Regan’s mother, Chris (Burstyn), no longer believes her daughter (Blair) is just ill, but, instead, truly possessed by a demonic force.

The spider-walk scene is that “aha!” moment in the storyline that drives the character of Chris , who is an atheist, to seek the help of the Catholic church; specifically Father Karras (Miller).  And while it is a little bit more dramatic than the spider-walking in Blatty’s novel, it remains unnerving and powerful nonetheless. [1]

Much has been said and analyzed and theorized about the use of a young child in a story about demonic possession, particularly a young girl.  I think the crux of the arguments for and against ignore the truth; that Regan is a child or a girl has nothing to do with the demon Pazuzu’s true intent.  Pazuzu’s intent is to chip away at and eventually destroy those around Regan; her atheist mother, Father Karras’ faith, and Father Merrin’s health.  It is the sowing of the grief and despair that interests Pazuzu.

That Regan is a girl is irrelevant.  But not for the audience.

One of the key elements to The Exorcist‘s shock value is Regan.  A fresh-faced, otherwise relatively unknown Linda Blair, embodied a youthful innocence and curiosity.  She is shown as a sweet, horse-obsessed child who, in the wake of her parent’s separation, is just a little unsure of her surroundings.  Her one mistake, finding and playing with a Ouija board she finds in a downstairs closet, like Eve and the Apple, is also her downfall. Regan unwittingly opens a doorway to another realm, inviting in Captain Howdy (Pazuzu).

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As Regan is forced to endure the litany of defilements, violence, and abuse of Pazuzu’s possession, the audience is trapped as a passive observer;  powerless to help, unable to look away.  It’s a brilliant mechanism employed by screenwriter/author Blatty, who,in doing so, extends the reach of Pazuzu’s torments beyond the 4th wall, into the real world.

It is this extension of fiction into the realm of reality that aids the overall feeling of terror The Exorcist exudes.  For those particularly sensitive to religious or supernatural horror, there is possibly no greater film in the horror genre than The Exorcist.  For those of us who could take or leave religiously based horror, there is the psychological element behind Regan’s illness to consider.

That her mother had consulted 88 doctors in a relentless effort to discover what is ailing her, and that search yields nothing more than a final scene in which a doctor, in a room full of doctors, tells her to consider exorcism, is as powerful today as it was in the 1970s.  Potentially more so, as we begin to see cultural shifts in the way we view the dealings of the Catholic church in general.

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It’s this opening of loopholes, of possibilities, of causality, that makes the premise behind The Exorcist so horrifying for any viewer, not just those with religious inclinations.  For me, there is a serious body horror element to The Exorcist that will plague my thoughts as long as I live.

Most things are done right in the film adaptation of The Exorcist, despite the lengths to which the audience is required to go in order to see it through.  The pacing is deliberately slow allowing for a more complete development of the central characters (namely Chris and daughter Regan, and Father Karras).  In fact, this development is implicitly necessary in order for the events of the film to have any meaning and impact.  After all, it’s the connection between mother and daughter that ultimately creates the driving fear behind the girl’s losing battle with Pazuzu.

Although it goes without saying, I’ll say it.  The Exorcist is a horror film classic, suitable for fans of religious and secular horror alike.

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REFERENCES:

[1] ”The Exorcist (film)” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Feb. 2013. Web.  22 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exorcist_(film)>

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-C Taylor (celluloidjunkie.me / @ctaylor on twitter)

about.me/c.taylor