The French Connection (Blu-ray) Official AVSforum Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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attachment.php?attachmentid=132019&d=1233452848
The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

82






Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1971
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 104 minutes
Genre: Crime drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital Mono/Surround, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey, Tony LoBianco, Marcel Bozzuffi,
Directed by: William Friedkin
Music by: Don Ellis
Written by: Ernest Tidyman based upon the book by Robin Moore
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 24, 2009







"Did you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?"



Film Synopsis:

New York City detectives “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) hope to break a narcotics smuggling ring and ultimately uncover The French Connection. But when one of the criminals tries to kill Doyle, he begins a deadly pursuit that takes him far outside the city limits. Based on a true story, this action-filled thriller won five Academy Awards in 1971, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Friedkin) and Best Actor for Hackman.



My Take:

I love crime thrillers. The French Connection is considered by many to be THE crime thriller that opened the door and changed the face of not only crime story’s but film in general. It is based on actual events and real people. The real case was handled in the early 1960’s by Detective’s Eddie “Popeye” Eagan and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo of NYPD (who both had bit parts in the film). What I like about The French Connection is how it details some of the grittier less glamorous side of police work. Rather than being very neat and clean (“just the facts”) it portrays the fine line that sometimes must be walked in order to put cops closer to criminals in order to solve a case. This is sometimes necessary, especially in narcotics work, and requires working on hunches, informant based intelligence, and circumstances that don’t always bear fruit. Today we use more sophisticated methods to help in community narcotics and large scale drug enforcement but there is no substitute for good instincts. The days of “this is the police, come out with your hands up” have been replaced by tactical entry teams and special weapons that are designed to disengage perpetrators.

I love how Popeye and Cloudy just dig in and use good old surveillance work, experience, and gut feelings to build their case. There are aspects of the movie that can’t help but feel dated and the Hollywood spin is plainly obvious but this is still a really fun and engaging film. This movie admittedly launched Gene Hackman’s career. He absolutely owned Doyle and portrayed the often ruthless obsession with which he went about his job to perfection. The now infamous car chase was used as a metaphor born out of a desire from Director William Friedkin to show Doyle’s obsessive, never say die persona. I just loved the film’s ending and thought that it fit so well with the story’s depiction of Popeye’s tough, hard nosed style. Gene Hackman’s performance left audiences riveted and won him an Academy Award for Best Actor. The film garnered 8 nominations and won for Best Picture, Best Director for William Friedkin, Best Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The French Connection was a ground breaking film based on a ground breaking narcotics case. They both left an indelible mark that changed our perspective on film and drug enforcement in this country. ‘Nuff said…




Parental Guide:

The rating is for mature thematic material, language, brief nudity and violence.






AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 80



  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692



Video: 84


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

The French Connection comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 36 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.3 mbps.

Those who are expecting this film to look appreciably different than what they have seen of it previously will be disappointed. By that I mean that this film has high levels of grain, deep sometimes crushing blacks, and a distinct use of darker, sepia toned colors that don’t pop off of the screen. This visual style is intentional and has permeated every form of it ever released on home video. This is not a bad thing and those who are familiar with it will appreciate that. What they will also appreciate is that it has never looked better than this. The film’s opening features a wide angle shot of Marseilles France with the sky in the background. The sky has some pretty ugly digital noise that hangs in just above the buildings in the background but it goes away and I never saw it like that again. The shots of France are well resolved with crisp detail and measurable refinement. Colors are cleanly rendered and appear natural throughout the presentation. Detail in the uneven light in the shadowy alleyway is discernible and image depth is notable. Once things shift to Brooklyn the video takes on a starker contrast with deep blacks that are noticeably less gradational and appear slightly crushed. Darker scenes tend to highlight grain and can sometimes make backgrounds look noisy. Chapter 24 during the stakeout of the Lincoln is a good example. The buildings and dark sky in the background during the wide angle shot that pans down the street from Popeye and Cloudy’s vehicle toward the Lincoln, exhibit an uneven grainy texture that makes it appear noisy. Brighter sequences offer improved depth, and clearer definition that seems to wring out as much of the resolution as was originally captured by the camera’s lens. Fleshtones are warm which gives complexions a rosy hue that would be consistent with the cold weather conditions depicted in the film. William Friedkin has color timed the film specifically for this release on Blu-ray. I am no expert on interpreting the difference but from what I can see the results look great. The French Connection is never going to offer razor sharp resolution or high levels of detail because it was simply not shot that way. In my opinion this Blu-ray Disc allows viewers the opportunity to see this classic film looking as good (if not slightly better) as it did upon its theatrical release.

The soundtrack comes in several flavors including Dolby Mono and lossy Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1. I went with the high resolution DTS-HD Master Audio option. I believe this mix originated on the THX Certified 2001 DVD release and it is a good one. The presentation utilizes the whole system at various points to generate an open sounding two dimensional soundfield. The highlight for me is Don Ellis’ eclectic music score which simply sounds marvelous. The timbre and pitch of the trumpets which are underscored by the rhythmic pulse of the timpani weaves crystal clear and wide swath across the front soundstage. Treble and mid range articulation is high but never grating as instrumentation sounds smooth and noticeably textured. The score is mixed through all channels with the surrounds offset at a lower volume which enhances depth without overuse. Dynamics were punchy without sounding artificial. Gunshots resonated with brisk authority and fair room penetration. The sounds of the subway train and car chase had ample weight and descriptive clarity. I had no trouble detecting subtle sonic detail within the mix which I attribute to the higher quality of lossless audio. Panning sequences are well integrated which created a seamless blend between the front and rear channels. Dialogue was rendered clearly and stands out slightly above the other sounds within the front soundstage. The recording’s age showed but I never felt that it sounded thin or compressed. This entire presentation seemed to reflect the care that went into bringing The French Connection to Blu-ray and the results were rewarding.



Bonus Features:


  • Disc 1:

  • (HD) William Friedkin introduction to the French Connection

  • Commentary by William Friedkin

  • Commentary by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider

  • Trivia track

  • Isolated score track

  • D-Box Motion Code enhanced

  • (HD) 7 deleted scenes with optional Director commentary

  • (HD) Anatomy of a chase - 20 minute featurette

  • (HD) Hackman on Doyle - 10 Minute featurette

  • (HD) Friedkin and Grosso remember the real French Connection - 19 minute featurette

  • (HD) Scene of the crime - 5 minute featurette

  • (HD) Color timing The French Connection - 13 minute featurette

  • (HD) CopJazz: The music of Don Ellis - 10 minute documentary

  • (HD) Rogue cop: The noir connection - 14 minute documentary

  • BBC Documentary: The Poughkeepsie Shuffle - 53 minute documentary

  • Making the connection: The untold stories of The French Connection - 56 minute documentary from Fox Movie Channel




Final Thoughts:

I had a blast re-visiting this classic film that holds a special place in American Cinema. There are aspects of it that feel dated but its subject matter is still pertinent today. I never grow tired of witnessing its brilliant direction and the outstanding performance by Gene Hackman. I was excited when its release on Blu-ray was announced and the wait was well worth it. It has never looked better and the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack enhances the experience by adding a higher level of fidelity to an already decent sound mix. The plethora of bonus features is high on content and quality and gives fans as much information/background on this great film as there has ever been. I can’t recommend it enough.








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post #2 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 08:18 AM
 
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The director made some color timing changes for this release of the film but he is very happy with the way it was transferred to Blu Ray so you can't ask for much more than that. The film looks as the director wants. There are various interviews and articles on the web about this.

Purists who love the original cinema look may be unhappy with it in much the same way as some were unhappy when Halloween had it's color timing changed.

One day when the price drops i'll pick it up. I just wish Fox priced catalogue releases better as the world economy is supposed to be in meltdown so it would be nice to have cheaper releases.
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post #3 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 09:15 AM
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Can't wait to get my copy this week. It is certainly worth the $12 I paid for it
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post #4 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 09:25 AM
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I've never seen this film, for the exception of clips, and some fast moving scenes such as the car chase in my entire 40 years on this planet.
Now this is what I've been waiting for!

Thanks for the fantastic review Ralph.

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post #5 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 09:45 AM
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It's nice to see another person who could view Friedkin's changes and not overreact (some posters in other forums are now calling him "Freakman" because of the new color timing).

After watching Friedkin talk in the extras, I could tell that he is a filmmaker who knows what he wants. He seems to be well aware that his opinions of how his movies should look today may be widely rejected. Rather than being an arbitrary ploy, his motive for the new look seems to be genuine and based on much thought.
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post #6 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 10:13 AM
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One of my favorites, both the film and Hackman's character.
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post #7 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 12:39 PM
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Can't wait to get this. A great movie!

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post #8 of 28 Old 02-24-2009, 01:58 PM
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What does it mean to change the color timing?

I'm looking forward to seeing this title, as this will be my first time. Looks like a great film and I'll comment back once I've seen it.

Dan
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post #9 of 28 Old 02-25-2009, 08:40 AM
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Ralph,

Was your copy of The French Connection as large as the one behind William Friedkin in this interview?
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post #10 of 28 Old 02-26-2009, 01:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoxyMulder View Post

The director made some color timing changes for this release of the film but he is very happy with the way it was transferred to Blu Ray so you can't ask for much more than that. The film looks as the director wants. There are various interviews and articles on the web about this.

Purists who love the original cinema look may be unhappy with it in much the same way as some were unhappy when Halloween had it's color timing changed.

'Purists' include the film's cinematographer, Owen Roizman ASC. He's called the transfer 'atrocious' and 'horrifying' and has washed his hands off it.

Link

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post #11 of 28 Old 02-26-2009, 07:22 AM
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Great review as always, but one comment. I wouldn't say the TFC "launched" Hackman's career. That honor lies with "Bonnie and Clyde," which finally got him well-deserved noticed. TFC solidified his reputation and pushed him into the stratosphere of great actors.

John K.
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post #12 of 28 Old 02-26-2009, 09:14 AM
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Last night renowned French Connection cinematographer Owen Roizman trashed William Friedkin's bleachy, grain-heavy Blu-ray transfer of his 1971 Oscar-winning film, which many DVD and Blu-ray aficionados have already savagely dismissed. Roizman called the transfer "atrocious," "emasculated" and "horrifying." He said that he "wasn't consulted" by Freidkin and he "certainly wants to wash my hands of having had anything to do with [it]."

Ouch. And he goes on. This is disturbing. If the cinematographer trashes it this openly and thoroughly it's a pass for me unless it appears in a bin for $10 of course.
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post #13 of 28 Old 02-26-2009, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thegage View Post

Great review as always, but one comment. I wouldn't say the TFC "launched" Hackman's career. That honor lies with "Bonnie and Clyde," which finally got him well-deserved noticed. TFC solidified his reputation and pushed him into the stratosphere of great actors.

John K.

Greetings,

Thanks John. Actually the term "launched" was used by Hackman himself to describe the impact this film made on his career. I agree with you about Bonnie and Clyde..

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post #14 of 28 Old 03-01-2009, 06:57 AM
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We watched this one last night.
While the picture quality is the best I've seen since I saw it in a theater when first released, I was disappointed with this Blu Ray.
While I'm ok with grain in a movie, and understand that it adds to this particular film, it's WAY too much too often throughout the film.
Many scenes looked just right, but too many looked awful.
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post #15 of 28 Old 03-05-2009, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grubert View Post

'Purists' include the film's cinematographer, Owen Roizman ASC. He's called the transfer 'atrocious' and 'horrifying' and has washed his hands off it.

Link

Listen

To provide some more information, I wrote the following about Friedkin's response in another thread.



Friedkin's response to Roizman can be heard here. He basically says that Roizman did not supervise any of the prints upon the film's release, so it was only fitting that he wasn't invited to supervise the process for the Blu-ray release. He makes the same argument about The Exorcist, in which case Roizman did not supervise either the original prints or the transition to DVD.

Overall, Friedkin dances around the actual color timing issue by mentioning how the contemporary transfer process prevents scratches and dirt noticeable on many of the film's prints. He even throws in a couple of jabs at Roizman by mentioning some under- and over-exposure issues with his filming that had to be corrected.

As for some of his other films, Friedkin believes that the To Live and Die in L.A. and Sorcerer revisions are on hold because of the poor economy.
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post #16 of 28 Old 03-07-2009, 08:07 AM
 
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Loved this movie..Hackman is awesome...[IMG]http://z09a0222gshv273.imageshacknow.info/img/3044************************[/IMG]

I highly recommend this one.
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post #17 of 28 Old 03-07-2009, 02:52 PM
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Gene Hackman was the 1st choice for the starring role in Vanishing Point. The studio head rejected him and he went on to make this film instead. Good career move for Hackman.

Ironically, The French Connection was matched with Vanishing Point for general release as a double feature (remember those), which ultimately gave Vanishing Point it's American audience.
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post #18 of 28 Old 03-09-2009, 10:22 AM
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I must be one of the few that was not impressed with the movie. It was very drawn out, and some scenes were just too long. Some of the stake-outs for example.

A few scenes that I really liked were the cat and mouse scene on the train with Hackman and the "French Guy in charge". Also the car chase with Hackman trying to keep up with the elevated train. Very good scenes.

Most of the rest of movie was very bland and didn't have a lot of depth. The movie just didn't jive with me for some reason.

PQ- 3 out of 5, Sound Quality 3 out of 5, Film 3 out of 5

Dan
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post #19 of 28 Old 03-09-2009, 03:36 PM
 
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The car chasing the elevated train alone is worth the price of admission.
And all done without the permission or consent of the jurisdictional authority!
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post #20 of 28 Old 03-11-2009, 09:17 AM
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I was EXTREMELY dissapointed by this blu-ray. First the colors as others have pointed out were not natural. Second talk about grain and DN! The film is almost unwatchable in some places because of the grain (looks like mosquitoes flying around) and the artifacts. I actually preferred the DVD version in terms of quality. The movie itself is good and the audio not bad considering the age. I would not even rent this, get the DVD instead
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post #21 of 28 Old 03-12-2009, 06:15 AM
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The colour alterations have almost passed unmentioned in this review. The minute comments that were made would leave an unknowing reader in the dark on the matter....
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post #22 of 28 Old 03-12-2009, 06:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iDarren View Post

The colour alterations have almost passed unmentioned in this review. The minute comments that were made would leave an unknowing reader in the dark on the matter....

Greetings,

Thanks Darren. I suspect that they would be of little consequence to an unknowing reader. I didn't feel that the changes made to the color timing needed to be touched upon in more detail because I didn't feel that they affected fidelity one way or the other. Those who are truly affected by it are readily aware of it and have made their own determinations regarding its impact.


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post #23 of 28 Old 07-19-2009, 09:41 PM
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Friedkin's color changes change the way the movie was viewed upon release and what won it on Oscar. Other than cleaning up and improving image, I HATE when directors change the theatrical release--unless they leave the original as an option on the dvd. Lucas changing Star Wars, Spielberg deleting the guns from E.T. (coddling kids..from the director of Munich and Schindler's List--kids LIKE being scared by potential violence)..you know, they could replace the sets on the Wizard of Oz with CGI...techinically it would be better, but c'mon!
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post #24 of 28 Old 07-20-2009, 07:55 PM
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I HATE when directors change the theatrical release--unless they leave the original as an option on the dvd. Spielberg deleting the guns from E.T. (coddling kids..from the director of Munich and Schindler's List--kids LIKE being scared by potential violence)

Strange that you would highlight this since Spielberg made it a point to ensure the theatrical version was available on DVD alongside the revamped version...
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post #25 of 28 Old 08-11-2009, 09:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Potts View Post

Greetings,

Thanks Darren. I suspect that they would be of little consequence to an unknowing reader. I didn't feel that the changes made to the color timing needed to be touched upon in more detail because I didn't feel that they affected fidelity one way or the other. Those who are truly affected by it are readily aware of it and have made their own determinations regarding its impact.


Regards,

True ,but one of the most egregious digital color manipulations deserved mention.

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post #26 of 28 Old 08-11-2009, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Art Sonneborn View Post

True ,but one of the most egregious digital color manipulations deserved mention.

Art

Greetings,

Agreed..


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post #27 of 28 Old 08-11-2009, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by thegage View Post

Great review as always, but one comment. I wouldn't say the TFC "launched" Hackman's career. That honor lies with "Bonnie and Clyde," which finally got him well-deserved noticed. TFC solidified his reputation and pushed him into the stratosphere of great actors.

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Originally Posted by Ralph Potts View Post

Thanks John. Actually the term "launched" was used by Hackman himself to describe the impact this film made on his career. I agree with you about Bonnie and Clyde..

I think I know what Hackman meant when he said that The French Connection "launched" his career. I am inclined to agree. Although Hackman gave a fine performance and was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal in Bonnie and Clyde of Clyde Barrow's brother, Buck, he was very much a second banana; Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, in the title roles, were very much the stars. In stark contrast, Hackman WON the Best Actor Oscar for his iconic performance as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, of which he was undisputedly the star and which left an indelible impression in moviegoers minds. "Do you pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?" Indeed!

I, too, am a little concerned about the color transfer issue in this disc but will probably want to see it, anyway. There are several scenes in the movie that I remember vividly, particularly Popeye and his partner standing outside a restaurant in dark, freezing cold watching the French drug lord sitting inside eating a sumptuous dinner, and the attempt to follow the same guy ending in the subway. Great stuff!
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post #28 of 28 Old 08-12-2009, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post

I, too, am a little concerned about the color transfer issue in this disc but will probably want to see it, anyway. There are several scenes in the movie that I remember vividly, particularly Popeye and his partner standing outside a restaurant in dark, freezing cold watching the French drug lord sitting inside eating a sumptuous dinner!

While eating pizza.This is a great film and despite ther color trevesty the transfer has some redeeming qualities. As bad as it is, it is still not as bad as the The Longest Day DNR to death incident for example... IMO.

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