Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The French Connection (1971)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The French Connection (1971)

In William Friedkin's Best Picture-winning, fast-moving crime/action thriller, about the efforts of law enforcement to prevent the smuggling of $32 million worth of heroin into the city:

  • the exciting good cop/bad cop opening scene in Brooklyn with two NYPD cops pursuing their mark - a drug Pusher named Willy (Alan Weeks): racist Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle (Gene Hackman) dressed as a Santa Claus and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo (Roy Scheider) as a hot dog vendor - and the vicious interrogation by Doyle: ("Hey, s--thead. When's the last time you picked your feet? Huh?...I got a man in Poughkeepsie wants to talk to you. Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie? Huh? Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie?...Come on, say it. Let me hear you say it, come on. Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie? You've been in Poughkeepsie, haven't ya? I want to hear it! Come on! ...You've been there, right?...You sat on the edge of the bed, didn't ya? You took off your shoes, put your finger between your toes and picked your feet. Didn't ya? Now say it!...All right, you put a shiv in my partner. You know what that means, god damn it? All winter long, l gotta listen to him gripe about his bowling scores. Now, I'm gonna bust your ass for those three bags and I'm gonna nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie")
  • the shocking for-its-time statement made by Doyle to his injured partner: (Doyle: "You dumb guinea!" Russo: "How the hell did I know he had a knife?" Doyle: "Never trust a nigger")
  • the scene of Doyle's hassling and shaking-down a group of lined-up clients in a sleazy black junk-house bar: ("All right, Popeye's here! Get your hands on your heads. Get off the bar and get on the wall. Come on, Move, move!"); after locating drugs stashed under the bar counter by running his hand along the bottom-side of the bar, he quizzically asks: "What is this? A f--kin' hospital here? Huh?"; he then threatened: ("We told you people we were comin' back. We're gonna keep comin' back here until you clean this bar up")
  • the police work that led to the stalking of a small business by a couple named Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and his wife Angie (Arlene Farber), who couldn't possibly support their lavish lifestyle (their business was only a "front") - and who were ultimately connected to an illicit French drug importer
  • the character of suave French drug kingpin Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), aka Frog One, who played an elusive game of cat-and-mouse on a subway platform with Doyle - and ultimately escaped and waved from a departing subway car at his pursuer Doyle who was left on the platform
  • the film's high-point and centerpiece -- the dazzlingly-edited scene of the frantic car pursuit of French smuggler and hired killer Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzufi), Charnier's partner, by Doyle (in a civilian's 'borrowed' Pontiac Le Mans below the L-tracks in Brooklyn of the BMT West End line), who was trying to keep pace with the hijacked, elevated subway train above him, as he drove 90mph and barely missed pedestrians and other vehicles; he half-collided with another car, dodged a mother and her baby carriage, and side-swiped a delivery van, all the while furiously honking the car's horn and frantically switching from his brake to accelerator
  • Doyle's killing of the hijacker Nicoli when he was gunned down at the top of the subway train station's stairs - an image that was the iconic promotional still used on posters advertising the film
  • the sequence of the search of a specially-designed Lincoln Continental Mark III car of French TV celebrity/star Henri Devereaux (Frederic de Pasquale), where ultimately the stash of heroin (white powder in bags) was located in the rocker panels
  • in the downbeat ending, the final unsuccessful pursuit of Charnier in an underground warehouse on Wards Island, when Doyle mistakenly shot federal narcotics agent Mulderig (Bill Hickman); the film's last line reflected the perturbed and frustrated cop's relentless obsession in his search for the elusive Charnier (who evidently slipped away and was never caught): "The son of a bitch is here. I saw him. I'm gonna get him"

'Popeye' Disguised as Santa Claus with Partner Russo With Pusher

Stalking Suspected Drug Smugglers

Shakedown in Black Bar

Cat-and-Mouse Game with Charnier

After Subway Chase, the Gunning Down of Nicoli

Searching the Undercarriage of Devereaux' Car for Heroin


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