THE FRENCH CONNECTION: Released in the same year as Clint Eastwood's DIRTY HARRY (1971), William Friedkin's THE FRENCH CONNECTION marked the beginning of a new era of gritty, urban police dramas. Here, the theme of tough-cop amorality serves a conservative demand for a police-state crackdown on the domestic chaos and subversive youth culture of the Vietnam War period.
The film is based on the true story of two New York City police detectives and their investigation into a French heroin smuggling operation. THE FRENCH CONNECTION is perhaps best known for its infamous, masterfully filmed chase scene (influenced by Peter Yates' BULLITT) in which the lead policeman, Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman), recklessly drives a stolen car through oncoming traffic in pursuit of a sniper escaping by elevated train. The thrill of this crime drama is accentuated by director William Friedkin's early European influences, perhaps best represented by the handheld documentary-style visuals and Friedkin's claims that the Oscar-winning screenplay was frequently disregarded in favor of improvisation. THE FRENCH CONNECTION marked not only a significant change of course for his career, but also a stylistic shift that all of Hollywood would soon follow.
THE ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE: Roger Corman was given the huge budget (for him) of one million dollars by 20th Century Fox to produce this documentary-esque depiction of the infamous 1929 shooting of seven Chicago mobsters. It's a fascinating reproduction of a time when bloodshed was plotted in business boardrooms and tommy guns were a daily fact of urban living. Jason Robards stars as mob boss Al Capone, with Ralph Meeker as his North Side rival Bugsy Moran. George Segal is Peter Gusenberg, one of Bugsy's henchmen targeted for takedown. To add a little sex and spice, there's a lengthy domestic-dispute scene between Gusenberg and his lovely negligee-clad moll (Jean Hale). The rest is strictly business and bullets though, with Robards chewing the scenery to nice little splinters and lots of Corman regulars appearing in bit parts, including Barboura Morris and Dick Miller. Bruce Dern appears a getaway driver. One has to keep a sharp watch to find Jack Nicholson, who floats through several scenes as one of Capone's assassins. It's a fast-moving, well-told saga, with excellent period reproduction thanks to sets refurbished from MY FAIR LADY and great deadpan narration by Paul Frees.
THE SEVEN-UPS: A team of New York City policemen set out to avenge the murder of a fellow officer. They form a squad known as the "Seven-Ups" who, as a rule, shoot first and ask questions later.
MURDER, INC.: MURDER, INC. uses the true story of Louis "Lepke" Buchhalter, the capo of a notorious crime syndicate, as the backdrop for the fictional narrative about a nightclub singer and a dancer.