Cinema: Chasing Frog 1

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The French Connection is a knockout police thriller with so much jarring excitement that it almost calls for comic-book expletives. POW!, ZOWIE! The film has all the depth of a mud puddle, but Director William Friedkin (The Night They Raided Minsky's) sets such a frantic pace that there is hardly a chance to notice, much less care. The connection is a French businessman (Fernando Rey) who arrives in New York City with a multimillion-dollar shipment of high-grade heroin stashed underneath a car door. By dumb luck, a couple of tough narcs get onto the deal and chase "Frog 1" and his friends all around the town, turning New York into Gun City in the process.

Many of the scenes were shot along the East River, around ramshackle warehouses and worn tenements that give the movie a sense of gritty realism. The actors who play the cops are so well cast that they seem to have grown up next door to the precinct house. Gene Hackman plays Popeye Doyle, who likes to ogle girls in boots, break heads and bust blacks; Roy Scheider is his dogged, if only slightly less compulsive, assistant. Eddie Egan plays their boss with bullish authenticity—as well he might since he is an ex-cop who figured in the actual incident on which the movie was based.

Midway through it all there is a race between an automobile and an elevated train that is sharply reminiscent of the careering car chase in Bullitt. Philip D'Antoni produced both movies, and it is obvious from the similarities in pacing and incident that he also took a hand in their direction. If he was imitating his first success with The French Connection, he has also improved upon it.