Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ten Statements About....FRENCH CONNECTION II (1975)

This fate is worse than any execution you can imagine.
"I’ve been a New York City cop for 14 years.  I know the dope that comes out of this city has killed a lot more than I have."

1) Gene Hackman could never be a movie star, let alone an action star, today.  Never mind that he submerges himself in Popeye Doyle completely and never allows his real actor-ly persona to break through, Hollywood would have no use for him.

The same goes for John Frankenheimer and his direction.

2) Only in 70‘s do you get a fight scene that is not smooth and full of shakey cam, but ungainly, awkward and exhausting.

3) I’m still puzzled by the whole point of Ed Lauter’s general.  Yeah, I guess it’s Frankenheimer’s way of
"Nyah, I have no idea what I'm doing here, either."
hinting that the American government has a hand in Charnier’s operation, but that character could be removed whole and not affect the film in any way.  It’s a weird bit that is never followed up.

4) It’s typical of 70‘s cinema in general and Frankenheimer specifically that Charnier’s discovery of Doyle’s presence is purely by accident.  And his seeing Doyle watching a volley ball match leads us into the film’s biggest and most harrowing set piece.

5) I do appreciate the fact that while Doyle and Bernard Fresson’s Barthélémy gain respect for each other after the French cop forcibly detoxes Doyle, there’s a sense they still don’t like each other--witness how Doyle continues to call Barthélémy ‘asshole’ long after the man literally saves his life.

6) Reason Editing Can Do Amazing Things #684: It’s obvious by the establishing long shot of the drydock in one of the major action sequences that it has only two gates...and yet, through judicious use of different angles and a number of tin plates with different numbers on them, Frankenheimer is able to make it seem like the place is ringed with gates, and Doyle and Barthélémy are going to drown in minutes if they stay within.
Yep...nothing says maverick cop like a Hawaiian shirt...

7) I appreciate, especially in this day and age where every single film is afraid of making people think they don’t understand what’s going on, how Frankenheimer refuses to give the French people Doyle encounters subtitles.  This emphasizes Doyle’s feeling of being a fish out of water (a concept brought home in the film’s early scenes by Doyle finding an April Fool’s Fish taped to his taxi) in a foreign land.

8) I get that the cable car chase is a parallel to the subway chase in the original; it just doesn’t feel as frenetic, and appears to be there for no reason other than to remind us how good the first one was.

9)  Cathleen Nesbitt’s brief role, named ‘The Old Lady’ in the credits, shows Frankenheimer’s way with actors.  At first introduced as a harmless woman who witnesses what Charnier is doing to Doyle, we see her true nature when she appears to comfort him...and we realize she’s a junkie looking to steal Doyle’s watch.

10) It’s a telling fact that Charnier’s evil revenge on Doyle would have gone on forever if Barthélémy’s attempts to find the cop resulted in too much attention being drawn to the drug operation. excellent film that is as good as the original, this shows how Frankenheimer’s talent can make a sequel work as something other than a money grab.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Sleeping Tegan....the best Tegan of all.
“Are you an idiot?"
“Well, I suppose I must be."

1) If this story seems atypical of this first season supervised by new script editor Eric Saward, you’re right; it was originally commissioned by Christopher H. Bidmead during his short tenure as Script Editor.  Bidmead encouraged writers to do deep, complex stories and Saward....didn’t.  This results in a muddled serial that seems at odds with the themes it wants to explore.

2) Go away, stupid paper mache’ snake.  Just...go away.

3) I get that John Nathan Turner intended for the Davison Doctor to be somewhat vulnerable...but ye gods, Davison frequently looks ridiculous.  When the first glimpse of him in this serial depicts him clutching two cables in his teeth as if he just found a fish in the river, it makes it hard to take this Doctor seriously.
"Rahhhr!  I's a scaaary Paper Mache Snake!"

4) You know, when you’re so burdened with companions that you let two of them literally sleep the bulk of the story away, assigning the Doctor another companion specific to the story seems silly....

5) ...although this is in no way a critique of either Nerys Hughes or her character.  Hughes’ character works very well with Davison’s Doctor (Hell, I’d take her over Tegan any day), and provides a vital, subtle contrast to the rather vigorous acting of the other supporting players.

6) You can see one of the reasons why Adric ended up the sacrificial lamb this season.  This marks the second time in a row where the little snot somehow throws himself in with the enemy, and as such Adric comes off as an unreliable companion at best (something Nathan Turner will try even more ovetly when he introduces Turlough later).  Hell, we’ve got a moment where Adric turns, and The Doctor literally sighs and rolls his eyes!

7)  Is it just me, or is that subplot about the missing three crew members forgotten about halfway through?

8) One of the things I like about Richard Todd’s performance as Saunders is how the man we meet at the start is a bit of a perjudiced jerk...but the person he becomes after exposure to the Kinda is very much there.  Saunders is consistently the same person throughout this serial; it’s just he sees things from different perspectives in different points in the serial.
This is what real evil looks like...

9) I will never understand why we need Stupid Paper Mache Snake when there’s a much more effective manifestation of The Mara in Jeffrey Stewart’s Dukkha.  Dressed as some sort of courtly gentleman from a Shakespeare play, charismatic but malevolent, Stewart drives the scenes where the Mara communicates with Tegan resulting in her possession.

10) Christopher Bailey’s script features a lot of fascinating concepts in regards to the titular Kinda (At least until Saward muddies Bailey's Bhuddist leanings with a slew of Christian stuff)--their belief that speech is a sign of wisdom, their telepathy, their cultural mores, their use of humor as a negotiation tool--but it’s very difficult to take them seriously when they’re all played by British actors with a slight spray on tan and some hawkish features.

Overall...potentially an intriguing multilayered story that’s hindered by some script meddling and a thoroughly stupid set of special effects (not to mention that paper mache snake.  Go away, paper mache snake).