Connection Groove Restored

A couple of hours after hearing this morning about Best Buy’s French Connection surprise – i.e., a newly remastered, Owen Roizman-approved Bluray that looks like the original 1971 Oscar-winner — I drove down to a Best Buy at La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd. and sure enough, there it was.

I took it right home and popped it right in…aaaah. What I’ve been dreaming about for years. A pure celluloid capturing of a great New York film experience, some of it luscious, some of it spotty and grainy but all it looking true and right. Some of it looks more lab-fresh than I’ve ever seen. Punchy red neons and such. Other parts look…well, the way they did at Leows’ 86th Street when it opened in the fall of ’71, I’m guessing. Raw, wham-bam, high-impact footage all the way. All gritty, nothing pretty.

No more bluish bleach. No more splotchy colors and monochrome, high-contrast crap. No more creepy-perverse digital fuckwad action. The guy who mucked up the notorious 2009 Bluray version, director William Friedkin, has come to his senses and re-done his masterwork with dp Owen Roizman.

“The nation’s three-year-long, Freidkin-incited French Connection Bluray nightmare is over,” I tweeted. “The bleachy, splotchy ’09 version has been replaced.”

On 2.24.09 Roizman spoke to Aaron Aradillas on a blog-radio show called “Back By Midnight,” and he 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].”

The new Bluray sounds great also. Nice bassy tones. Brassy, clattery.

For whatever reason I noticed for the first time that in footage of Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider tailing Tony Lobianco and “Angie” through Times Square that Get Carter is playing at the Victoria.

Here’s A.O. Scott‘s “Critics Picks” assessment.

  • MarkVH

    Jeff, what’d you end up paying for it? Is the $14.99 tag online-only? Tag in the pic looks like list ($24.99).

    Either way, so glad I never shelled out for the 2009 version. I’m all over this.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    The paste-on price tag said $24 and change, but they charged me $15 or $16 and change or something like that.

  • mpneeb

    Good news.

    How are the supplements? I still have the original DVD and held off an upgrade when I heard about the transfer of 2009.

    Also, how is THE EXORCIST transfer- that’s another one I’ve held off upgrading.

  • AlexG

    I have the French Connection II blu-ray (which is really superior John Frankenheimer film that’s never gotten its due) but held off on Connection I because of the lousy transfer. Happy to see that that’s been corrected.

    Now if Friedkin should ever get around to doing that long promised remastered blu-ray of Sorcerer, I pray he doesn’t fuck that up

  • Raising_Kaned

    ” ‘The nation’s three-year-long, Freidkin-incited French Connection Bluray nightmare is over,’ I tweeted.”

    You know, I kinda hate the “1st world problems” meme that’s been going around — but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t my immediate reaction to reading this sentence. Something about the way it’s phrased…yuck.

  • Jack South P.I.

    The French Connection is in my top ten all-time.

    Today, by happenstance, I just rewatched both Sorcerer and Mississippi Burning (my next-favorite Gene Hackman cop part).


    Must be some kind of sign.

    I’ll be hitting Best Buy tomorrow. Good for them (I guess) for being part of this. Wells, you should figure out how these deals are set up. Someone at BB seems to care about movies it seems to me.

    Sorcerer is awesome, by the way. With the exception of the lame Roy Scheider-losing-his-mind bit towards the end, it’s truly great. (Especially the rope bridge section.) Would love to see it in HD. Always wished Criterion would issue it as a wild-man companion to their exemplary Wages of Fear.

  • Mr. F.

    I always wonder what Best Buy (etc.) employees think of Wells taking photos like this inside their store. Like “Why is that guy taking pictures of our DVD rack on his iPhone?!”

  • C.C. Baxter

    “I’ll be hitting Best Buy tomorrow. Good for them (I guess) for being part of this. Wells, you should figure out how these deals are set up. Someone at BB seems to care about movies it seems to me.”

    It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone at Best Buy caring about the movie. Retailers aren’t involved in title selection or transfer decisions.

    Fox initiated it and did the new transfer as part of their new “Filmmaker’s Signature” series. They did a new transfer of Wall Street for the same series. They are both available exclusively at Best Buy right now (along with a couple of other new titles) as part of a co-marketing initiative by Fox and Best Buy. Studios partner with retailers for “store exclusives” all the time. It’s just for promotional purposes. They’ll make it available to other retailers (including Amazon et. al.) after six months or so.

  • Jack South P.I.

    Makes sense C.C. Baxter. Thanks.

  • Pete Apruzzese

    A quick look at the first 20 minutes shows that this is the one to get – it looks like the prints used to look. Good job by Fox, Roizman and Friedkin in revisiting the film. And it includes the original mono audio as well as the new stereo remix, so this theatrical purist is happy.

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    “It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone at Best Buy caring about the movie. Retailers aren’t involved in title selection or transfer decisions.”

    Not true. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s true most of the time, but the big retailers do influence studios from time to time. The main reason that Laurel & Hardy came out from Hallmark (who apparently could care less) is because Wal-Mart’s video buyer told them to, because they kept getting customer requests for them.

  • DiscoNap

    Finally a Bluray case that doesn’t look horrid. More like this, please.

  • aaronhal9000

    Glad you found it, Jeff! How Friedkin ever thought the previous version was a good idea is one of life’s eternal mysteries.

  • Lawrence Jesterton

    Wall Street has also been quietly remastered with no fanfare from Fox. It’s one of the other exclusive titles.

  • The Big Snake

    Just picked this up tonight on the way home at the Pico/Sawtelle Best Buy – $14.99 plus tax. It looks fantastic. Also, it belies the notion that somehow there was no real production design or cinematography going on in these “realistic” ’70s pictures. There is such a clear color palette at work in this movie – and such a conscious visual scheme at work. This picture really holds up.

    And ditto previous comments – love my WAGES OF FEAR Blu-Ray, but would still buy a cleaned-up SORCERER Blu-Ray in a second.

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