Considering it’s a cornerstone 1970s classic, The French Connection isn’t shown often enough, and you’ll have to set your recorder for this one if like me you’re usually fast asleep before Newsnight. Based on a true account by Robin Moore of New York’s drug- trafficking problem in the 1960s, the operation led by uncouth undercover detectives “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) to intercept $32 million’s worth of heroin arriving from Marseille is given a compelling realism by director William Friedkin’s loose, documentary- like shooting style. A funky score by Don Ellis, a desaturated colour palette and freewheeling turns by the two leads brought a box office windfall and five-Oscar sweep. It spawned a sequel (not bad)and influenced the rest of the decade’s mainstream output – not least its still-barnstorming car chase featuring a Pontiac following an elevated train. The urban crime movie had been reset.
For more of today’s free-to-air films, see ourTV listings