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Although not critically lauded as the first film was, THE FRENCH CONNECTION II ($35) proves itself to be a highly entertaining sequel that greatly benefits from the touch of legendary director John Frankenheimer. Where the first film was based upon actual events, THE FRENCH CONNECTION II is a fictionalized progression of the story, in which New York City police detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) travels to France to find heroin smuggler Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), who eluded capture at the end of the original movie. Of course, Doyle’s abrasive style does not win him any friends amongst the Marseilles police department, who resent the presence of this crass American interloper. However, with his home field advantage, Charnier has Doyle abducted and forcibly addicted to heroine to first get information, then to destroy him as a police officer. However, after being dumped in front of police headquarters, Doyle finds himself with a few allies amongst the French police, who see him through the agonizing process of heroin withdrawal. Ultimately, Doyle is able to get back on his feet and resume his pursuit Charnier. The cast of THE FRENCH CONNECTION II also includes Bernard Fresson, Philippe Léotard, Ed Lauter, Charles Millot, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Cathleen Nesbitt, Samantha Llorens and André Penvern.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made THE FRENCH CONNECTION II available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation has a far more conventional appearance than the first film, with THE FRENCH CONNECTION II looking exactly as a film from 1975 should. The image is crisp and produces very good definition and dimensionality. Fine details aren’t at the level of newer films, but they still come across very well. The color is probably a lot better here than it looked in theaters in 1975, but that is only because there is a better level of control at the high definition video level in 2009, than there was coming out of the DeLuxe labs producing theatrical prints at the time of the film’s release. Blacks are usually deep, while the whites are clean. Contrast is fairly smooth. Shadow detail isn’t stellar, but it is certainly very good for a film of this vintage. The film elements from which THE FRENCH CONNECTION II has been transferred do show some very minor blemishes. Film grain is ever present, but not beyond a level reflective of the film stocks in use at the time.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION II is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Once again, we are provided with an effective re-purposing of the original monaural soundtrack materials. As expected, the use of directional effects is not exaggerated and the forward soundstage tends to dominate the mix. Fidelity is good and Don Ellis’ music isn’t as disconcerting as it was on the first go round. English dialogue is crisply rendered and is easily understandable. English, French and Spanish monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentary tracks; the first is with director John Frankenheimer, while the second features actor Gene Hackman and producer Robert Rosen. HD Featurettes include the following programs: Frankenheimer In Focus and A Conversation With Gene Hackman. An Isolated Score and Stills Gallery close out the supplements.

As I stated above THE FRENCH CONNECTION II is a highly entertaining sequel that benefits from a fairly terrific presentation on Blu-ray. Recommended.



French Connection 2 [Blu-ray] (1975)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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