Exploring the strange symmetry between policeman and criminal, Friedkin's Oscar-winning policier codified the screen syntax for an entire genre of hand-held, off-the-cuff, obsessive crime dramas, most notably TV’s fecund Law & Order series. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider are the simmering, cynical pair of New York detectives who single-handedly set out to stop Fernando Rey's dapper French drug smuggler from bringing a huge stash of heroin into Manhattan. Based on an actual—and eventually closed—narcotics case, The French Connection extends its startling documentary-style realism even into its incredible action sequences, highlighted by quite simply the greatest car chase of American cinema.
The People vs. Paul CrumpDirected by William Friedkin.
US, 1962, 16mm, black & white, 59 min.
Print source: Academy Film Archive
While directing local television news programs at Chicago's WBKB, twenty-seven-year old Friedkin and cameraman Wilmer “Bill” Butler took to the streets with then-new lightweight 16mm cameras to make this riveting and moving documentary about Paul Crump, a black man on death row for a 1953 robbery that ended in a murder he did not commit. An important touchstone in Friedkin's oeuvre and a key to understanding his documentary approach to cinema, The People vs. Paul Crump is also a key expression of cinematic activism at its purest and most powerful. Friedkin remained an advocate of Crump’s until his 2002 death – behind bars – at the age of seventy-two.