Director: William Friedkin
Areas Featured: Bensonhurst, Brooklyn Elevated through Stillwell line from Bay 50th St. Station ending at 62nd st. station
If some enterprising filmmaker tried to remake one of the cinema's most illegal and frantic car chases in modern day Bensonhurst, Brooklyn it would be an exercise in futility, as the sheer amount of baby strollers wouldn't allow you to top 5 MPH on any given block. For the film French Connection, director William Friedkin mounted a camera on the front of a 1971 Pontiac LeMans. Operating another camera from the backseat, they barreled through the streets in pursuit of a hijacked elevated train, creating one of the most intense and realistic car chases committed to celluloid.
Shot over two weeks, with speeds up to 96mph for 26 blocks and no film permits (!), no one accustomed to New York traffic could ever fathom such a chase being real. Except it was.
This classic scene takes place at a pivotal moment when undercover detective James "Popeye" Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) gives chase to his supposed assassin, an operative in a heroin smuggling ring from France to New York. Get the "connection"?
Fun Fact: Friedkin questioned the real train conductor's request of $40,000 and a one way ticket to Jamaica to let them complete the scene from the parallel vantage point of the elevated subway car. He told the producers the money and plane ticket would be security for when he lost his job. Friedkin accepted, the conductor lost his job, and we can only hope that he is enjoying his time on ganja mountain. The rest is film history.-JL