I remember listening to William Friedkin explain how he got funding to make The French Connection, a dark and rough take on the world of cops and robbers from the spare change drawer. The 70s movie became a classic, helped epitomize an era of filmmaking, and is now just another product to be cut up for offensive material before it’s finally ‘rebooted’ into a streaming series with a black female lead.
Hollywood Elsewhere was the first to note that the Criterion release of The French Connection, supposed to be the gold standard, had crudely cut out a scene in which Gene Hackman’s character uses a racial slur. You can guess which one. Commenters are blaming Disney which got the rights to the movie when it bought up FOX.
Previously, HBO MAX had been caught removing Gone With the Wind and putting up title cards in front of movies it considered insensitive, but actually censoring movies is a major escalation.
But so is rewriting classic novels.
Film lovers might not make too much noise about Gone With the Wind, but there’s a whole generation of Tarantino wannabes who worship movies like The French Connection. It’s part of the National Film Registry and its rough style is considered inspirational by filmmakers no matter how leftward they lean. Censoring it is a punch to the gut. And yet it’s likely one that Disney will get away with. Testing the waters here, expect to see a growing list of butchered movies, much as we’re seeing with the censorship of Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl and numberless others.
The great book burning is underway. Why not burn a few movies too?