According to numerous viewers, Criterion Channel is offering up a censored version of The French Connection (1971) without informing subscribers.
Why is Criterion showing a censored version? Without any note or warning about the edits?
— matthew keough (@kumarkeo) June 4, 2023
Don’t you think that showing a censored version of the movie, that deemphasizes the main character’s ugly racism, makes the film less effective?
— Colin Cram (@colincram) June 7, 2023
@criterionchannl is committing serious customer service mistakes here. They’ve been ignoring a serious amount of censorship complaints about an Oscar-winning film for 2-3 days now. You’re about to lose customers.
And you’re tarnishing the @Criterion brand.
— David Ortega (@RealDavidOrtega) June 6, 2023
My guess is that Criterion Channel is not responsible for vandalizing this Best Picture winner. The copy it streams was almost certainly censored by Disney or 20th Century Fox itself before the groomers at Disney purchased 20th Century Fox in early 2019.
Nevertheless, Criterion has an obligation to inform customers that they will be watching a modified version of what is universally regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made.
Criterion is not alone in its false advertising. People have complained that Turner Classic Movies also broadcasted the censored version. Additionally, there have been complaints that the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater screened the censored version last month. Worst of all, people say that the version selling on iTunes is censored.
It does not appear as though any of these venues informed customers they would be watching, renting, or outright purchasing a version of a film vandalized by the Woke Taliban.
As I explained earlier this week, the Woke Taliban removed a section of dialogue where the film’s star, Gene Hackman (who won the Best Actor Oscar), uses the word “ni**er.” About ten minutes into the movie, while director William Friedkin and screenwriter Ernest Tidyman (who both won respective Oscars) are setting up the characters, Hackman’s Popeye Doyle and Roy Scheider’s Buddy “Cloudy” Russo have this exchange:
Doyle: You dumb guinea.
Cloudy: How the hell did I know he had a knife?
Doyle: Never trust a ni**er.
Cloudy: He coulda been white.
Doyle: Never trust anyone.
The context is that, in the opening scene, Cloudy had been slashed by a black drug pusher.
Because Friedkin and Tidyman are presenting the world as it is, especially in 1971, the use of the slur is not gratuitous. Doyle is no hero. He is a classic anti-hero from this era—a complicated, deeply flawed, frequently unlikable, and unsympathetic narcotics detective. Yes, Doyle is fascinating, one of the most fascinating characters in American movies, but even in the end, he is not the hero. The French drug dealer he pursues escapes, and the obsessed Doyle shoots down a fellow cop during that pursuit.
I honestly know of no American movie where the word “ni**er” is used in a way where the audience is asked to approve of it. The French Connection is no exception. Further, the same woke mindset vandalizing this movie is the same woke mindset demanding Hollywood portray cops as racist. So what is the problem?
Get a load of this… According to co-star Scheider, that is exactly how black audiences interpret it:
Roy Scheider specifically said the scene resonated with audiences at the time. Cultural context is an important part of media literacy. Historical revisionism is not the answer. The French Connection is preserved uncut in The Golden Age Collection. https://t.co/pYY1M061Ki pic.twitter.com/HnDY4M9z5D
— Alexander Woell (@awoell) June 7, 2023
“The audience applauded, a mostly black audience—they applauded!” said Scheider in an interview. “And I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is what they knew whitey was thinking anyway, and now somebody has finally said it—in a movie!’”
The problem is that the censors are not interested in sensitivity. This censorship is only about one thing: a fascistic desire for control. As we have seen from modern-day Hollywood, especially Disney (see: Wars, Star), the Woke Taliban cannot create, it can only destroy.
The overriding goal here is the destruction of art that challenges us with complicated emotions and forces us to work through those emotions. The Woke Gestapo wants to keep our minds simple because simple minds are easier to manipulate and control. Working through complicated emotions thickens our skin and gives us wisdom, and both of those traits are a direct threat to autocratic rule.
I am a big-big-big fan of Criterion. It does the Lord’s work preserving and restoring classic and modern movies. Maybe Criterion did not know it was streaming a vandalized version of a classic movie. So let’s give Criterion and Turner Classic Movies and iTunes the benefit of the doubt. But they know now and therefore have an obligation to correctly label the censored French Connection as a “modified” version.
Hopefully, instead, these outlets will stand up for artistic integrity and inform Disney they will only license the original version. That would require moral courage, but this goes right to Criterion’s brand.
We will see.
I did reach out to the Criterion for comment but have not heard back.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.
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