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Wednesday
Jan092008

"French Connection" Chemist Nicked Again

The French Connection-thumbnail.jpg
"The French Connection"
The French Connection is a classic Seventies film starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider based on real life drug trafficking between France and America. French newspapers are today reporting that André Bousquet - one of the Corsican chemists involved in the international trafficking of heroin in the real French Connection is again in trouble. He did 21 years in prison (1980-2001) and has been out on parole and working as a clerk in a Marseille hospital where apparently he's been up to no good again. This time involving cocaine. He's looking at another 5 years of jail. Boy, some people just never learn do they.

The French Connection was a scheme in which heroin was smuggled from Turkey to France and then to the United States. In the late 1960s and early 1970s it provided most of the heroin used in the U.S. The Corsican French Connection criminals dealt with Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics's 1960 annual report estimated that from 2,600 to 5,000 pounds (1,200 to 2,300 kg) of heroin were coming into the United States annually from France. Holey Moley! That's a lot of dope.

BTW the dope seized during the real French Connection case was systematically plundered by corrupt NYPD officers who allowed access to the NYPD evidence storage room where hundreds of kilograms of heroin were held. They replaced the missing heroin with white baking flour. The substitution was only discovered when officers noticed insects eating all the bags of "heroin". By that point an estimated street value of approximately $70 million worth of "smack" had already been taken.

Trivia from the movie

  • The car crash during the chase sequence, at the intersection of Stillwell Ave. and 86th St., was unplanned. A man whose car was hit had just left his house a few blocks from the intersection to go to work and was unaware that a car chase was being filmed. The producers later paid the bill for the repairs to his car.
  • No stunt drivers were used for the chase sequence either - Gene Hackman was behind the wheel of the Pontiac Le Mans driving at speeds up to 90 m.p.h.
  • The conductor on the subway train was the actual conductor. The actor who was supposed to play the conductor didn't show up on the day that scene was to be filmed. In addition, the motorman was the actual motorman. The Transit Authority refused to allow an actor to operate a subway train.
  • The principal car chase scene was widely considered to be the best ever put on film at the time, overtaking Bullitt (1968) for that honor.
  • All of the extras used in the first bar scene were real life police officers.
  • Some of the actors pretty much ignored the dialog in the script and used terms and phrases the police advisors gave them during rehearsals. Ironically, the screenplay won an Oscar.
  • The French license plate on the 1971 Lincoln Mk III used to smuggle the heroin is 18 LU 13. The real life "French Connection" car, a 1960 Buick Invicta, had French plate 18 LU 75. According to Robin Moore, the Invicta was popular with drug smugglers in the early 1960s because it had a large space under the body behind each front wheel well. Most of the heroin was hidden in these spaces in the French Connection car, but some was hidden under the rocker panels, as depicted in the film.
    231239-1256722-thumbnail.jpg
    1960 Buick Invicta

I live in Paris and can tell you that the last two numbers on a French car license plate show you the department where a car is registered. 75 is Paris. Similarly, Postcodes go by departments also. The Postcode for Paris is 75 followed by the arrondissement. I live in the 15th arrondissement so my Postcode is 75015.

Here's a snippet from the original draft of the French Connection Script by ERNEST TIDYMAN and WILLIAM FRIEDKIN.

INT. WEINSTOCK'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Close shot of CHEMIST with a small lab layout spread in
front of him - burner, test tubes, etc. The MAN's wearing
an ordinary business suit and both the table and the
background indicate that this is not a lab, but somebody's
library or den - and a fashionable one, with photos, a
signed picture of Lyndon Johnson, etc., on the panelled walls.

The CHEMIST is running a Thiele test on a small mound of
powder. Heroin from CHARNIER's shipment.

Medium close shot of JOEL WEINSTOCK and SAL BOCA sitting
opposite the CHEMIST.

SAL has a glass of beer in front of him, WEINSTOCK a brandy
snifter containing a splash of amber cognac. Both are
interested; SAL quite nervously.

The CHEMIST immerses a capillary tube, a tiny instrument the
size of a needle into an open kilo of heroin.

He pours a small quantity of mineral oil into a burnmeister
test tube and preheats the oil over the open flame of a tiny
alcohol lamp.

He removes a 15-in thermometer from its leather case,
fastens the capillary tuve (now totally immersed in the
heroin) to the bulb of the thermometer with a rubber band.

He places the bulb, with capillary attached, into an open
rubber stop and inserts the entire apparatus into the
burnmeister tube, about three inches in.

With a small metal clamp he holds the rig over the lamp.

We watch closely with the CHEMIST, WEINSTOCK and BOCA as the
white heroin powder slowly, agonizingly dissolves into the
mineral oil and

The mercury rises slowly up the thermometer to 220° - 230°.

The faces of the three men are filled with wonder and
anxiety. As the mercury continues to rise they become a
cheering section, rooting the hometeam home.

The longer it takes for the powder to dissolve, the purer
the heroin. The mercury stops at 240°!

CHEMIST
Absolutely dynamite! 89.5 proof!
Best I've ever seen! If the rest
is like this, you'll be dealing for
two years on this load.

Close on WEINSTOCK, relaxed, smoking a large cigar.

WEINSTOCK
Retail is not my end of the business.
Are you telling me it's worth the
half million?

Medium close of the CHEMIST.

CHEMIST
How many kilos?

SAL
Sixty.

CHEMIST
Six kilos at eight big ones a
kilo...
(he nods)
I'd say it should be able to take a
seven to one hit in the street.

SAL
By the time it gets down to nickel
bags it's at least thirty-two
million!

Medium close of WEINSTOCK and BOCA.

WEINSTOCK
Thank you, Howard. Take what's
left there with you and goodnight.

The CHEMIST packs his apparatus and leaves.

More Trivia: even though there's no music in The French Connection, William Friedkin, the Director, edited the car chase sequence to the tempo of Santana's "Black Magic Woman".

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Reader Comments (2)

A couple of points. The accident under the el may not have been "planned," but it WAS a mis-timed stunt. The powder blue Mercury that hits Doyle's LeMans is the same car Doyle tries to flag down at the outset of the chase.

According to director Billy Friedkin, Hackman drove a little over 1/2 of the chase. Stunt co-ordinator, Bill Hickman, drove the dangerous parts of the scene.

Friedkin claims the actors ad-libbed most of the dialogue, but reading the script, it sure reads like the film to me.

Nice post. Keep up the good work.
February 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbikefixer
I think you'll find that if you go back and watch this movie again, you'll find your account of the heroin testing scene and your notion of there being "no music" in the movie to be faulty. So great post, other than the part with the words.
February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCaptain Obvious

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