Earlier today HE commenter Benjamin Wayne reported that a racially offensive passage in William Friedkin‘s The French Connection (one that contains two ethnic slurs, both spoken by Gene Hackman‘s “Popeye Doyle”) has been stricken from the Criterion Channel’s version of this 1971 classic.

I went on the Criterion Channel to verify and Wayne is correct — the passage is missing.

Click here or watch below. The excerpt starts at the 52-second mark.

It’s a bit between Doyle and Roy Scheider‘s “Cloudy”, who’s nursing a wounded arm after being slashed by a drug dealer. Doyle: “You dumb guinea.” Cloudy: “How the hell did I know he had a knife?” Doyle: “Never trust a [ethnic slur].” Cloudy: “He coulda been white.” Doyle: “Never trust anyone.”

I’m sorry but cutting out scenes that are racially insensitive is a slippery slope. Once you start editing to spare sensitive ears where do you stop?

If and when The Criterion Channel ever shows Mel BrooksBlazing Saddles (’74), will they edit out all the N-words? (I think the N-word is heard at least five or six times in the hilarious “the sheriff is near” scene.) If you watch Blazing Saddles on Max you’ll be treated to Jacqueline Stewart‘s introductory remarks, which acknowledge Brooks’ satirical intent while attempting to give context to the N-word usage. Why doesn’t the Criterion Channel do the same for The French Connection?

Excepting the scenes with Fernando Rey‘s elegant “Charnier” character, The French Connection has always been a coarse and crude film when focusing upon Doyle and Cloudy, which is at least 80% or 85% of the time. Doyle is a pushy and obstinate lead character who not only uses the N-word (once) but racially harasses the drug dealer who stabbed Cloudy by asking him if he’s ever picked his feet in Poughkeepsie. (Why not cut that scene out also?) Doyle’s barking, pugnacious personality represents the essence of Friedkin’s film, which hits hard in scene after scene and fairly flaunts its lack of sensitivity.

It’s one thing to warn viewers in advance about offensive or insensitive racial content, but eliminating entire passages is crude and uncool, especially in the case of a Best Picture Oscar winner.