On Friday (6.9) HE commenter “The Multiplexreported the following: “For what it’s worth, in Disney’s DCP asset list the currently-streaming version of The French Connection is listed as ‘2021 William Friedkin v2.'”

HE reply: “May I ask precisely where you read the term ‘2021 William Friedkin v2‘? I thought it might be at the tail end of the currently streaming version on the Criterion Channel. I checked and it’s not. I also Google-searched “2021 William Friedkin v2” + French Connection…zip.”

And yet this info is seemingly fortified by a statement from The Criterion Channel, passed along by “The Connection” in a 6.9.23 HE story titled “HE to Friedkin re Censorship Fracas.” CC’s statement said that “according to our licensor [Disney], this is a ‘Director’s Edit‘ of the film.”

If this is legit info, the obvious implication is that after a half-century of The French Connection being presented in its original form, ugly racial dialogue and all, director William Friedkin has woke-censored or otherwise desecrated his own film.

I am personally horrified by this possibility. But if this has indeed happened, there can only be one response from the film’s worldwide community of fans and scholastic admirers, and that response is “what the living hell, Billy?” Followed by “please tell us you didn’t approve this!”

Because deleting the racially offensive scene in question is worse than “Greedo shoots first” or Steven Spielberg changing those government agent guns to walkie-talkies at the end of E.T., which he later apologized for.

If Friedkin initiated or approved the deletion, he did so not because he had a creative change of heart (which is always a bullshit move to begin with) but in order to appease the woke scolds — a mob clamoring for a transitional political-cultural statement that suits their current agenda — and nothing more.

Friedkin knows (or at least he used to know) that art is made of sterner and more endurable stuff.

Still, the idea of Friedkin being the chief culprit doesn’t make sense if we consider what he said on the occasion of The French Connection‘s 50th anniversary, or a year and a half ago.

In a 11.11.21 chat with ForbesSimon Thompson, Friedkin said the following about making his 1971 classic:

“I had both Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider ride around with Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, the real cops their characters were based on. They mimicked what they saw, which is what I wanted. I had seen all that behavior months before, and they were seeing it fresh before they did the film. Gene did not want to go that far. He thought the guy was really racist, but I didn’t — I thought it was an act that he was doing to survive in the street. Gene actually found the character very tough to play.”

“[And yet] Friedkin says that if he were to remake The French Connection today, not much would change. His goal was to portray policing as he saw it and leave it to audiences to decide for themselves, not to valorize or critique it. Still, amid national conversations about police reform and police brutality, he wouldn’t be eager to tackle the subject matter again.

In an 11.7.21 EW.com article, Friedkin was quoted by Maureen Lee Lenker as follows:

“I don’t think I’d make a cop film today,, but if I did, it wouldn’t be much different. And I would try to capture the action and the dialogue that persists and exists today. You’d be amazed how very close it is to what it was. I don’t celebrate that behavior, but I’m fascinated by it.”

How could Friedkin have said the above and approved a deletion of the scene in question?

I asked Friedkin on Friday if he could please explain what’s going on. Nothing so far.

Glenn Kenny has stated that he’s researched and is writing a forthcoming article that gets to the bottom of things, or at least which allegedly absolves The Criterion Collection from responsibility in this mucky matter. I just checked Criterion’s streaming of The French Connection this morning, and it still offers no warning about the missing footage. Until such a warning appears, The Criterion Collection is most definitely not off the hook.