Friday, March 23, 2012

Where Did This American Gangster Flee?

Remember the cash Santa Monica fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger was said to have stashed in the walls of his unassuming, seaside abode when he was finally apprehended? Multiply those G-notes by a factor of about 20 and you have the reserve that a bailed-out Frank Matthews is said to have skipped away with back in 1973.

Matthews' incredible odyssey began in his native Durham, North Carolina, which is where the documentary The Frank Matthews Story: The Rise and Disappearance of America's Biggest Kingpin screens tonight. No one is sure if Matthews is still alive; some of the law enforcement officials and colleagues interviewed in the documentary are convinced the criminal still hides among us. Others are more doubtful about his fate today, after the bad guy literally disappeared into thin air, four decades ago.


The documentary was co-directed by Al Bradley and Ron Chepesiuk, a Canadian-born investigative journalist and author. Like another Frank, the Harlem-born Frank Lucas at the center of the Denzel Washington drama American Gangster, Frank Matthews rose to control a vast heroin trade up and down the east coast of the U.S.

In an interview with Durham's Independent Weekly, Chepesiuk indicated that he and Bradley hope to make a second documentary installment featuring more of their accumulated Matthews stories. The larger-than-life fugitive is said to have been the only African-American crime figure to tap into the famed French Connection heroin pipeline.

The movie is also available on DVD and via digital download.

[The Frank Matthews Story: The Rise and Disappearance of America's Biggest Kingpin]

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