POSTED BY JON STRIPPOLI, July 8, 2015 Share
It's been a long time since I wrote a review of something, and that's entirely my fault. I started writing while I was still in school and had a lot of free time. Since starting full time work, however, I've found it very difficult to dedicate time to researching, watching, and writing about anything. This bit of a ramble rant is meant as an apology to those who found my previous articles fun and/or informative. And now, without any ceremony, I present to you Mr. Freedom.
As I write this, it is July 5th. Since yesterday was the 4th, I decided to celebrate by finally watching Mr. Freedom. I first heard about this film from an internet list of superhero movies that were completely original works. As a huge fan of the superhero genre, I scoured the list for anything truly interesting. Mr. Freedom stood out, and I knew that I HAD to see it.
Made in 1969, the film stars John Abbey as the titular Mr. Freedom, a right wing American superhero working for Freedom Inc. HIs boss, Dr. Freedom, is played by Donald Pleasence, whom you may know as Dr. Loomis from John Carpenter's Halloween. Dr. Freedom tasks our "hero" with saving France from the possible threat of Communist influence. Upon arriving in France, Mr. Freedom hooks up with the Freedom Resistance and gets to work trying to convince the French people that freedom and democracy are just the best. When denied help from Super Frenchman (represented as a giant inflatable man), and openly threatend by Red China Man (a giant inflatable dragon), Mr. Freedom is "forced" to take drastic measures, deciding that it would be easier to destroy France and start over. I mean, honestly, how else are you supposed to stop the spread of Communism?
One of the things I found most impressive about Mr. Freedom was the world that it built in such a short time. The run time is only an hour and a half, but in that time William Klein (the director and writer) was about to establish an entire superhero universe. You have Mr. Freedom, Captain Formidable, Super Frenchman, Moujik Man, and Red China Man as actual characters in the film, and it's implied that there are many more superheroes out and about in the world. Every hero also seems to have a base of operations and entourage of themed sidekick/goons. It's an interesting bit of background detail that added to the lore of the film.
Real talk; let's see if we can understand what this movie is really about. My guess (backed up by a bit of digging) is that the movie is a scathing review of American foreign policy. One of the early scenes shows Mr. Freedom ascending the Freedom Building to meet Dr. Freedom at Freedom Inc. What other businesses take up residence in the Freedom Building? Oh, you know, just a bunch of large American corporations with a vested interest in global affairs. And what does Freedom Inc do? Well, they police the world and spread the glory of democracy and capitalism! By whatever means necessary. And when they can't do it themselves they go out and train, fund, and supply local militias to do it for them. Hmm, remind you of anyone?
Mr. Freedom was a pretty good satirical comedy as well as an interesting early attempt at a superhero film. It was actually nice to see the two mix. Science fiction (the true superhero genre) should be used to address social and political issues. It can be a safe, and sometimes fun, platform to inspire people to think about what's happening around them. The larger than life characters make easy analogs for individuals, or groups, in power, and how they are perceived by their fellow man. I'd like to see more of it in contemporary cinema. Perhaps it's time for Mr. Freedom to make a comeback. F-R-double E, D-O-M! What's that spell? FREEDOM!! Happy 4th.