Friday, July 3, 2020

Mr. Freedom

William Klein

Mr. Freedom (John Abbey) is an All-American superhero sent to France to battle Moujik Man and Red Dragon Man, two agents of the insidious threat of communism. Thanks to his predilection for all-out violence, Mr. Freedom isn’t very popular in France but that’s probably just the communist rays being beamed at his brain. Perhaps killing dozens of more people will fix everything.

Mr. Freedom doesn’t have an ounce of subtlety to it, but when it comes to critiquing how American foreign policy impacts the world, that is a feature and not a bug. This acidic satire might be a little too on the nose at times, but it is impossible to deny the anger underneath all the absurdity. When viewing Mr. Freedom in 2020 the saddest part is realizing that nothing has really changed and the violently cartoonish buffoon that is Mr. Freedom is just as accurate a caricature now as it was in 1968.

"Would you like some Freedom Fries with that?"

Mr. Freedom is sent to France by a company called American Freedom Inc., another faceless corporation in building filled with them. He's not sent to actually liberate anything, he’s there to establish cultural dominance. In his civilian guise, Mr. Freedom wears a cowboy hat and bolo tie. He’s unrepentantly cruel, sexist, and racist. His superhero gear is a weaponized sports equipment, a merger of the two most iconic American costumes, and his only response to any threat is complete and utter murder of everyone around him.

As brutal as the comedy of Mr. Freedom can be, it comes across as one-note. This is a single joke stretched out to feature-length, and although it is a joke that needs to be told, it becomes exhausting and numbing by the finale where even seeing Mr. Freedom getting a comeuppance of sorts offers no catharsis. This maybe be entirely by design, the joke of America’s violent boorishness visited on the world isn’t funny at its core, but by failing to offer anything human in the film to for the viewer to connect with, the point becomes easy to miss.

"I'm so American I poop bald eagles!"

The look of Mr. Freedom is garish and bright. It mimics the look of the 1960s Batman television series. The screen is often filled with silly background jokes making the whole thing feel like a Mad Magazine parody albeit with significantly more bloodletting and sex. There is an artificial look to everything, exaggerated costuming and exaggerated sets that match the broadly played characters. 

Mr. Freedom isn’t the easiest of films to sit through but the fact that it is still such a relevant piece of satire makes it just as vicious as it was in 1968. I wish I could say that was a good thing. Definitely worth a view for the modern era even if it takes a little work.

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