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MR. FREEDOM (1968).

Some ultra-bizarre pics simply fall through the cracks after their first, disastrous release and are rarely heard from again. Here's a prime example. A ridiculous, gloriously misguided political satire in the guise of a comic book, superhero tale. The brainiac behind this French-made, agitprop rollercoaster ride is director/writer/designer William Klein, an American expatriate turned fashion photographer, who also made FAR FROM VIETNAM, ELDRIDGE CLEAVER, and appeared in Chris Marker's LA JETEE. Kitschy as hell and filled with pseudo-futuristic trappings, it's also a field day for hardcore U.S. bashing. Yet even when it sucks (and that's often), it sucks in such a freaky, wrongheaded way that I fell in love with it... The first few minutes are astounding. As rioting takes place in the streets, a U.S. sheriff (John Abbey) enters his secret closet (not-so-subtly hidden behind a wall-sized American flag) and becomes the ultra-patriotic crimefighter Mr. Freedom. In truth, he looks more like a red, white and blue WWF reject, complete with football shoulder pads and a catcher's mask. He then crashes through an innocent black family's window, blasts away with his guns, stands on their dining room table, and sings his theme song ("We'll always beat 'em,/ With star-spangled freedom."). Alright! This 'hero' is also a total lemming, of course, spouting his militaristic rhetoric ("Might is Right. And Right is Freedom.") and following the imperialistic orders of Doctor Freedom, the M-style administrator at Freedom Inc. (played by Donald Pleasance, who only appears on a TV screen). He's a Real American, all right. A cross between Superman, Ronald Reagan and your average KKK member, with hilariously jingoistic rants about left-wing liberals, pacifists, and "red-assed, black-assed, Jew-assed farts who can't even spell America." His latest assignment is to stop Red China Man and his Commie pals from taking over the French (or as Pleasance refers to them, "mixed-up, sniveling crybabies who haven't stood on their two feet since Napoleon."). He also has to avenge the death of his buddy, Capitaine Formidable. And if the French don't want Mr. Freedom, he'll force them to, even if he has to kill them all in the process... Klein comes up with some radical compositions, while his colorful costumes are Pop Art crossed with Rummage Sale. Unfortunately, Klein's sawed-off-shotgun approach to his script quickly deteriorates into a mess of increasingly strange episodes. There's a French pep rally for Mr. Freedom, scantily clad ladies fawning all over him, a smoke-breathing Chinese dragon balloon, and even a Special Guest Appearance by Jesus Christ! The cast is also peppered with Euro-arthouse faces, including Delphine Seyrig as Marie, a pro-democracy French babe who takes a liking to Freedom's physique; Philippe Noiret in an inflated body suit as Moujik-Man; and Yves Montand pops up for a handful of split-second cameos as Formidable. Alternately naive, crude, pretentious, and hilarious, this is a one-of-a-kind oddity.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.