Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
France, 1969. Films du Rond-Point, O.P.E.R.A.. Screenplay by William Klein. Cinematography by Pierre Lhomme. Produced by Guy Belfond, Christian Thivat, Michel Zemer. Music by Michel Colombier, Serge Gainsbourg. Production Design by Jacques Dugied. Costume Design by Janine Klein. Film Editing by Anne-Marie Cotret.
Mr. Freedom (former baseball player John Abbey) is a superhero who fights for American values in his modified football uniform that blazes its red, white and blue colours wherever he goes. There’s no minority he won’t attack or innocent bystander he won’t sacrifice in the name of beating the communists, and he knows that he is always right in all his actions. When his commander (Donald Pleasence) informs him that his colleague in France (a cameo by Yves Montand, dressed up and ready to attack Algeria) has been murdered and the reds are threatening to take over the country, Mr. Freedom immediately flies over and sets up his operation with Marie-Madeleine (Delphine Seyrig in a giant red wig) to save the country from itself. The blatant criticism of vulgar American politics and corporate culture, made quite pointedly by an ex-patriate who spent most of his life in France after serving in World War II, goes down easily thanks to bouncy production values and a ridiculous sense of ribald glee. The political message has all the subtelty of being shot in the face, but even that only serves to prove it a depressing marker of how little has changed: a movie made in 1969 has a lot to say to today’s audiences about the fascist nature of superhero narratives and the obnoxious effect of American corporate rhetoric (here employed to save a tolerant, i.e. weak, European country from itself by destroying it).