Movies like Freebie and The Bean were
appropriate to cinderblock cinemas during the 70's when what we
saw was as ratty as places we'd see them. Seems wrong, in fact, to look
at Freebie in a seat withoutripped cloth or something rank
adhering to it. Warner Archive has a DVD, thus the revisit, for a first time in
proper scope ratio since tenth or so occasion Freebie played our shoebox back in
the day, or I viewed bleary and cropped VHS like ones shown below. The thing
was around our College Park
Cinema enough to make me wonder if a print was hid among concession storage
with Kit-Kats and Junior Mints. Freebie is of sort they'll not make again, that
an observe by (many) others besides myself. All you need do is watch to realize how times
have so changed in forty years. What pic illustrates that truth better?
Freebie and The Bean and ones like it are
"precode" for freewheeling (not just car chasing) that such shows saw out. If
pre-Jaws 70's was indeed a "last Golden Age" for movies, then I say
it was for Freebies that didn't retreat in face of organized pressure
to be "affirmative" in all social/cultural respects. Film study profs
should lay this raw meat before enrollment and permit all to slip collars for a
couple of hours, even if balance of class is spent apologizing for Freebie and Bean excesses. Selection could rest upon Richard Rush as auteur of the
era, if misguided on this occasion. Most old movies are forgot eventually.
Some, like Freebie and The Bean, disappear and go unsought, even by those who
recall how lively it/they once seemed. Freebie falls into "You Had To Be
There" category with Smoky and The Bandit, Billy Jack, the Trinity
westerns, Vanishing Point, and others meant for ragtag venues like those I sat
We think of Vertigoand Bullitt as great "SanFrancisco"
movies, but Freebie and The Bean was shot there too, only on dingier streets
and in strict avoidance of pretty houses and hills the others visited. Freebie
is gritty in so offhand way as to render of little consequence where action was shot. Any
grubby 70's metro area would do. How they executed these car chases beats me.
Onlookers barely avoid being run over, and one stricken auto slides right up to
the camera lens, all done for real as CGI was no option in '74. Old stuntmen
who gather likely talk of Freebie as acme of high-risk filming. The thing is by
definition a comedy, overstated at times by rinky-dink music beneath
frenzy of pursuits. Violence is sudden and not PG-sanitized as today, so there's
tension to keep clowning in check.
I'm not sure when the "buddy cop"
concept got started. Was it before Freebie and The Bean? Harry Callahan had
partners, but wasn't chummy with them (most died on duty). James Caan and Alan
Arkin fight witheach other as much as the criminals. Dialogue flies with
expletives and doesn't mind being unintelligible at times. Doubles are there
to do motorcycle tricks and take falls for Caan/Arkin, but the pair do much of
spills on their own. If Freebie and The Bean had come out a decade later, we'd
have had six sequels to follow. As it is, Freebie was a one-off, but for a TV series adapt (at right). Chances are the feature got back negative cost at our College
Park alone. So do I recommend? By all means, effusive yes. Freebie and
The Bean is fun, as in fun as ever 70's precode, and my argument that indeed there was a Golden Age to
come of that benighted decade.
UPDATE --- 1:30 PM:Mike Cline sent a neat ad prepared back in 1974 when he was a Salisbury, NC exhibitor, and Freebie and The Bean was new ...