At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

FREEBIE AND THE BEAN

By • Aug 31st, 2017 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

(To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection (www.wbshop.com)

Never liked the title, even back when I saw the film in ’74. But it’s a raucous piece of work, flailing around within its mainly improvised screenplay and its Keystone Cops/Buster Keaton car chases/gags. There’s a politically incorrect transgression or two, or ten, but nothing that wasn’t politically incorrect back then, it was just tolerated back then and wouldn’t be today. And the BluRay dust-off courtesy of the WB Archives restoration dept. is excellent, treating the film perhaps a tad better than it deserves, but that’s fine. All celluloid deserves to be preserved.

James Caan and Alan Arkin are plain-clothes cops hot on the trail of a major criminal (Jack Kruschen) who could care less about their ridiculous habit of tailing him in plain sight. They banter endlessly between themselves, apparently to keep their spirits up while this never-ending surveillance drags on. The police department looks down on their methodology, but they remain affixed to the case, when suddenly their quarry becomes a target for assassins, and now they find themselves in the odd position of being told to keep him alive. Throughout the ensuing chaos, many innocent people are maimed or killed, and our protagonists never seem to pay the price for their mayhem, or receive more than a half-hearted reprimand by the department.

Neither Caan nor Arkin, sturdy actors both, and no strangers to improv, are more than adequate. Their squawking and physicality come to little, and signify nothing. But now and then a good laugh is had.

The chase sequences and jaw-dropping stunts are something else again. There are a few choice gags ripped right from Buster Keaton’s play-book, which after fifty years was probably fair game. Director Richard Rush apparently cared a lot for the visual gags of the silent era, and I admire his tenacity – the plethora of individual car and motorcycle stunts must have taken weeks to capture on film.

Given all that, my favorite scene might be a charming, intimate confrontation between Arkin and his wife (Valerie Harper) over her supposed infidelity. He’s unable to make his accusations stick, and she’s progressively more amused by the whole affair, realizing she’s got the upper hand. No car chases. No jaw-dropping stunts. Just a well-written, wonderfully performed scene between two fine actors.

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