My friends over at Warner Archive were nice enough to send me a copy of their new blu-ray release of the 1974 action-comedy “Freebie and The Bean.”
The film, directed by Richard Rush, stars James can and Alan Arkin, with TVs Loretta Swit and Valerie Harper in supporting roles. The film is very much in the same vein as other early ‘70s action cop films like “Bullitt” and “The French Connection” only amping up the comedic sides of both of those stories. In many ways what “Freebie and The Bean” did was set the template for the buddy cop film that would be seen so often in the following decade.
Taking place in San Francisco, Freebie (Cann) and his partner Bean (Arkin) are a pair of cops who are determined to bust a big racketeer—the film opens with the two going through his garbage in the trunk of their cop car. Just as they are getting close to busting the crime lord, they learn a rival gang out of Detroit has put out a hit on the guy. Trying to figure out a way to keep him safe from getting killed before they can nab him, our duo arrest him for indecent exposure, after seeing him zip up his fly in a public park.
“Freebie and The Bean” is very much in tone with what I like to call the “Hey we can get away with stuff!” cycle of filmmaking from the early ‘70s. With the production code fully in the grave by the end of the ’60s, filmmakers started to say “to hell with it” a lot more in their moviemaking. It’s also a requirement of many big budget films from this time to have naked people, swearing, and violence. There’s all three in “Freebie and The Bean.” The film was supposed to be a straight cop action drama, but once Arkin and Caan began improvising around with the characters, a tone of humor emerged, changing the dynamics of the film.
A new 2K scan of the film’s interpositive was made by Warner Brothers’ Motion Picture Imaging facility—a highly respected facility in the industry for digital restoration. The film’s 2.4:1 aspect ration is rendered faithfully. The grain is right of a film of the era, but the colors a bit muted and some shots are soft looking. This is more due to the way “Freebie and The Bean” was photographed, rather than shoddy mastering work. A lot of films from this time were starting to drop the “Sharp, Hollywood Gloss” look, bringing realism to the screen. The film looks great for what it is, but it’s not a disc you’d use to show off your home theater set up. The sound is a sharp DTS-HD MA 2.0 English Mono track, the only bonus features are the film’s theatrical trailer.
“Freebie and The Bean” is an OK film, very much locked in its time. I’m sure it has its fans. It’s not terrible, but it wasn’t quite as much fun as I initially expected. Alan Arkin is great in the film—has he ever been bad on screen? But some of the comedic stuff clashes with the film trying to be a gritty, ‘70s cop drama. It’s a little uneven, but I can see why audiences flocked to the film in 1974, making it a box office smash. So much of early ‘70s filmmaking has a lot of envelope pushing and genre bending. This film very much sets the tone for a lot of action cop buddy comedies that would come ten years later. Warner Archive has done a fine job bringing “Freebie and The Bean” to blu-ray. See you next week.