Freedom and Power (available for download from Open Video Project. Also available for download from Prelinger Archive).

This 50s film, sponsored by General Electric, is the quintessential industrial capitalist propaganda film. It tries very hard to sell the idea that what’s good for General Electric is good for the nation. It starts with a brief history of the American Revolution and manifest destiny, then goes on to the history of electrical technology, calling invention “another kind of pioneering.” Then we get to see the world of the 1950s “electrical age,” and how electricity has given us more freedom and power. Then the life of an old man is profiled, as it shows how electricity has changed American life in his lifetime. Then, of course, it goes on to show us the electrical future, including a wonderful profile of an all-electric “Home of the Future.” We just get to the glories of atomic energy, when suddenly the film casts a Cold War shadow on all these rosy proceedings, and starts emphasizing how we must diligently protect our freedoms against the godless Commies. It ends bombastically, with the future of America involving endless industrial growth, with no downside to such growth presented whatsoever. This is a great film for showing us what corporate America wanted the American people to think during the 50s. It’s all here: endless growth, technology as the answer to all human problems, red-baiting, and visions of the World of Tomorrow. A great piece of history, as well as a film that is ripe for parody and msting.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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