Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST


Okay, I'll admit it. My tastes in film weren't entirely formed when I was twelve-years old (as I alluded to in my previous post about EMPIRE magazine's list of 301 best films). At least not entirely. Besides, since THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST was released in late 1967, that means I probably saw it for the first time in early 1968. I would have been eleven. And as we all know, eleven-year-old kids don't know anything about films.

That's because when I first saw THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST (1967), I thought it was one of the funniest movies I'd ever seen. When I watched it again the other day (for the first time since 1968), I didn't laugh once. I don't think I even smiled or grinned. I know I nodded off (very briefly) a couple of times.

The film is oh-so-very much a product of its' time, the "swinging sixties". It's a "hip" political satire/spy film spoof/science fiction send-up with plenty of sex, drugs, rock and roll, a liberal use of the "N" word in one scene, and the CEA and the FBR (stand-ins for the CIA and FBI, respectively). Oh, and a master villain that is revealed to be a major corporate power.

James Coburn, fresh from his two starring turns as secret agent extraordinaire Derek Flint in OUR MAN FLINT (1966) and IN LIKE FLINT (1967) (both of which are superior to ANALYST), stars as New York City psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Schaefer. He's recruited by one of his patients, CEA (Central Enquiries Agency) agent Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge) to be the analyst for the president of the United States. It seems that the most powerful man in the world has no one to talk to and relieve the stress of the burdens he carries. Pint size FBR (Federal Bureau of Regulation) chief Henry Lux (Walter Burke), is against the move but Sidney gets the job anyway.

After several therapy sessions with the president (who is never shown, we only see Sidney going into and out of a room in the White House) and being on call 24/7, Sidney suffers a breakdown because there's no one he can talk to about what he knows.

He goes on the run from the White House, first hiding out with a family in suburban New Jersey before falling in with a rock band. Meanwhile, assassins from every major (and minor) power in the world are after him. He eventually falls into the clutches of Russian agent Kropotkin (Severn Darden) but the two become friends after Sidney psycho-analyzes him.

In the film's third act, Sidney gets captured by the real villains of the piece and it's up to Kropotkin and Masters to storm the headquarters of this evil organization (oh, all right, already, it's The Phone Company, okay?) and rescue him.

In one bit of remarkably prescient plotting, The Phone Company's master plan is revealed to be the implanting of a micro-chip directly into the brain of every American so that people can call someone by just thinking about it. This was decades before today's cell/smart phones and nano-technology. This was also before The Phone Company was broken up and went from "Big Bell" to many smaller, "Baby Bells."

The end, except that in the last shot, we see TPC still conducting surveillance on Sidney, Kropotkin, Masters and Sidney's girlfriend Nan (Joan Delaney).

THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST was written and directed by Theodore Flicker, so he only has himself to blame for this turkey. The film bombed at the box office on first release but subsequent showings on television has granted ANALYST some degree of cult cachet.

What can I say? I loved this mess when I was eleven but now, at the age of fifty-eight, not so much. It's worth seeing once if you're a James Coburn fan (I've always liked the guy) or  if you want to remember what the late '60s were like. If you weren't around back then, watch it to get a glimpse of a truly lost world. Your mileage may vary regarding laughs but my needle pegged towards empty.

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