President’s Analyst, The (1967)

“If I were an analyst — which I am — I would say I was rapidly turning into a paranoid personality — which I am.”

President

Synopsis:
A psychoanalyst (James Coburn) hired to work for the president of the United States becomes paranoid that spies are out to get him; soon he finds himself on the lam from multiple agents and hit-men, including Soviet agent Kropotkin (Severn Darden) and “CEA” agent Masters (Godfrey Cambridge).

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Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of this “zany paranoia satire” (a minor cult favorite), Peary seems half-hearted at best, noting that while “everything seems to be filmed from the wrong angles, at least the story never gets totally out of hand” — but I don’t think his review does this enjoyable film justice. In addition to Coburn’s fine performance in the lead role, The President’s Analyst is notable for its prescient, no-holds-barred exploration of secrecy and paranoia at every level of government — there’s literally nowhere to hide in this agent-ridden universe, where (as Peary notes) “no one is to be trusted”. The outrageous story moves quickly enough to hold our attention throughout; just when Coburn thinks he’s (momentarily) safe, he finds himself on the run once again, so we never get bored of any particular scenario. The best sequences involve Coburn hiding out at the home of an “all-American” family, where the couple’s young son taps Coburn’s telephone call using his Junior Spy Kit, and a hilarious scene in which multiple agents kill each other off in an “idyllic” meadow while Coburn obliviously canoodles a hippie chick nearby. The supporting performances throughout are commendable, and — to his credit — writer/director Theodore Flicker takes his over-the-top premise to a suitably freaky conclusion. This one’s definitely worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • James Coburn as Dr. Schaefer
  • Coburn’s visit to a seemingly “all-American” family in New Jersey
  • Countless spies killing each other off in their fruitless attempt to capture Coburn

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a zany cult favorite.

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One Response to “President’s Analyst, The (1967)”

  1. A must – a unique cult entry that should be seen at least once.

    I rather agree with what’s stated here, but I don’t think ‘TPA’ “moves quickly enough” – well, not right away. The first half-hour, though engaging, is a bit slow-going, leisurely paced, as the premise is laid out. (Coburn’s love life is also set up, in a manner a tad deliberate.)

    The plus in this early section is Cambridge’s seemingly incongruous, but riveting ‘N-word’ monologue. It’s the inclusion of bits like that that establish the film’s overriding eccentricity; you should be tipped off that the rest of the film never goes where you think it will. (At one point, for a ‘comedy’, there is even one genuine shock.)

    Once you’re past the first 30 min., the film is off-and-running. While I wouldn’t call this a laugh-out-loud flick, it’s consistently amusing. (I did actually burst, though, when the “all-American” parents came up to the plate to protect Coburn in public.)

    ‘TPA’ is one of those films that has a cumulative effect; it gets better and better as it goes. And the final section is nothing short of brilliant.

    With his blinding smile, Coburn turns in a seemingly effortless performance, and he seems to be having a ball. He’s surrounded by an extremely game supporting cast (esp. Darden, Cambridge and an almost-unrecognizable Arte Johnson).

    It’s somewhat inconceivable that ‘TPA’ was written and directed by the same man who gave us the abysmal film ‘The Troublemaker’ just a few years earlier. My guess is that, since ‘TPA’ was handled by a seasoned producer (Howard Koch), director Flicker’s fertile wackiness had careful guidance. (As far as I know, this was Flicker’s sole commercial – that is, artistic – success. I don’t know how much money it made.)

    Fave visual bit: the President’s ubiquitous, red pager-signal coming from Coburn’s soup.

    Re: Lalo Schifrin’s terrific score…it includes some bouncy rhythms echoed in 1968’s ‘The Odd Couple’ (also Koch-produced), as well as a paranoia leitmotif that would rise up similarly in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (also shot by the DP here, William Fraker).

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