Saturday, April 8, 2023

#2,904. The President's Analyst - 1967 Comedies Triple Feature


This film has not been made
with the consent or cooperation
of the Federal Bureau of
Regulations (F.B.R.) or the Central
Enquiries Agency (C.E.A.). An
resemblance to persons living
or dead is purely coincidental.
And so forth and so on.

James Coburn could do it all, from action-packed westerns (The Magnificent Seven) to war films (The Great Escape), even the occasional hard-hitting drama (he won his only Academy Award for 1997’s Affliction, in which he played Nick Nolte’s alcoholic father).

Writer / director Theodore Flicker’s The President’s Analyst gave Coburn a chance to stretch his talents across multiple genres, including comedy, action, thriller, even sci-fi. In a career brimming with roles in fascinating movies, The President’s Analyst may just be Coburn’s crowning achievement.

Without realizing it, psychiatrist Sidney Schaefer (Coburn) is being considered for a very important job. A recent patient of his, Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge) is, in reality, an agent for the United States Central Enquiries Agency, and has been tasked with determining whether or not Sidney is the right man to serve as analyst for the President of the United States!

Despite the apprehension of Henry Lux (Walter Burke), director of the Federal Bureau of Regulations, Sidney is recommended for the job, and before long is living in a spacious house in Georgetown with his live-in girlfriend Nan (Joan Delaney).

Sidney quickly discovers, however, that being the analyst of the most important man in the free world has its drawbacks. Because of the President’s busy schedule, Sidney must be available 24-7, and often is called 3-4 times a day. Also, because the F.B.R. has declared him a possible security risk (because he talks in his sleep), Nan is moved out of the house and put up in a nearby hotel, to prevent her from overhearing potentially “sensitive” information about the President.

Alone and deprived of sleep, Sidney’s paranoia grows, and he believes he sees agents following him at every turn.

Anxious to quit but unable to do so, Sidney does the next best thing: posing as a government employee, he convinces a “typical American family” touring the White House that the President is interested in their opinions regarding his performance, and that he should accompany them home to conduct the interview. So, Sidney hops in a car with Wynn Quantrill (William Daniels), his wife Jeff (Joan Darling), and their son Bing (Sheldon Collins), who live in New Jersey!

The minute he is out of town, agents from all around the world, including Soviet spy Kropotkin (Severn Darden), travel to the U.S. with instructions to abduct Sidney and find out everything he knows about the President. To make matters worse, Lux instructs his F.B.R. team that Sidney is now a security threat, and must be killed.

To prevent this from happening, the C.E.A. tasks Agent Masters with finding the good doctor before anyone else and returning him safely to Washington D.C.

The President’s Analyst starts simply enough, with an overjoyed Sidney relishing the news that he has been chosen to help the President work out his personal issues. In these early scenes, Coburn plays it straight, giving the impression he is every bit the professional psychiatrist. Once the paranoia sets in, however, his performance becomes more manic, as does the pace of the movie. X  By the time he’s a wanted man, both he and the story take some very sharp turns. While exiting a downtown Chinese restaurant, Sidney is saved from several enemy agents by the Quantrills (Wynn is a self-professed liberal who carries a handgun, Jeff is a karate student).

To escape, Sidney hitches a ride with a band of musical hippies led by the “Old Wrangler” (Barry McGuire). In what might be the film’s funniest moment, Sidney, decked out in hippie attire, is strolling through an open field with Old Wrangler and a pretty brunette known as Snow White (Jill Banner), not realizing he has been tracked to that location by several foreign spies. Lucky for him, these agents spend more time fighting each other than they do trying to apprehend their target. As the camera pulls back, Sidney, Snow White, and Old Wrangler are walking away, the bodies of a handful of spies littering the ground behind them.

Coburn is superb, playing subdued and strung out equally well, while both Godfrey Cambridge and Severn Darden do a fine job as the agents on Sidney’s trail. In an interesting twist, Masters and Kropotkin, despite the hostilities between their two countries, are close friends, and make a friendly wager with one another as to which will find Sidney first.

While the middle act of The President’s Analyst, starting when Sidney runs away, gets kinda crazy, it’s nothing compared to the unbridled chaos of the final third of the movie, when even the Phone Company wants to get their hands on Sidney! A comedy with a touch of James Bond thrown in, The President’s Analyst is inspired lunacy.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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