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Make Your Move

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Close-Ups: Blinded by the grin

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For the Close-Up Blog-a-thon at The House Next Door:

Someone is trying to kill Dr. Sidney Shaefer (James Coburn). Hell, it seems like just about everybody is trying to kill him — or spy on him or abduct him or drug him or interrogate him or brainwash him or flip him or something. And it's no wonder. He knows too much. He's the president's analyst in Theodore J. Flicker's 1967 "The President's Analyst," one of the great unheralded movies of the '60s and one of the great paranoid political comedies ever — part "Strangelove," part "Parallax View,"  part "Our Man Flint," part "Little Murders."

 

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Poor Sidney — or Sid, as his former patient and CEA (Central Enquiry Agency) agent Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge) calls him. Even the President of the United States now has someone he can talk to. But Sidney can't trust anybody. So, for now, he has managed to slip away in the station wagon of the Typical American suburban Quantrill family of Seaside Heights, New Jersey: Wynn (William Daniels), Jeff (Joan Darling) and their son Bing (Sheldon Collins), tourists he picks up while they are taking a White House tour.

"Gee whiz, Dad. Why can't we take the FBR tour?" Bing whines. "I want to see the files."

"Sorry Bing," Dad replies. "We've got to get back to New Jersey as soon as we finish the White House.

"Now be a good boy and enjoy your heritage," says Mom.

 

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"Yes."

 

The Quantrills are liberals. Not left-wingers or anything like that, but they're for civil rights. They've done some weekend picketing. As a matter of fact, they even sponsored the "Nigro doctor and his wife" when they moved into the development. Their next-door neighbors are fascists, though.

Stepping into the Quantrill's split-level home, Wynn flicks a switch on the living room wall and groovy Bacharach-esque Muzak begins to play. "Total sound," he explains with evident satisfaction.

"Want a draft beah?"

Dr. Sidney Schaefer slides off his sunglasses and beams ingratiatingly. "Yes."

I defy you to watch Coburn flash his killer pearly-whites here (can you tell Sid is maybe beginning to go a little off his rocker?) and not find yourself grinning, too. This is megawatt star-power, so bright you gotta wear shades.

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