While it is one or two steps behind "Dr. Strangelove," "The President's Analyst" (1967) is a very good black comedy sniggering at Cold War paranoid. Maybe it's not as ruthless as that great comedy, but the movie romps cheerfully on its subjects with a take-no-prisoner attitude. And during this loony joy ride we eventually discover that the movie foretold something very accurate more than 40 years ago.
We have seen many psychiatrist whose lives become more burdensome than usual thanks to their unusual patients in the movies ("Analyze This") and TV series("The Sopranos" and "In Treatment"), but I think no one can top our hero Dr. Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn). His new patient is none other than the president of the United States, the most powerful figure in the world who incidentally does not appear on the screen.
If, like me, you were spellbound by each season's opening credits for "The Wire," you must see the short film analyses of them by critics Andrew Dignan, Kevin B. Lee and Matt Zoller Seitz at Moving Image Source (published by the Museum of the Moving Image). Using the actual footage, along with still frames and zooms (aka "the Ken Burns effect"), these short films examine the credits in critical detail, treating them as short movies unto themselves. Which is exactly what they are. Each season of "The Wire" introduced a new opening montage (cut to various recordings of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole") to set the scene. (Also see the Opening Shot essay for "The Wire.")
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."
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.
View image "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.