Thursday, February 25, 2010

A 1960s satire that remains relevant

The President's Analyst (1967)
Starring: James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, and Joan Delany
Director: Theodore J. Flicker
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

When Dr. Sidney Shaefer (Coburn) is recruited to be the President of the United States' personal psycho-analyst, he is thrilled and honored. However, being the person the most powerful man in the world can confide in soon becomes too much pressure for Sidney to bear, and, while suffering from a nervous breakdown, he flees Washington, D.C.. This is when his real troubles begin, however, as every foreign intelligence agency in the world (including the Canadian Secret Service) want to capture him and force him to reveal the president's secrets.

"The President's Analyst" is a hilarious satire that skewers the internal politics of the American intelligence and law enforcement services, pokes fun at American society in general, and spoofs the ever-popular chase-thriller. Although some small portions of the film are dated--like the hippies that Shaefer hooks up with while on the run, the obvious spoof of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, and the scene where the gun-toting liberal from New Jersey explains to Shaefer how he sponsored the "colored family" to move into the neighborhood--most of the comedy remains fresh and even relevant forty years after the film's initial release, marking it as a true classic.

In fact, given how Hollywood seems to be cranking out more and more remakes of movies that don't need to be remade, I'm surprised that we didn't seen a remake of "The President's Analyst" back when everyone in Hollywood was trying to show how George Bush was eeeevil. Perhaps this film is ultimately too politically neutral for the knuckleheads that run the film industry to see that they could have shot the script mostly as-is with just a few search-and-replaces to update it--maybe they can't see past the portrayal of "liberals" or the fact that CIA (sorry, CEA) agents are among the film's good guys? I'm glad no one has taken this classic and turned it into a steaming pile of "reimagined" crap, but I'm astonished it hasn't been done.

The witty, fast-paced script of "The President's Analyst" is delivered with great style by a cast of actors who all turn in a fine job. Coburn in is in fantastic form, with his usual winning smile coming across as hilariously maniacal while Shaefer is proving that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. Cambridge and Darden also turn in funny performances as an American and a Russian spy with shared mutual respect and love of goofy disguises.

Anyone who likes a well-made farce should check out "The President's Analyst"... and should do so before the inevitable crappy remake shows up in theaters or on cable TV.


  1. I haven't seen this one, and good points about the inevitable remake. I could see it coming too. Remember that failed TV show with Geena Davis where she played the first female president? Well, it had been done before, with the movie "Kisses for My President" starring Polly Bergen as the President (and Fred MacMurray as "First Man"!)

  2. I haven't even heard of that one. Is it worth the bother to seek out?