The President’s Analyst: 1967: dir. Theodore J. Flicker. Seen on DVD (June 12).
I caught part of The President’s Analyst one night on Bravo, during the brief period about 8 years ago when I actually had cable TV, and it was one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen. I was dying to see it again, but it didn’t show up on cable (and then I stopped having cable) and I couldn’t find it at the video store.
The movie was released on DVD last week, and by some stroke of luck (or lack of widespread interest) we got it from Netflix almost immediately. I couldn’t wait to see this incredibly bizarre time capsule of a movie.
I was not disappointed.
The President’s Analyst is very much a movie of the late Sixties/early Seventies. Even the title dates it. Like Sleeper, it’s the kind of movie where the filmmakers knew it would be dated a year later and didn’t much care. Actually, it’s not so much “dated” as it is “trapped in its own universe” in which all kinds of fantastic, surreal things happen.
James Coburn plays Dr. Sidney Schaefer, who is selected by the CIA-I-mean-CEA (and against the wishes of the FBI-I-mean-FBR) to serve as the president’s psychoanalyst. Why they cast Coburn for this, I have no idea, but it works. He has this tendency to grin in a very scary way when you least expect it, and I’m not sure whether that’s out of character or perfectly in line with the general bizarreness of the movie. Coburn may be oddly cast but he’s still fun to watch.
Anyway, the President (whom we never see) confides in Coburn so much that everyone is dying to get their hands on him and make him spill all these state secrets. He becomes justifiably paranoid and runs away. The FBR wants to kill him. The Russians want him to defect to the Soviet Union. The CEA wants him to stop hiding and return to the President. And I haven’t even mentioned the wandering hippie band, the chick named Snow White whose clothes are fastened by a helium balloon, or the Canadian Secret Service. Oh, and the left-wing militant family … you ought to rent this movie, you definitely should.
The President’s Analyst was originally intended as a hip, contemporary political satire. But these days, The President’s Analyst seems less satirical and more a snapshot of groovy 1967 filmmaking, and worth a look for that reason alone. Its solid acting and direction make it a more watchable Sixties curiosity than, say, The Trip, which is weird but slow and irritating (and proof that psychedelic drugs do not really improve acting ability in most cases). Or The Loved One (the movie, not the book), which tried so hard to offend audiences of its time that it’s merely ridiculous today.
Besides Coburn, the cast is fascinating for film buffs, with appearances from William Daniels (The Graduate), Will Geer (The Waltons), Arte Johnson (Laugh-In), and musician Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”). Oooh, and the music is wonderfully and intentionally over-the-top throughout the film.
I had heard that the VHS version of The President’s Analyst was missing a couple of music-dominated scenes and that other scenes had background music substituted because of rights issues. It appears that the music and scenes were restored for DVD release. However, you can’t say much else about the DVD qualitythe sound is in mono and we had to jack up the volume all the way plus turn off the A/C to hear all the dialogue properly. And there are no extras whatsoever. However, in this case I suppose we should be happy to have a letterboxed, restored version of the movie on DVD at all, and not complain.
I enjoyed The President’s Analyst very much, and think it would make a fine double feature with the more recent and equally underrated movie Dick.