Quote of the Day

Dr. Sidney Schaefer: You mean to say you can actually legally kill someone?

Don Masters, CEA Agent: Yeah, and it bothers me sometimes that I don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t you think that’s psychotic behavior?

Dr. Sidney Schaefer: No I don’t! It explains your utter lack of hostility. You can vent your aggressive feelings by actually killing people! It’s a sensational solution to the hostility problem.

Head shrinker

THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST, written and directed by Theodore J. Flicker. Yes, Flicker.

Supposedly, T.J.F. presaged the shoot by telling his crew, “I want to make the most realistic film ever.”

“Well, he failed,” observes Fiona.

“Or… succeeded,” I argue.

Spy Kids

Things that strike me as realistic in this film:

The various American secret services hate each other and are happy to see each other killed by foreign powers.

The American and Russian masterspies each have a cordial, indeed affectionate, relationship with their opposite numbers.

Rampant capitalism is a more enduring threat to freedom than communism.

The president is worried about Libya (in 1967, this idea was humorous — it has since COME TRUE).

A psychiatrist uses his techniques to turn a Russian agent.

Politics cause neuroses, which cause politics.

Flicker’s previous film was a zero-budget comedy co-written with Buck Henry, THE TROUBLEMAKER. Presumably Paramount and James Coburn thought he might have an angle on what the kids were after, so they handed him a big budget spy caper. T.J.F. brought with him some of the actors he’d used in his debut, like comedian/thesp Godfrey Cambridge, and Second City improv star Severn Darden.

Some GOOD GAGS in this film! I like the meaningless joke of all the F.B.R. agents being really short. There’s no obvious reason for it but it’s quietly, increasingly hilarious. And when they’re around, the cutting goes all Dragnet, with that back-and-forth q&a shot-countershot rhythm based entirely on the dialogue, with no reaction shots allowed.

“Oh, it’s the ‘Pudlians,” remarks a hippychick called Snow White with no real enthusuasm, and a rock band with bonnets and mockney accents appear, who turn out to be ruthless operatives from the Canadian secret service. Before we can really anticipate how much comic materiel can be mined from this idea, they’re dead, slain by F.B.R. short-arses.

And then there’s the inexplicably festive ending, in which Lalo Schiffrin trots out the best version of “Joy to the World” ever.

7 Responses to “Quote of the Day”

  1. It came and went rather quickly when originally released, but in recent years PTA has developed a considerable cult following. Hit-and-run political satire is of course widely availabe on cable and on the ‘net. But “long form” pieces like this are as rare as hen’s teeth.

    And speaking of Coburn-starred satire, are you familiar with Hard Contract by S. Lee Pogostin ?

  2. Good name! No, I don’t think I ever came across that one.

    Just read the IMDb stuff — sounds great!

    Pogostin seems to be even less prolific than Flicker.

  3. Yes ! I caught this on tv and loved it

  4. It’s a very strange film with a ton of neo-Mankiewiczian dialogue that the cast handles quite well.

  5. I think it’s kind of entered my language system over the years, as I have a tendency to say “Beautiful!” a lot. But that also might be the (baleful) influence of my friend Mark Bender, who is a natural enthusiast.

  6. Everett Jones Says:

    I think the unimpressive stature of the F.B.R. agents might have been a dig at J. Edgar Hoover, who was reputed to prefer recruits he could stand next to without embarrassment.

  7. Ah, thanks for that! The movie really seems to have it in for the F.B.R. while simultaneously feeling quite warmly towards the C.E.A. which is odd, but a nice change.

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