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.
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.
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.