The President’s Analyst

by Glenn Erickson Mar 26, 2024

Now available in a domestic Blu-ray — if The Phone Company doesn’t suppress it — is one of the smartest, funniest political satires ever, and James Coburn’s finest hour as an actor & project-chooser. Writer-director Theodore J. Flicker’s movie transcends the spy-craze politics of 1967: the White House shrink knows too many Presidential secrets, making him a prime target in a giddy international spy chase. Everything leads to an absurd Sci-fi conspiracy that nevertheless is now quickly becoming our reality. Coburn’s hipster cred holds up well, abetted by a lineup of great talent led by improv pioneers Godfrey Cambridge and Severn Darden.

The President’s Analyst
KL Studio Classics
1967 / Color / 2:35 widescreen / 103 min. / Street Date March 12, 2024 / available through Kino Lorber / 29.95
Starring: James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, Joan Delaney, Pat Harrington, Barry McGuire, Jill Banner, Eduard Franz, Walter Burke, Will Geer, William Daniels, Joan Darling, Sheldon Collins, Arte Johnson, Kathleen Hughes.
Cinematography: William A. Fraker
Production Designer: Pato Guzman
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Al Roelofs
Film Editor: Stuart H. Pappé
Original Music: Paul Potash, Lalo Schifrin
Produced by Howard W. Koch, Stanley Rubin
Written and Directed by
Theodore J. Flicker

When a desirable title only available on a foreign disc finally gets a domestic Blu-ray release, we want to crow something like ‘Now At Popular Prices!’

The stardom that  Our Man Flint brought to James Coburn gave him the freedom to pick and choose his next few features. By far the best of the crop is The President’s Analyst. The Australian outfit Imprint gave the well-remembered show its Blu-ray debut in 2021, just about the time we were all getting our first Covid vaccine boosters.

Written and directed by the busy Theodore J. Flicker, The President’s Analyst was sold and accepted in 1967 as a lightweight SuperSpy romp, just as the sub-genre was sputtering to a halt with cartoonish parodies. But some critics recognized right away that Flicker’s movie was the best all-round political satire of the late 1960s. Its topical lampoons are still relevant, and its futuristic observations have been truly prophetic. Writer-director Flicker enlisted a corps of fresh, very hip theater talent to tackle a storyline with a new satirical target ever 90 seconds. To our surprise, this spy spoof goes beyond improv routines and scattershot jokes. It has important things to say about suburban living, hippies, high technology and government intrusions into our privacy.


A wonderfully sane comedy about modern madness.

At age 14, we remember first seeing The President’s Analyst on a ‘swingin’ double bill with Coburn’s faux-hip Waterhole #3. The western’s sexist humor has aged poorly; rape is jokingly called ‘assault with a friendly weapon.’ But Analyst can be called both original and inspiring. Coburn and producer Stanley Rubin gave a brilliant writer-director creative freedom at just the right time. It was reportedly the first feature green-lit by Paramount’s new production head Robert Evans.

Swank Manhattan psychoanalyst Dr. Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn) is chosen to serve as LBJ’s analyst. He relocates to Washington only to discover that the job is a nightmare: because everything about the Oval Office is high-security, Sidney cannot unburden his own psyche after absorbing the President’s daily problems. Ethan Allen Crocket of the CEA (Eduard Franz) and his professional associate Dr Lee-Evans (Will Geer) are sympathetic to Sidney’s dilemma, but the diminutive head of the FBR Henry Lux (Walter Burke) disapproves of his live-in girlfriend Nan Butler (Joan Delaney). Under the strain of his new job Sidney becomes paranoid about a threat to his life. He goes on the run, hiding out with the Quantrills (William Daniels & Joan Darling), ‘average American liberals’ that prove to be gun-toting wackos in a polarized political climate. Real spies from all over the world indeed try to kidnap Sidney, and Henry Lux dispatches his FBR agents to kill him as a security risk. Luckily, Sidney has two loyal allies on his side. CEA hit man Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge) and Russian espionage ace Kropotkin (Severn Darden) happen to be the best of friends. Don Masters especially wants Sidney alive — he needs to resume his analysis!


Before any particular idea can become stale the script jumps to the next level.

Movies attempting to tap the new talent of theatrical comedy groups had a pretty spotty record in the 1960s. Philip Kaufman’s unusual, esoteric  Goldstein and  Fearless Frank come to mind. The stand-up skit material in The President’s Analyst is integrated into a smart story that moves like a house afire. No sooner are we introduced to a parody of Washington’s competing security agencies than we move on to White House jokes and a devastating lampoon of trends in suburbia. The jokes are consistently funny and the satirical barbs are sharp. The wild Science Fiction ending actually finds something profound to say.

The Sidney Schaefer character allows Coburn to flex his shaggy personality, not just flash his toothy smile. Dr. Schaefer’s gong-ringing good-guy shrink plays straight man to a cast of crazies. This is comedian Godfrey Cambridge’s best role. His Don Masters opens the film with a killing in broad daylight, and then delivers a wholly unexpected soliloquy about racism. From that point on Cambridge has us in his pocket. Severn Darden’s chummy, garrulous KGB top spy Kropotkin turns out to be equally in need of Dr. Schaefer’s psychoanalysis. The film’s comic tone is seductively subversive: America’s federal police organizations are depicted as lawless entities that answer to no one. The FBR and CEA are practically at war with each other, and the only ‘heroes’ willing to oppose an unseen existential threat, are a pair of rogue secret agents, one American and one Soviet.

The fresh sketch material gives everybody room to shine, even if a certain level of non-PC humor is present. New discovery Joan Delaney comes on as a submissive love object, but then asserts her independence against Schaefer’s suggestion of a ‘constrictive’ marriage. Barry McGuire is the Barry McGuire of  Eve of Destruction fame, the former ‘New Christy Minstrel.’ His hippie guru impersonation is priceless, as is Jill Banner’s ‘Snow White,’ a rock groupie love child dreamily obsessed with sex. Horror fans will remember Ms. Banner from Jack Hill’s ultra-strange  Spider Baby. Audiences in 1967 gasped and laughed when The President’s Analyst got away with a shot of Banner’s bare bottom, albeit framed in a wide shot from a hundred yards away.



Writer-director Flicker’s view of the politically polarized home front is as exaggerated as an Al Capp cartoon — but with more finesse. William Daniels and Joan Darling are Wynn and Jeff Quantrill, pistol-packing, karate-chopping ‘good’ suburbans. Wynn considers himself typically American yet advocates that gassing would be too good for his ‘fascist’ neighbors, the ones that fly the flag every day. The Quantrill boy Bing (Sheldon Collins) bugs Sidney’s phone call with his ‘Junior G-Man’ kit, and cheerfully alerts the FBR.

When the first spies try to seize Sidney on a Greenwich Village sidewalk, the Quantrills retaliate as a coordinated killing team. We laugh because it’s the logical extension of a free society that celebrates vigilante violence. Enemies lurk everywhere, you know.

We enjoy scattershot black comedy satires even when they don’t quite hang together, like George Axelrod’s frequently brilliant  Lord Love a Duck. Theodore Flicker maintains better control over his satiric aims, focusing on the emerging Security State. In 1967 average Americans thought they had a right to privacy against government snooping. After learning that Don Masters and the CEA have learned all his secrets, Sidney protests that “the sanctity of a psychiatrist’s office is sacred.” After the 1971  Daniel Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers break-in, that line became a ‘zinger moment,’ earning audible audience GASPS. There may be no better example of life imitating art.

The ‘CEA’ is presented as an intellectual Ivy league think-tank. Ethan Allen Cocket’s office is a cozy academic retreat, with women sitting on the floor and men smoking pipes. The ‘FBR’ is a terror organization run by a repressed midget who only hires agents shorter than himself. Lampooning an actual Edgar J. Hoover security protocol, agents approaching Henry Lux’s desk must trace a certain pattern on the rug, or risk being shot. When FBR agent Sullivan (Arte Johnson) puts a gun to Sidney’s head, he snaps that he’s just following orders. No ‘Laugh-In’ exaggeration, just perfect Joe Friday manners. On another occasion Sullivan’s ‘squire’ assistant Ballantine (John Gunn?) advises young Bing Quantrill not to use ethnic slurs. It’s Un-American.


Director Flicker’s storytelling is extremely efficient. Many shots serve more than one function. When Joan Darling’s Jeff Quantrill greets her fellow Karate classmates at the curbside, across the street we see not only a boy being reprimanded by his mother, but also an early hint of the omnipresent ‘TPC’ overlords. The Phone Company’s sly and insidious presence is established through a gradual proliferation of innocuous TPC logos. They creep up on us, just as do the ‘special project’ insignia that keep appearing in the paranoid sci-fi film  Quatermass 2. Another early hint of The Phone Company’s omniscience: during the Greenwich Village spy pursuit an agent finds himself trapped … inside an ordinary phone booth. Oooooh — what if all phone booths were rigged to operate like Venus flytraps?

A not-so obscure fact about The President’s Analyst is that the FBI and CIA were correctly identified in the script and during filming; they were renamed and re-voiced in post-production. Thus every line where FBI or CIA was spoken has been re-dubbed to ‘FBR’ and ‘CEA’, as can be seen in the mismatch of actors’ lips. Producer Stanley Rubin confirmed this when I recorded a commentary with him in 2008. It’s interesting that in 1967 a movie might lightly mock the Army, the Navy, Congress and even the President, but our secret police systems had no tolerance for such spoofery.


“Please, no Russian, I’m spyin’!

The second act is a dizzying spy chase. An unending parade of secret agents and national operatives compete to kidnap Sidney, as if Antonio Prohias were in charge. Even Canada fields a team of murderous deep-cover spies. In one of the film’s best showcase scenes, an international cross-section of killers wipe each other out trying to kill Sidney as he and his hippie girlfriend Snow White are getting acquainted in a field. The sequence is shaped as a proto- music video for an amusing Barry McGuire song, ‘Changes.’  The song was replaced for the film’s TV version, ruining the joke.

Just when we fear that the giddy, unpredictable storyline will lose its grip or run out of ideas, Flicker pulls his trump card: ominous, visionary science-fiction. In the TPC’s computerized headquarters, the corporate spokesman Arlington Hughes (Pat Harrington) condescendingly explains why it’s imperative for Sidney to use his influence on the President. Hughes’ sales job is illustrated with an animated Public Service Announcement, a glib ‘infotainment’ piece that perfectly skewers the ‘Epcot’ mentality seen in the Disney  Tomorrowland Disc. TPC’s goal is to implant in the brain of every newborn child, a tiny communication device called a ‘Cerebrum Communicator.’ In 1967 this concept of cyborg interconnectedness was extreme fantasy. Today, cell phones, the Internet, Facebook, etc., have made it a daily reality. Corporations are eager to privatize our bodies, hooking us up like the Krell in Forbidden Planet and making us pay for the privilege.

So Flicker’s ultimate villain is ‘benign’ corporate tyranny. Cold War rivalries are trivial compared to the depredations of vast corporations set on monetizing humanity (see  También la lluvia). One painless biological alteration to our body will guarantee that we’re never again late with the phone bill. Flicker’s bio-cyborg communications conspiracy sounds like something David Cronenberg might imagine. Are we all that far away from  The Outer Limits‘  Demon with a Glass Hand?


The film’s climax sees Sidney, Don and Kropotkin engaging The Phone Company’s private army in a comic book gun battle. TPC’s faceless uniformed guards fall like tenpins and the shooting is bloodless — it’s so nice when armed rebellion can be so stylishly antiseptic. The pacifist Sidney refuses an M16 of his own, until Kropotkin insists that he stop considering himself above the fray:

“You wanna save the world? Take the gun!”

The exchange is a lot more than just funny. It acknowledges that the way liberals effect social change is a frustrating process; change takes decades, can look ineffective and makes do-gooders feel impotent. The opposition is more likely to use force as a first option, and force is sexy. Seduced by a machine gun, the non-violent Sidney becomes an instant Che Guevara.

The show could have found a satisfactory finish just by freeze-framing on the spectacle of Sidney plunging through a cloud of orange smoke. Theodore Flicker instead astounds us with a topper twist that flips The President’s Analyst one more time. The funny-but-chilling Christmas conclusion ends on a vision of more Phone Company automatons. They monitor  Mabuse– like spy screens, and shed sincere robot tears for our Yuletide happiness. Science Fiction mixes with Charles Dickens good cheer. There has never been a more precise film image of the Brave New Future we’ve created. Most of the developed world now lives on the Internet, trading their personal privacy for … nothing. We generally accept that our every move is being monitored by corporate computer programs.

The IMDB tells us that a vocal White House tourist is none other than Universal favorite Kathleen Hughes (It Came from Outer Space) — the spouse of co-producer Stanley Rubin. In another bit part is actress Dyanne Thorne, several years before her notoriety as  Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S..



We gave the KL Studio Classics Blu-ray of The President’s Analyst a quick comparison with the 2021 Imprint disc, and have satisfied ourselves that the same excellent Paramount encoding has been used here. In colorful Panavision with very snappy audio to flatter the bright Lalo Schifrin music score, it won’t disappoint. The pop-hipster music adds dynamics and punctuation without crowding itself too much into the foreground.

William Fraker’s sharp cinematography receives an excellent showcase. Fraker’s artistic apprenticeship had been spent with Conrad Hall; his career skyrocketed with every succeeding assignment —  Rosemary’s Baby,  Bullitt, and so forth. Fraker even makes the film’s clichéd New York travelogue montage look good. It’s well-placed, to give the satirical onslaught a breather.

Kino’s disc producers retain one commentary from the Australian disc, and substitute a new track for the second. The commentary by Tim Lucas is a keeper that offers much fresh information. Tim applauds Flicker’s Quantrill family, violent radical liberals obsessed with self-defense and guns. That absurd fantasy allows Analyst to deal with American political polarization without giving screen time to rednecks or neo-Nazis. It is devastatingly funny when proto-Yuppies William Daniels and Joan Darling annihilate trained FBI agents outside their favorite Manhattan Chinese restaurant. Tim offers information about the rock band seen with Barry McGuire, and investigates the evanescent careers of Jill Banner and Joan Delaney. It’s a commentary with real substance.


The new commentary track is from writer Julie Kirgo and writer-producer Peter Hankoff. They go for a congenial tag-team approach, almost free-associating with what they see on screen. The first thing they address are the rumors that the film was suppressed and the dubbing of the FBI and CIA line readings, a controversy long settled. They ask if Presidents have ‘shrinks,’ when we know some have welcomed as advisers Astrologists, think tank dreamers, futurists, and church celebrities. Ms. Kirgo can offer an interesting personal insight on Theodore J. Flicker, who was a writing partner of her father. She describes Flicker’s ‘groovy’ lifestyle in detail. They note the presence of obvious Southern California locations to represent places on the East Coast, and wind up the commentary with off-the-cuff observations.

I never saw the network TV version: helpful correspondent David Small reported that it replaced censored material by adding a previously deleted scene in an art-house movie theater. I do recall that this movie was the first time I read a movie review that just seemed stupid: the Playboy reviewer had little to say about the movie, and instead pronounced it invalid because Sidney Schaefer is seen casually strolling from Central Park to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Breezy, non-linear travel montages have been around since Jimmy Stewart toured the capital in  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.


Does this comedy really have anything important to say?  Considering that its wildest sci-fi notion (micro-cyborg devices implanted in our bodies) has come true, the answer is yes. Each viewing brings forth new observations. It now seems especially brilliant for Theodore Flicker to dedicate a full scene, right after the main titles, to Don Masters’ childhood confession. It showcases Godfrey Cambridge’s talent, while alerting the audience that this ‘comedy’ is going to have teeth — in 1967 the word ‘nigger’ threw a real hush into movie theater audiences. Giving Godfrey Cambridge the floor to make such a groundbreaking statement covered the issue of racism, freeing Flicker’s irreverent snapshot of America to move on to other concerns.

Flicker’s The President’s Analyst is as prescient as Paddy Chayefsky’s  Network. It’s a nearly comprehensive, light-hearted digest of American worries circa ’67: violence, government secrecy, corporate power, political extremism. It’s unwise to suggest that movies like this one or John Frankenheimer’s  The Manchurian Candidate were ever suppressed. Analyst faded from theater screens after seemingly playing forever as a second feature … as did dozens of late- ’60s movies. It still found screenings in revival theaters. It was certainly available for rent, in the dorm culture of the early ’70s.

As is usual, we enjoyed the take on this picture over at Movies ala Mark.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

The President’s Analyst
Blu-ray rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
New audio commentary with Julie Kirgo and Peter Hankoff.
Audio commentary with Tim Lucas
Original trailer.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (feature only)
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Keep case
March 23, 2024

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About Glenn Erickson

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Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.

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John Hall

Great review! My first viewing since 1967 !

John Alexander

Imprint was supplied with an older master, while this Kino release is a brand new 4K restoration by Paramount. Imprint’s image is good, but this Kino’s is fabulous!

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