Back in the old days, when vcr's were rare and expensive, and we had to get up and walk to the television to change the channel, there were certain movies that my brothers and I would look forward to on late-night television. One of these movies was The President's Analyst.
A couple of years ago, the movie came out on DVD. I was excited, and ordered it. Sometimes, movies like this can be a disappointment. What seemed really funny, cool or entertaining when you were 11 can be a little weak when you're in your forties. Happily, this was not the case for this movie.
The movie opens with Godfrey Cambridge, dressed in a ridiculous outfit, walking with a rack full of clothes through Manhattan's garment district. He suddenly stabs a guy and puts the body in a bin full of clothes. The plot unfolds from there.
It turns out that he's Don Masters, a "CEA" agent, who was on a mission. He returns to his home office-- body and all-- acting like a milk truck delivery man coming off of his shift. He's in a hurry because has an appointment that day with his analyst, Dr. Sidney Schaefer, played by the great James Coburn. He discusses what he'd done that day, and launches into one of the most brilliant on-screen examinations ever of the "n-word" and then outs himself as a CEA agent. But this is part of it all. Part of his mission was to go to therapy with Dr. Shaefer as part of a screening process.
It seems that the U.S. President, who's never shown in the movie, is under incredible pressure and stress in his job. It's been decided to provide him with an analyst to unload on.
It's one of those "Good on paper/bad in execution" ideas. It seems that in addition to unloading all his personal issues onto Dr. Shaefer, the President is telling the most sensitive national security secrets to him as well. This makes Dr. Schaefer the most popular man in the world among the world's intelligence agencies-- even Canada's-- and they are all hell-bent on capturing him. Hijinks ensue.
The movie has a stellar cast. Among them:
Will Geer- later, Grandpa Walton
Arte Johnson- Became a cast member of Laugh-In ("Very interesting-- but stupid!")
Severn Darden- an original member of Chicago's Second City troupe
Pat Harrington- played the vain janitor on "One Day At A Time."
William Daniels- The pompous Dr. Craig on "St. Elsewhere."
Barry McGuire- Yes, the guy who sang "Eve of Destruction!"
The movie takes swipes at the cold war, power, hippies, straights, psychotherapy, conservatism, liberalism-- and the phone company. I'll leave it at that.
Severn Darden plays Soviet agent Kropotkin, who is CEA agent Don Masters' (Godfrey Cambridge) best friend. Being both cold war rivals and best friends, they get a lot of the best lines.
Though the cold war was an essential part of the plot, little has really changed since the Berlin Wall came down. Power still corrupts and makes people act stupidly, as our current administration seems bent on proving everyday. And this movie still stands up well after 40 years.