President’s Analyst, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Apr 16, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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President’s Analyst, The (Blu-ray Review)


Theodore J. Flicker

Release Date(s)

1967 (March 12, 2024)


Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

The President's Analyst (Blu-ray)

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The President’s Analyst, a satirical take on espionage movies at the height of the Cold War, brims with paranoia, action, and sex. James Coburn plays a therapist enlisted to ease tension and stress for one of the most powerful men in the world who soon finds himself immersed in a sea of intrigue.

New York psychiatrist Sidney Schafer (Coburn, Our Man Flint) is whisked to Washington to treat the President of the United States. What with maintaining world peace, managing the national debt, and deciding what dessert should be served at state dinners, he needs a professional to whom he can pour out his anxieties in strict confidence. The assignment is a great honor that turns out to be nothing but trouble. A buzzer and flashing red lights summon Sidney to the Oval Office at all times of the day and night, interrupting everything from his meals to his romantic overtures. More dangerously, now that Sidney is privy to highly sensitive national secrets, an assortment of international intelligence agents are trying to capture him by any means necessary.

The FBI bugs Sidney’s room and the CIA, on overhearing Sidney talk in his sleep, demands that he and his girlfriend, Nan (Joan Delaney), sleep apart. The FBI’s leader believes people entrusted with national secrets should be squeaky clean and noble. The CIA leader trusts no one, least of all the President’s shrink. To escape the constant interruptions and intrusive surveillance, Sidney joins a White House tour and attaches himself to a couple, Bing and Jeff Quantrill (William Daniels, 1776 and Joan Darling, Up in the Cellar), by claiming that the President wants him to learn what average Americans are thinking. They take him to their home in a New York City suburb, where they reveal highly unsettling things about their typical suburban lives. Sidney’s pursuers, meanwhile, are on his heels. He succeeds in eluding them and makes his way to Greenwich Village, where he joins a Hollywood cliche of a hippie rock band. His escape is again short-lived. The FBI and agents of various foreign powers are looking for him, Sidney is unknowingly taken in by a couple of friendly counterspies, the CIA’s Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge, Cotton Comes to Harlem) and the FBI’s Kropotkin (Severn Darden, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).

Coburn’s Sidney has a healthy ego when we first meet him but, as his fear increases, so does his paranoia and he becomes increasingly unhinged as he plays cat-and-mouse with those who want to extract information from him or kill him. “Dr. Schaefer must die,” says one pursuer, “He knows too much.” Coburn has a subtle way with the script’s comedy and never plays scenes too broadly. The situations set up the humorous moments. Coburn knows he’s the catalyst to make the scenes work, and most do.

The President’s Analyst is very much a film of its time as it draws on the Cold War, spy films, psychedelic images, the anti-hero, and characters who may not be what they appear to be. With a nod to 007-type gadgetry, there’s a car that can double as a boat and a portable telephone booth that locks in its user.

The film is uneven in hitting its satirical targets. The best sequence is with the mild-mannered liberal couple who have more guns in their home than an armory. “The people next door are fascists,” the husband says. “They ought to be gassed.” The telephone company also takes some punches since, according to the film, everyone hates the phone company. Phone company bigwig Arlington Hewes (Pat Harrington, Move Over, Darling) lectures Sidney about how the phone company is everyone’s friend as a self-promoting cartoon is shown. Harrington’s clean-cut look, his robotic smile with a trace of menace, and the elaborate publicity network at his command indicate that the phone company has serious public relations issues.

But the major problem with the film is the number of sluggish scenes. Writer/director Theodore J. Flicker jumps around several locations to give the picture visual variety, but some scenes are extraneous or run too long. A brisker pace would have heightened the comedy.

The President’s Analyst was shot by director of photography William A. Fraker on 35 mm film with anamorphic Panavision cameras and lenses, and finished on film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The Blu-ray is sourced from a HD master by Paramount Pictures from a 4K scan of the 35 mm original camera negative. Clarity is excellent. Color palette is broad, from bold primaries to softer pastels. Detail is well delineated in museum sculptures, a brick wall in Sidney’s apartment, patterns in Sidney’s flowered hippie clothes, and high grass through which agents crawl. Photography is impressive, especially a helicopter shot that moves in to reveal Sidney standing on the Statue of Liberty’s torch. Throughout the film, high-angle shots are used to show the breadth of sets and locations.

The soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an option. Dialogue is clear and distinct. Lalo Schifrin’s score is playful and jazzy, and is one of the best elements of the film, enhancing the cloak-and-dagger satire with its sprightly melodies. Sound effects include ambient noise at a rock club, gun shots, an amphibious car moving through the water, the humming and buzzing of electronic equipment, and telephones ringing.

Bonus materials on the Region A Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber include the following:

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Julie Kirgo and Peter Hankoff
  • Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
  • Trailer (3:38)
  • Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round Trailer (2:33)
  • A Fistful of Dynamite (Duck, You Sucker!) Trailer (3:35)
  • Harry in Your Pocket Trailer (2:00)
  • The Internecine Project Trailer (3:00)
  • The Ipcress File Trailer (3:07)
  • Arabesque Trailer (3:30)
  • A Dandy in Aspic Trailer (:59)

Audio Commentary #1 – Film historian/writer Julie Kirgo and writer/filmmaker Peter Hankoff note that The President’s Analyst was Bob Evans’ first film as head of Paramount. After the film was shot, Evans received a call from the FBI objecting to the use of the agency’s name in the film. J. Edgar Hoover was very much concerned with the bureau’s image. Films made prior to The President’s Analyst, such as Seven Days in May and Fail Safe, had portrayed strong American Presidents, so a president who needed a psychiatrist was a novelty. The film reflected rapid changes in the country during the “Summer of Love.” Attitudes at the film’s initial release toward Nan, Schaefer’s free-spirited girlfriend, varied. Feminists thought she was modern, others felt she was promiscuous. Several true elements are incorporated, adding credibility to the satire. The film was made when the majority of Americans trusted the government. The deal to make the film was put together in five days. At the time, movies and television were converging. Some items shown in the film—which were taboo on TV back then—include double beds, a nude female sculpture, and a toilet.

Audio Commentary #2 – Novelist and critic Tim Lucas provides a thorough look at The President’s Analyst. Director Theodore J., Flicker says, “A script is just a blueprint.” He encouraged improvisation and expected actors to bring something to the scene. The character of Sidney Schaefer is “a very Zen fellow.” He meditates but is also guarded, evasive, and sometimes a controlling sort who’s enticed by praise and preferential treatment. Early in his career, James Coburn did commercials and appeared in TV programs, especially in Westerns, which led to his casting in The Magnificent Seven. In Our Man Flint, he achieved stardom. The brief shot of Coburn standing in the torch of the Statue of Liberty is discussed. At the time, the torch was closed to the public because it had been weakened by an explosion in 1916. Alfred Hitchcock was not allowed to film a key sequence in Saboteur on the torch. The entire arm was replaced in 1985. The film often suggests “a world gone mad.” American secret services are shown to be just as bad as the Soviet’s, maybe even worse. The film is a comedy with touches of poetry. James Coburn had great hope for The President’s Analyst, but business at the box office tapered off pretty quickly. Coburn subsequently starred in A Fistful of Dynamite (Duck You Sucker!), Hard Times, Bite the Bullet, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Later, he slipped back into TV roles until disfiguring rheumatoid arthritis prevented him from working from 1986 to 1989. He won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1999 for Affliction. The President’s Analyst, which was in continuous release from December, 1967 to August, 1969, was budgeted at $2 million and earned $1,695,363. It premiered on TV on February 20, 1971 on NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies. Theodore J. Flicker returned to directing TV series episodes and was a co-creator of Barney Miller.

Harry S. Truman, America’s 33rd President, had a nameplate with the phrase “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk. All Presidents have the responsibility of making decisions, some trivial, others with world impact. The President’s Analyst taps into this duty, drawing attention on how it can create enormous stress. Being able to speak one’s mind to an objective professional is both healthful and impractical, which the film points out in satiric terms. Though the premise is sound and Coburn turns in a solid performance, the screenplay and direction fail to live up to the concept’s potential.

- Dennis Seuling