Dr Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn) is a successful New York psychiatrist for whom life couldn't be better. However, things are going to take a different path when he is analysing a patient, Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge), who while remembering his first encounter with racism segues into the revelation that he has just come from stabbing a foreign agent to death. Schaefer is shocked until it is explained that Masters is a government agent, a spy for the C.E.A., and then begins to rationalise the spy's lack of guilt. Yet he soon forgets about that when he is offered a chance of a lifetime: to become the President's analyst...
A genuine, one hundred percent cult classic, writer and director Theodore J. Flicker's film was a perfect piece of paranoia all wrapped up with a sly, kidding weirdness that did not quite hide its serious intent. Famously, the real life F.B.I. and C.I.A. were deeply unhappy that the film was being made so Flicker had to include a disclaimer at the start and change the agencies' names to the similarly initialed F.B.R. and C.E.A., although you'd have to be particularly obtuse not to realise who Flicker was really sending up; funnily enough, the K.G.B. and Chinese secret service were not too bothered as far as we know.
In one of his greatest performances, Coburn plays Dr Schaefer as the epitome of the modern man at first, confident, appreciating the good things in life and ready to settle down with his girlfriend Nan (Joan Delaney). All that relaxed goodwill will be gradually worn away to reveal the true modern man underneath: ill at ease, lost in the bigger picture and believing everyone is out to get him. Which is of course a much more reasonable response to the world he lives in than the attitude he has been adopting up until he gets the call from the President to head for Washington.
Being the leader of the free world's analyst is not the professional blessing Schaefer wants it to be, as soon his life is dominated by the secret services. He has to move into a new home, taking Nan with him, which is fitted with alarm bells and red flashing lights to alert him to when the President needs attention. It's not long before Schaefer is getting twitchy and no wonder, as he has no one to confide in: the analyst needs an analyst. And not only that, but he soon realises he is being spied on himself when he is informed he talks in his sleep so needs more security around him. This is all presented with such a wicked sense of humour that it's gleefully nutty.
By the time Schaefer is being spied on by Nan, however, he decides he wants to get away for good, and so the chase is on. Spies from all countries are now after him and either want him dead or want the information inside his head all for themselves. Schaefer hides out with a typical American family led by father William Daniels, but despite his claims to be dyed in the wool liberal he turns out to be a gun nut, underlining Flicker's message that paranoia blurs the lines between the left wing and the right. Further to that is when Masters and his Soviet counterpart Kropotkin (Severn Darden) team up to save Schaefer and get on like old friends - which they are. Nothing is what it seems here, not a Beatles style pop group or the Telephone Company, and although the story grows wilder and wackier with every scene, Flicker keeps his steely gaze centred on the absurdities of international intrigue and politics. Both of its time and forward thinking, The President's Analyst was a true gem. Excellent music by Lalo Schifrin.