Even despite Mike Meyer's best efforts to turn the genre into Carry On Farce, swinging sixties spy movies still offer some unique charms. As does any good satire about the mores of its time. And there is one film which manages to combine both in a way not seen very much at all – The President's Analyst.
(1967. Colour. Script and Direction: Theodore J. Flicker. Cinematography: William A. Fraker. Score: Lalo Schifrin! With occasional songs by Barry "Eve of Destruction" McGuire)
And starring the late great James Coburn (with his teeth gleaming like scrabble tiles as usual). But this is not the James of In Like Flint etc. Instead he's Dr Sidney Schaefer, a cheerful New York psychiatrist into Zen Buddhism with a cool batchelor pad, a sweet young girlfriend and living the good life.
Until he's hired as the President's analyst. At first Sidney's delighted and honoured by this opportunity to help secure the future of the free world until he discovers just how much analysing the Oval One needs. In fact Sidney can't have a quiet meal, go to the john or snuggle up his girl without being interrupted by an urgent summons from the POTUS.
So Sidney flips out and goes on the run, now pursued by the world's secret services who want to get their hands on his body because they want to know what's inside the Prez's head. So much for the plot which is basically an excuse to take the piss out of everything and anyone prominent at the time – from spy movies and cold war politics to hippies and J. Edgar Hoover to chardonnay liberals and head shrinkers.
For starters, the main CIA and KGB agents are old acquaintances equally cynical about their employers. Hoover's a paranoid puritanical midget, as are all his agents, and more at war with Alan Dulles' tweedy collegiate CIA than with the commies. The flower power and British beat bands show more enthusiasm for drug deals than peace and love. Every analyst is in therapy with another trick cyclist. The liberals are heavily armed and taking karate lessons to protect themselves against their neighbours. And even the kids have their own "little bugger" phone tapping kits.
There's also lashing of classic swinging sixties spy and "it's a happening, baby!" business as well. Psychedelic VW buses full of stoned hippies, sinister assassins with blowpipes, silencers and garottes, acid freakouts, funky New York art galleries, cars that turn into boats and room sized computers that blink and beep.
And lurking and waiting, the ultimate bad guys with a really appalling master plan. In fact this flick has the all-time fiendish mastermind – one that actually exists for real man! and is still manipulating our lives today for their evil ends. You'll know it when you see it in this wacky zany Get Smart for grownups romp.
Beyond that, there’s lots of tasty little extras like Jill "Spider Baby" Banner as a hippie chick, the first ever on-screen reference to the Canadian Secret Service, a lovely 60 foot motor yacht called the "Mata Hari" and some surprisingly poignant and pointed backstories for the main CIA and KGB dudes. And at least one "Dizzy Gillespie for President" t-shirt.
It’s a lotta fun, very funny peculiar and full of some serious funny ha ha business as well. And James Coburn's groovy threads are the shizzle.
GrogFlog's verdict: "If I was a psychiatrist, which I am, I would say that I was turning into some sort of paranoid personality, which I am!" 7 out of 10 blowpipe darts.
Coming soon: Humphrey Bogart in a customized bullfighter's limo, my mea culpa for Daniel Craig as Bond and the real secret behind Thirty Two.