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Laramie Movie Scope:
The President's Analyst

Prescient, satirical comedy more relevant today than before

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1967) Obviously the fashion industry is fascist, dictating everyone's sartorial selections. Other corporations, such as TPC, are just waiting in the wings for the opportunity to take over, as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Liberals, meanwhile, (those who support civil rights and racial integration), such as Wynn Quantrill (William Daniels), who voted for the president, and his family in Seaside Heights, NJ, are arming themselves and learning karate to defend themselves against their extremist rightwing neighbors, though young Bing's sympathies are suspect.

After assassinating an Albanian double agent on Seventh Avenue in New York City, Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge) - changing out of his t-shirt with "Dizzy Gillespie for President" into a business suit - goes to see his psychiatrist, Dr Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn), to recite a nightmare of reliving an incident from his childhood. "It was the day I found out about niggers," says the black CEA agent, blowing his cover by revealing the covert execution. Being legally allowed to kill people, Dr Schaefer realizes, is a "sensational solution to the hostility problem."

By the way, Don explains, he's just completed a thorough background check of Sidney, who's passed muster to become the analyst for the President of the United States of America, who - overworked, overstressed, overburdened - needs someone to whom he can talk without worry that his interlocutor will need anything from him.

Wanting to marry his girlfriend Nan Butler (Joan Delaney) and make her into "Mrs. Me," while she prefers just living together ("I'm a nature-born female slave"), Sidney is provided a handsome love nest - courtesy of CEA Director Ethan Allen Cocket (Eduard Franz), though FBR Chief Henry Lux (Walter Burke) isn't pleased with the immoral relationship - near the White House where he begins meeting with the President (whom we never see) whenever the Chief Executive feels the need (often at inconvenient times for Sidney).

With his bedroom bugged and his every movement observed, Sidney becomes an anxious, paranoid personality, feeling like the loneliest man on the planet where everyone else is a spy. When he uses the Quantrills to escape his predicament, the secret services of the Russians, the Chinese, the Libyans, the British, even the Canadians, along with the FBR (Lux orders his agents, "In the interest of national security, kill him" to prevent Dr Schaefer's being kidnapped by enemies desiring to know what he has learned from his sessions with the President) and CEA (Don gets the assignment to quietly abduct Sidney or eliminate him), go after him.

Don and his Russian rival, a pragmatic realist, V.I. Feodor Kropotkin (Severn Darden) - who remarks that the US is becoming more socialistic as the USSR gradually moves toward capitalism, with the end result that they'll eventually meet somewhere in the middle - make a friendly bet as to who will get Dr Schaefer first. As he becomes more aware of the vast network of American security methods, the Russian espionage agent (who thinks of his profession as the "last refuge of the incurable romantic") expresses his astonishment: "This is America, not Russia!"

Meanwhile, Sidney serendipitously falls in with a hippie band, including the Old Wrangler (singer Barry McGuire), singing about changes rearranging the mind - "We're all fugitives here seekers" - and Snow White (Jill Banner). Nevertheless, Sidney eventually finds himself a captive ("I didn't do anything") of Agent Sullivan (Arte Johnson), who assures him: "The FBR doesn't make mistakes."

But what about the US Constitution, the laws of "due process" and habeas corpus, protecting American citizens against seizure and execution without evidence and a trial? There are other rules as we, too, have learned in the four decades since this prescient, satirical comedy, written and directed by Theodore J. Flicker, was released.

(If you think the iPhone is an incredible technological device, wait till you hear Pat Harrington as Arlington Hewes describe the Cerebrum Communicator.)

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)