The President’s Analyst
SPOILER WARNING. The big villain in the movie that has James Coburn fleeing from some of the biggies in the cinematic villain department—the CIA, FBI (here thinly disguised, apparently after some pressure from Washington, as the CEA and FBR), and the KGB, turns out to be TPC: The Phone Company! Remember when Ma Bell was this huge corporate monolith? (I’m sure some of you are too young to remember. Lucky you!) If you didn’t like the phone service, just go to somebody else, ha, ha, ha! This movie is a brilliant satire on just about whatever comes to hand, from hippie love children to American suburban families. James Coburn, who was really good at comedy when they let him be (Our Man Flint, Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round) and was equally good at being a memorably nasty bad guy (Charade, any number of TV appearances), and this is probably his best comedy. What a smile the man had! And it could be jolly or sinister with just a twist of the lips.
He’s the man selected by our government to listen to the problems of the “loneliest man on Earth,” only pretty soon he realizes that he knows too much. He has a head full of classified information, and every country in the world wants what’s in his head. Including the Canadian Secret Service, disguised as mop-tops from Liverpool! He flees, spending a little time with a typical American family—the father is the brilliant William Daniels, Ben’s father in The Graduate—who are armed to the teeth and delighted when they’re attacked by assassins, who they think are muggers. Here’s a chance to use our guns, and all those karate lessons! They blow away half a dozen of them.
Then he joins a band of Hollywood’s idea of what hippies were, and is abducted again and again, finally by The Phone Company, which is headed by a smiling android who wants to put a mini-telephone that looks amazingly like a computer chip into everyone’s head, so all we have to do is think of someone and we’ll be connected. Also, it would make it easier for your government (and The Phone Company) to listen in on your conversations and your thoughts. Far ahead of its time.
Godfrey Cambridge (who died way too young) and the amazing and versatile Severn Darden round out the cast. It’s brilliant satire, and I highly recommend it.