#299 The President’s Analyst

Watched: May 24 2021

Director: Theodore J. Flicker

Starring: James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, Joan Delaney, Pat Harrington Jr.

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 43min

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Dr Sidney Schaefer (Coburn) is recruited to be, as the title suggests, the President’s psychoanalyst. And boy does the President need it! Schaefer is conveniently moved to a new home with a secret tunnel connecting it to the White House, meaning that his new patient can call on him at all hours of the day and night. And he does.

Who wouldn’t want this to be the face they see morning, noon and night?

Cushy or not, the job is top secret and totes private, so Schaefer cannot vent to anyone about the stress and pressure of his new position, and this soon starts to tear on his own psyche. He begins to see conspiracies everywhere – even suspecting his new girlfriend of spying on him.

“Leave your girlfirend, your friends and your family. Come with us. We’re safe. We’re good. We’re not going to stare at you while you sleep and try to steal your soul.”

Turns out he’s right all along! There are a whole bunch of agencies out to get him, such as the CEA, the FBR, the KGB and, worst of all, the TPC! How is a poor psychiatrist supposed to get out of this mess?

The way we all get out of scrapes: with the help of a gun-toting, trigger happy, all-American family with excellent fashion sense, of course!

This movie is hilarious. Ok, it’s very, very silly, but if you’re in the right mood it’s great. The sixties are truly swinging in this comedy/thriller/sci-fi, and Coburn is swinging along. Despite his strife, he seems very jolly and happy all the time – he handles everything thrown at him with ease. He appears to be especially delighted during his stint as a gong player in a hippie band while on the run.

“I cannot believe I wasted my life with a good education and the pursuit of a career! Stick it to the MAN!”

The quintessential American Family™ the Quandrills are also among our favourites, but what we enjoyed the most about this movie were all the different agencies and their relationships with each other. The agents and spies from the FBR, KGB, TPC, CSS, CEA, etc. tend to bump into each other so often that they’re all old friends – especially Masters (Cambridge) and Kropotkin (Darden), CEA and KGB, respectively. Their scenes together are easily the best parts of the movie. We also enjoyed the piles of dead assassins and spies. Mass murder is hilarious (in the right context)!

Also, phone companies are evil. But we already knew that.

What we learned: Are you paranoid if they’re actually out to get you?

Next time: The Producers (1967)

#173 Vertigo

Watched: March 17 2018

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore

Year: 1958

Runtime: 2h 8min

For those of you wondering what happened to #167 to #172, Mr Wright has made a few changes to the list and we have had to update the numbering to the current version, as outlined here. A number of new films have been added to the ’30s and ’40s, and we’ll try to catch up with them as soon as we can get our hands on copies. Until then, we continue where we left off, but with updated numbers.

Vertigo

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During a roof top police chase, John “Scottie” Ferguson (Stewart) almost falls to his death and witnesses another police officer die trying to save him. After the accident, he retires from the force and suffers vertigo as a result of the traumatic incident.

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned from American Ninja Warrior it’s that once your arms straighten, you’re doomed. That, and Gbaja-Biamila is really fun to say.

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Spending his downtime in the (fantastic) company of friend Midge Wood (Bel Geddes), Scottie is contacted by old school friend Gavin Elster (Helmore) who hires him to stalk his wife. Elster claims Madeleine (Novak) has been possessed by the spirit of her great-grandmother Carlotta, who killed herself after being betrayed by the man she loved.

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“No woman is that interested in art. She must be possessed by the woman in the painting.”

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Hesitant at first, Scottie agrees to the job after seeing the gorgeous Madeleine. He follows her to the florist and the cemetery where she visits Carlotta’s grave. When she later flings herself into the river, he saves her and brings her home, and they promptly fall in love.

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“I’m aware that you’re my friend’s wife and quite possibly possessed and/or crazy, but those eyebrows just make me weak!” “What, these old things? They we’re just something I threw on.”

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However, it’s far from smooth sailing from then on. Turns out newfound love does not erase madness/ghosts and Scottie is unable to save Madeleine, leading him to a complete meltdown. But what was actually going on?

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And what, exactly, is the purpose of a brassiere?

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From the awesome opening titles (by Saul Bass) to the end credits, Vertigo is fantastic. We loved the colours (especially the red restaurant), all the spirals, the dolly zoom, the very judgemental judge, the dream sequence and of course Midge. Lovely, lovely Midge and her lovely, lovely apartment.

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We thought it was funny too, Midge. Scottie’s just too sensitive.

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Also, any mention of ghosts have us hooked from the very start, even if there’s no actual supernatural forces at work. And we find James Stewart oddly charming.

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We covet that wallpaper… And, to a lesser degree, that man.

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What we learned: Don’t trust old school chums. Also, if there’s a Midge in your life – marry her!

Next time: A Bucket of Blood (1959)

#94 The Third Man

Watched: March 27 2017

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard

Year: 1949

Runtime: 1h 44min

The Third Man Poster

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Holly Martins (Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna to start a job provided for him by Harry Lime (Welles) only to find that his friend has died. As Martins starts looking into the accidental death, things don’t add up. Conflicting witness statements and suspicious characters convince the mystery writer that there is something strange going on and he starts to investigate with the help of Harry’s (somewhat illegal) girlfriend, Anna Schmidt (Valli).

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It’s a long and winding road to get at the truth. And it’s almost as if there’s symbolism in the sets and cinematography.

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We cannot really say much more about the plot without spoiling the film. Suffice to say, Holly’s suspicions are not unfounded and his investigation takes him deep into the murky waters of war profiteering in post-war/early cold war era Vienna. There are twists and turns aplenty and it’s an exciting and engaging watch.

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It’s a wet dream for cobblestone aficionados everywhere!

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What stands out the most in The Third Man is the incredible use of shadows which reminded us a bit of the early German expressionist films we watched, just turned up to 11 (as did a lot of the angles). The beautiful architecture of Vienna with the juxtaposition of the gorgeous buildings and the rubble of the collapsed structures was beautiful, although we’re sure Austrians may disagree with that.

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For horror fans, there’s also a creepy balloon guy.

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Wet cobblestones, lots of arches, scary shadows, and a strangely beautiful sewer system make the film very visually appealing. There’s also a decorative lampshade – the very epitome of the Noir trope. The performances are great, with Welles being nicely menacing and slick.

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As we said, cobblestone aficionados need look no further for a fix.

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Neither do fans of Orson Welles’ strange charm

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Seriously though – very attractive sewer! We can see ourselves turning it into some sort of Gothic paradise.

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What we learned: War is the mother of invention. Also, sister the oldest is a little shadow slut. She loves her some good shadows!

Next time: White Heat (1949)