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Dick Van Dyke,
Union officer Kerry Bradford escapes from Confederate Prison and is set to Virginia City in Nevada. Once there he finds that the former commander of his prison Vance Irby is planning to send $5 million in gold to save the Confederacy.
An African-American prison psychiatrist (Sidney Poitier) finds the boundaries of his professionalism sorely tested when he must counsel a disturbed inmate (Bobby Darin) with bigoted Nazi tendencies. Written by
Excellent social drama that doesn't opt for easy answers
Splendidly acted social drama produced by Stanley Kramer. As is usually the case with Kramer productions (except perhaps "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"), "Pressure Point" looks at society and the human condition, finding much to admire, but also much to deplore. Sidney Poitier is on the side of righteousness, playing a black prison psychiatrist whose ideals are challenged by his patient, a bigoted Nazi played by singer Bobby Darin.
The film is most impressive for its refusal to pander to an audience whose enjoyment might be enhanced if all the conflicts between the protagonists were resolved at the conclusion, but "Pressure Point" does not compromise its own integrity by pretending to provide easy answers to the questions it raises. Doctor and patient do not reach an understanding-- they do not embrace each other at the end, nor does the film suggest that society has benefitted from the encounter between two such disparate souls. Life simply goes on, and so do its troubles. "Pressure Point" makes its point subtly without a lot of sanctimonious preaching, and is more effective as a result.
The two stars are well matched with Poitier bringing his usual humanity and quiet pride to a role that does not place as much emphasis on his skin color as one would expect in a 1962 production. Darin is simply superb as Poitier's patient, and one can't help but admire the popular crooner for having had the courage to inhabit such an unappealing character at a time when he was still one of pop music's most prominent "teen idols" (and husband of America's sweetheart, Sandra Dee). The cinematography, music, and direction (by Hubert Cornfield) match the performances perfectly.
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