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Dick Van Dyke,
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
Producer Stanley Kramer directed the framing story. See more »
[to the young psychiatrist]
In all those many months there's been times when I was uneasy, times when I was repelled, but that was the point at which I became frightened... and the really frightening thing was that I wasn't sure just what I was frightened of.
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Reflecting back on another case during the days of World War II, psychiatrist Sidney Poitier is telling colleague Peter Falk not to give up on a case he has with racial differences between him and the patient in Pressure Point. Science and the doctor's obligation to render assistance cancel all things out.
Twenty years back from the Civil Rights era, at its height when Pressure Point was made, back to World War II Poitier is a prison psychiatrist who gets one bad patient. It's Bobby Darin who had never been seen like this on film, as a racist punk who belongs to the German American Bund. Although Darin and his band of thugs have done some really violent crimes, some of which we see in flashback, it's for sedition that he's been arrested.
Still a recurring nightmare brings him to the couch in Poitier's office and the two of them develop a curious relationship. Darin pushes all of Poitier's buttons, in fact he's a pretty loathsome type. Curing his nightmares will not necessarily make him one that will socially adjust back in society.
Film Historians have called Poitier things like Saint Sidney for the heroic good roles he played back in the day as the first black leading man in mainstream films. He might just have qualified for it here, even more than in his film debut No Way Out dealing with another racist criminal Richard Widmark, that time as a medical doctor.
It was Darin who showed the acting chops here that were never displayed before. He was nominated for his performance as a Best Supporting Actor in Captain Newman, MD., personally I think this is his best screen work.
Pressure Point is a two person work, the rest of the cast merely serves as background figures. I'm wondering though why someone like Peter Falk consented to a role that's confined to two scenes at the beginning and the end with no real opportunity for him to display his talents. Still for fans of Poitier or Darin or both this is a chance to see them both at their best.
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