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A later racial-themed movie summed it up best for me.... "has your hate
made your life any better?" It never does, for anyone.
Bobby Darin was truly superlative in this racial drama as an abject racist convict undergoing psychiatric treatment in prison who lived and suffered with the false positives that a racist attitude toward the world can sometimes give a true believer. But he was also smart enough to know that his life and health were being ruined by an internal conflict over these beliefs, but he was powerless to purge his beliefs even if it cured his health problems. He was determined to hold onto the damaging beliefs that were killing him from the inside out, as they did provide him a convenient way to express internal hatred caused by a terrible and abusive childhood and perhaps severely flawed family genetics that did lead to his ingnominious demise years later while acting out his racial hatred. That internal conflict was the crux of the film and the largest reason for its critical success.....we all have some of that same damaging thing in us, no matter our race, and it always effects our lives for the worse in varying degrees. And, it only improves when our racial tolerance improves. It is as clearcut as that, and this point was well made by the film's end.
Sidney Poitier played his typically good, outraged-but-controlled-and-dignified-through-all-the-insults self as the convict's prison psychiatrist. Direction was outstanding, as was the very dramatic musical track, and the chosen black and white style was the perfect expression for the huge contrast in the life opinions shown. But, Bobby Darin was the star here, as he showed the strong acting talent that made me so sorry he was lost to us so early. He could have been one of the greats.
This film was ahead of its time but is still important today, and is also one of the best made concerning this always sensitive subject.
This old gem delivers. Sidney in his classic mode of a man too smart for his own good. Here he tries to cure a man who's extremely damaged. Because the man's problem is such that he's almost unapproachable for this particular doctor the tension is heightened. It is a great two character piece. There are flashbacks and they are pretty chilling. Tic Tac Toe is twisted in a way I've never witnessed before. Its the last segment of the film when it becomes clear that the powers that be aren't willing to keep the man under the doctor's care where Poitier's character starts to lose it. I personally understand his frustration but certain individuals cannot be "cured" of their feelings and that those emotions are hard wired into their view of the world. The best one can do is keep an eye on an individuals like that and stop them if they start to act out negatively. One of the interesting side stories is the casting. Robert Redford was up for this role. Very interesting. I could also imagine Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Marlon Brando and Dean Stockwell.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What follows is the approximate wording of the Sidney Poitier character's
rebuttal to the racism and anatagonism of the American Nazi played by Bobby
"Now let me tell you something ! This is my country ! This is where I've done what I've done ! And if there were a million cruds like you, all sick like you, all shouting down, "Destroy ! Degrade !", and, if there were twenty million more sick enough to listen to you, you are still gonna lose, because there is something in this country, so big, so strong, that you don't even know, that can take it from all of you and still nail you into the ground ! You are walking out of here but YOU ARE GOING NOWHERE ! NOW GET OUT ! GET OUT !"
One more similarity between the Bobby Darin character and the American neo-Nazi in the Twilight Zone episode "He's Alive" is that both say that a man must act according to what he believes. The Darin character adds that, if he doesn't, either he's no good, or his beliefs are no good.
This is not to suggest that Serling plagiarized the movie script or even the central idea, but to show the strengths in both stories by showing their similarities.
Did Poitier ever appear in a bad film? I haven't seen them all, but virtually all I have seen are wonderful, so much so, that Poitier is almost a brand name. You can't go wrong watching a film of his. I remember this film as a gripping analysis of bigotry, the sort of stuff that can't be made today in our blockbuster environment. Darin and Gordon are also good.
A message film like this is likely to date. Today, as I write, New York
is about to have a black Governor. The United States may, come November
2008, have a black President. So the notion of a black psychiatrist
(Sidney Poitier) doesn't startle.
The movie is very static. Poitier does his usual good job. The patient he is dealing with is a Nazi-sympathizing military man. Probably casting Bobby Darin was risky and at the same time potentially good box office at the time. But Bobby Darin was primarily a singer, not an actor. He's OK here but the movie could have come alive had the sort of Method actor he makes like -- say, Marlon Brando -- played the role.
It's best when it opens out into the Darin character's past. Some of these flashback scenes are actually emotionally involving. Briefly.
I approve of what the movie was trying to do. But good intentions are not the same as good art, or even good entertainment. We have "Pressure Point" to illustrate that. (And we have Poitier's "A Patch Of Blue," which came out around the same time, to show that done well, a message picture can live on and on and still be moving.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Terrific two-hander with Poitier as a prison psychiatrist playing
opposite Bobby Darin's Nazi prisoner. Poitier's counsellor doesn't get
the opportunity for many flourishes - he takes on the role by wearing
glasses, basically - so it's up to Darin to get the showy stuff. While
beautifully shot, it does touch towards broad melodrama at various
Like a theatre production, Darin's nameless prisoner gets his childhood flashbacks recreated. At some points we see Darin as a boy on the psychiatrist's couch, then cut to scenes with Darin's mother, lipsynching the words the boy is speaking. There are scenes where he threatens to stab his imaginary friend, and all of the flashbacks occur within flashbacks, as Poitier's character is relating events to Peter Falk in the present day. If all this sounds confusing, then it isn't on screen, where an odd Twilight Zone vibe is disrupted by somewhat melodramatic incidental music. With a more sympathetic score this could have been a more expressionistic movie; as it is, it can be somewhat laboured in intent, the broadness of the Hollywood machine, yet still great despite it.
The climax is somewhat underdeveloped, however, the prisoner's story getting a fixed ending where perhaps none was needed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film suffers from it's dated views on psychiatry as entirely based
on psychoanalysis. Darin's character is portrayed as being pathological
because of an abusive, violent father and a weak, inappropriately
affectionate mother. This makes the entire series of sessions between
doctor and patient a waste of time, since the outcomes are only those
that a traditional psychoanalyst would have predicted from the outset,
without bothering with any examinations. It offers the tired, naïve
liberal sop that all so-called bigots are psychopaths and the product
of some textbook dysfunctional family situation. This
over-simplification was discredited long ago, and serves only to create
an emotionally soothing stereotype.
The film also portrays Darin's character as highly intelligent, yet explains his antisemitism as caused by the belligerent attitude of one Jewish father towards him, although the obvious problem with this would be that by hating all Jews, he would also have to hate the man's daughter, whom he described as the kindest, most caring person he'd ever met! Such a general prejudice could never be adopted by a person of such high intelligence without more compelling evidence than a single bad experience featuring such ambivalent emotions.
Basically, this script was conceived in the most contrived Stanley Kramer tradition from a simplistic, moronic, liberal worldview. The actual causes behind such pathologies are much more complex and contradictory of such a mindset as Kramer's. Writing off such pathologies with obsolete psychoanalytic platitudes does a great disservice to the Hollywood audiences who lap it up without the slightest reservations. Liberals like Kramer just love dismissing their opponents as mentally aberrant psychopaths because it means they never have to seriously deal with any of their detractors' actual arguments, which most of them are not mentally equipped to understand in the first place.
Watch this film and not only will you realize how good singer Bobby
Darin could be in a dramatic role, but you may come to regard its
co-writer / director Hubert Cornfield ("The Night of the Following
Day") as an under-rated talent. It's mostly a two character piece in
which an eminent psychiatrist (Sidney Poitier) attempts to help one of
his employees (Peter Falk) by telling a story of the major case of his
life, when he was a prison doctor during WWII. Poitier was assigned a
young man (Darin), jailed for sedition, who's very upfront about his
bigotry and hatred. Not surprisingly, the patient had a traumatic
childhood and now suffers from nightmares and blackouts. Poitier tries
to maintain his professionalism, but the young man sets off something
inside of him.
Poitier as always has a very authoritative presence and he and Darin work extremely well together. They have a lot of dialogue to deliver and completely immerse themselves in these troubled characters. Darin reveals enough depth here that people may wonder why he didn't pursue more serious roles. Cornfield creates some wonderfully stark atmosphere and stylish visuals, but never goes overboard, having the proper respect in the source material, a true case detailed in Dr. Robert M. Lindners' "The Fifty-Minute Hour". Some moments are quite memorable, such as the scenes with the patients' unloving father (James Anderson), a butcher. There's also an incredible scene of an epic session of tic-tac-toe that could have come off as silly but which has a powerful creepiness about it.
Overall, this is an effectively done little drama that isn't as well known as it ought to be. It's well worth seeing for the interplay between Poitier and Darin alone.
Eight out of 10.
Excellent performances and quirky flashback scenes are the highlights
of "Pressure Point," a 1962 film starring Sidney Poitier and Bobby
Darin, with Peter Falk as "guest star" in a small role. The film is
directed by Herbert Cornfield.
The film takes place in 1942, with Poitier a psychiatrist at a federal prison with Darin as a patient. Darin plays a member of the German-American Bund who wants to overthrow the government. Needless to say he hates blacks (called Negroes here), Jews, etc. He can't sleep and wants the psychiatrist to give him something so that he can. He doesn't feel he needs psychiatry.
Over time, he tells his story, and it's a harrowing one, a drunk and sadistic father, and a dependent mother. In flashback, a little boy representing the patient realizes that having power is his only way out. He comes to admire Hitler. Now, when Hitler's your role model, there's a problem.
Based on a story from the book "The Fifty-Minute Hour," the psychiatrist personally has a difficult time with this patient, though he does his best by him. However, the patient is manipulative, and when it comes time for parole, the doctor finds himself alone in his opinion.
This black and white movie first of all has Sidney Poitier in it, always an excellent actor, and even though this is somewhat early in his career, he already had a fully-developed talent. As the psychiatrist, he is strong yet conflicted. Darin always did a good job with these cocky, arrogant types, and here is no exception.
Cornfield does some interesting things with the flashbacks, making objects bigger, people smaller, and using odd camera angles.
This is an effective if slightly dated movie - I can't speak about the psychiatric theories put forward, but the use of the word Negro is jarring. Hearing the patient spout his philosophies, however, one realizes there are still people who think this way -- and once, a lot of people did.
Just watched this Sidney Poitier-Bobby Darin movie on YouTube. In this one, Poitier plays a prison psychiatrist who recounts to protégé Peter Falk his experience with a jailed Nazi rabble rouser played by Darin taking place back in 1942 after Falk wants to quit his latest case because of a black child patient's insolent attitude. While I admire the way the story takes its time with flashbacks in having the Darin character explain what made him what he is, I found myself not really feeling any real danger from this character since we don't see him doing anything really violent but I guess that's the point that just because one doesn't look dangerous doesn't mean he isn't especially since one can see how condescending Bobby's character can get toward Poitier. And Sidney really stays calm during most of the movie even though what Bobby says makes his skin crawl. Thankfully, when he does blow up, it's in a controlled environment where it's only him and Darin and he really makes it count. I guess what I'm really saying is that both leads seem so intelligent and able to discuss things without delving into arguing that sometimes I wonder if something like this really happened or could happen now. It certainly is something worth thinking about. So on that note, Pressure Point is recommended as something to involve the brain as opposed to emotions when watching.
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