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The 1962 Pressure Point is a period piece, of its time, and of the
period in which most of the action takes place, some twenty years
earlier. As related in flashback, psychiatrist Sidney Poitier relates
to a young colleague how he dealt with a patient who was a psychopathic
racist when he was getting his start in his profession.
It as a harrowing take the elder Poitier tells, as the young criminal he has to contend with is both sympathetic (the product of a traumatic upbringing) and loathsome (he hates blacks and Jews, has strongly sadistic as well as criminal tendencies). Dr. Poitier does his best to keep a civil tongue, as his patient is smarter than he appears to be initially, and in his own way he's as sensitive as his shrink. He's just coming from the opposite end of the spectrum.
The movie, itself related in flashback, also contains flashbacks of the patient's childhood, his early years as a young man in the depths of the Depression. After he is rejected by the family of a Jewish girl who behaves sympathetically toward him he ups and joins the German American Bund. The doctor is on a couple of occasions confronted and insulted by his patient. At this time in American history the patient, sick as he was, was in a superior position in relation to his psychiatrist: he was white, he was a freer man than the shrink, and he rubs this point in mercilessly.
Although imaginatively directed by Hubert Cornfield, Pressure Point felt to me somewhat like an exploitation B picture. Well intentioned, extremely well acted,--I've never seen Poitier give a better performance--it looks cheap and underpopulated. As its subject matter was in near Sam Fuller territory, director Cornfield, no doubt aided and abetted by producer Stanley Kramer, pulled back, and the movie for the most part plays like a television drama of its time.
A miscast Bobby Darin tries hard as the young punk, always comes across as Bobby Darin trying hard to play a young punk. He deserved a A for effort. Poitier outclasses him every step of the way in the acting department. With a better actor as the punk, a Vic Morrow or a Rip Torn, this mightn't have been so easy. Overall, this is a good movie; and producer Kramer downplays the preachiness one finds in so many of his films. Cornfield's offbeat camera angles give it an at times noirish texture. No doubt hard hitting in its day, Pressure Point feels a little bland now, but I can't blame its producer or director for that. The times have changed considerably over the past fifty years. A lot of the abuse the punk spits out wasn't a million far from normal back then. His behavior was, but not his attitude.
Bobby Darin, one of the most underrated actors ever. He gave two great performances, ironically for playing almost the same character. The patient in Pressure Point and a shell- shocked PFC in Captain Newman MD. Both performances in the early 1960s, as if he was transitioning from a singer to an actor. I think either of these performances were good enough to win the Oscar. He was robbed! I think he didn't win for Pressure Point due to the subject nature of the film, very controversial in early 1960's America. As for his Captain Newman MD, he lost out to Melvyn Douglas, who I think was given the award because he was nearing both the end of his career and his life. Same think happened to Dustin Hoffman in his 1970 movie, Midnight Cowboy.
Pressure Point (1962)
Who can blame Bobby Darin for wanting to be like Frank Sinatra? And he dives into a heady, emotional role that has echoes, at least in the acting, to Sinatra's "Man with the Golden Arm" performance. And Darin got a Golden Globe nomination for the effort, a good call. It's really Darin's movie, overall, both in the acting and in the story, which swirls around his character's racism and the roots of it through a series of flashbacks.
Of course, this is Sidney Poitier's movie, too, as the psychoanalyst facing the racism with his usual grace and elevation. The whole movie is a flashback of his own (as he tells his story to a frustrated colleague, a young Peter Falk). And then the flashbacks within this flashback fill in the tortured, almost ludicrously awful young life of Darin's (unnamed) character, a prisoner and mental health patient. The central time frame of the psychiatrist and patient is 1942, in the middle of WWII, and the racism of the patient is really part of the larger issue of the time, which is Darin's character's pro-Hitler stance.
But the movie is being viewed in the Kennedy era to a Civil Rights loaded audience. And it's all about race, the Nazis basically history by now, in this age of the bomb and Malcolm X. One of the strengths of the movie is how frankly it deals with the issue, Darin making a convincing and not quite caricatured racist. But this is one of the drawbacks, too, making the whole exercise a lesson, which I'm sure was obvious even then. Still, there must have been many who saw Darin's arguments as nuanced enough to echo in their heads, and to see themselves as racist, and therefore pro-Nazi, too, a useful social point to make. Clearly the filmmakers, and the socially progressive among us, see the stances of the two men as utterly black and white. We know who is right and who is wrong.
The filming of such a constrained plot (mostly shot in one small room) is necessarily critical, and Ernest Haller, one of the Golden Age greats, comes through brilliantly, at times with virtuosity. Several key scenes are imagined ones where the patient is brought back in time, and the mixing of past and present, visually and literally, with characters and with voices, is stunning. This belongs to a whole range of dream and memory sequences in movies of this time, including some famous Hitchcock ones, and the contemporary "Manchurian Candidate" (with Sinatra, by coincidence). Some of the shifts from reality to dream are cinematically, and psychologically, superb. They are, however, the very scenes that date the movie, which is an interesting problem for a filmmaker trying to be edgy and timeless at the same time.
The director? Hubert Cornfield is not a household name and never will be, having made a handful of films (including not-gems like "Lure of the Swamp"). But he did have a feel from lurid drama (see the more cultish late noir "Sudden Danger") and the intensity here is appropriate and actually very intelligent. I give Haller a lot of credit for making it all cohere, absolutely, and crack editor Frederic Knudtson (a huge resume), and ultimately producer Stanley Kramer (also a stellar director), who had the pull and money to gather this great assemblage.
Watch this. Expect something tight like "12 Angry Men" in its control, filming prowess, and social message.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the beginning of the film Peter Falk's character storms into the
office of the head psychiatrist (Sidney Poitier), and complains about
how he can't take it anymore dealing with a black patient he has been
assigned to analyze. The head psychiatrist goes into a long story about
a somewhat similar situation he had encountered back at the beginning
The character he studies, played by Bobby Darin, had a mother who was bedridden, and a father who was a sadistic, alcoholic, womanizing beast. He has now become a sociopath. The race issue becomes a huge part of the issue. The sociopath has embraced racism in compensation for his rough childhood.
I really liked this movie, because it tested all boundaries. The situation was very tough. The psychiatrist had to face the fact that his own biases and beliefs were a major part of the dilemma. There was no easy answer and solution. This reminds me how brutal society can be. For someone who was not raised properly, the consequences are often devastating and lifelong. Some people never can overcome their childhood.
Pressure point is a very interesting movie,with a great story,awesome cast and excellent soundtrack,to sum it all up pressure point rocks.its a movie that is as important today as it was in 1962.racial barriers experienced by a young psychologist(Poitier)as he faces a very troubled young prisoner/patient(Darin)yes that bobby Darin the singer.well he plays an American Nazi who is in prison for just that. pressure point also features a young peter Falk as a young psychologist who faces a similar problem.the movie is filmed in black and white and produced by Stanley Kramer(streetcar named desire)i admit i never seen a bobby Darin movie,so i was impressed by his acting.not to mention the great acting by the star of the film;Sidney Poitier who i thought should've received an Oscar for this film.for the b-movie fans check out b-movie queen Yvette Vickers as a drunken woman.Vickers starred in the attack of the 5o foot woman and attack of the giant leeches.but pressure point is a great movie,nuff said,check it out.10 out of 10.
This film deals with a young man named Patient, (Bobby Darin) who is put in prison and has big problems with his inmates and is placed in the care of the chief psychiatrist, (Sidney Poiter). As soon as the patient sees his psychiatrist he starts laughing because he is an Africian American and this immediately indicates he has a problem with this man's race. As the film has many flashbacks, you learn that the Patient hates the Jewish people and was an only child and had a father he hated and a mother who was constantly ill. This film talks about the Depression Period in American History and deals with the patient liking the Nazi Movement in American that hailed all the ideas of Adolph Hitler. Bobby Darin gave an outstanding performance along with Sidney Poiter and there is a very brief appearance by Peter Falk. I was very surprised at Bobby Darin's performance because he was mainly a song and dance man and very popular. Enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
****SPOILERS**** A bit heavy-handed at first but when the film
"Pressure Point" gets down to business, racism in America circa 1942,
it shocked the hell out of its unsuspecting audience!
The racist in the film, Bobby Darin, known only as inmate # 17431 is a die in the wool racist and Nazi sympathizer a fact that had him convicted and put behind bars for advocating the violent overthrow of the US Government. What's really surprising is the fact that he, Inmate #17431, makes point after point in his favor to the shock and embarrassment of the person who's trying to cure him of his racism; his prison-appointed Negro psychiatrist played by actor Sidney Poitier. The Nazi racist is so effective in showing that racism is not only confined to Nazi Germany, the USA has its fair share as well, that it's his psychiatrist who seems to be more in need of help then he does by the time the movie ends!
We get to see the Genesis of the Inmates racism in a number of surreal flashbacks starting with him being a little boy, Barry Gordon, who developed a serious Oedipus Complex. This was fostered by the young boy being brutally abused by his drunk and womanizing father, James Anderson. Given comfort by his somewhat mentally unstable mother, Anne Burton, the young man started to feel too dependent on her. This unnatural dependence reached the point where at 15 he decided to leave home and make a life for himself before he ends up like she did; Helpless mentally ill and confined to her bed.
It's then that the young man unable to find work, during the Great Depression, drifted into the arms of the German American Bund. Being a pro-Nazi Organization the Bund poisoned the young man's mind with hatred of both Jews and Blacks. The Bunds propaganda in that Jews & Blacks, together with that cripple in the White House FDR, were keeping him down and without any means of worth-while employment nurtured the young man's racism against them to the point of criminal violence.
The movie has both the Inmate and his psychiatrist involved in a number of mind games with the Inmate always getting the upper hand. Being a black man in the US before the 1963/64 civil rights movement, the film was released in 1962, made it very difficult for the psychiatrist to stay focus on his job of curing his patient of his racism! Since there was not only racism, which his racist patient both maniacally and skillfully exploited, all around him that was not only tolerated at the time, in 1942, but even upheld and protected by the laws of the land! The racist inmate knowing all the buttons to push had his psychiatrist lose it in the end when he, not able in being professional at his job, just packed it in and quit! Or did he!
All this is told by the now, Sidney Poitier, chief psychiatrist of a mental institution to a fellow psychiatrist, Peter Falk, who just about had it with his young 13 year old black patient. Falk's patient is a vicious racist, this time against whites, much like the person who Poitier treated some 20 years ago. It seemed a bit strange that with the chief psychiatrist giving up on his patient back then how can he tell his fellow psychiatrist Peter Falk now to stay focus on it, his patients racism, until he breaks through to him and has him cured. Something which he back in 1942, with his racist patient Inmate # 17431, didn't.
P.S We get this almost nonchalant epilogue by head psychiatrist Poitier in that his former patient, who was paroled against his advice, had some ten years later brutally murdered an old and homeless man which he was executed for. This obviously was put into the movie to show, after being stymied and checkmated at every turn by his clever patient, that he was right all the time in not wanting the racist inmate under his supervision to be released.
We saw this film on local, late night commercial Broadcast Television
some 22 years or so ago. Being subject to such a multitude of
commercial interruptions certainly does not lend itself to any good
viewing purposes. Adding to the confusion is the addition of any and
all Public Service announcements and legally mandated messages that
they might have; such as announcing their membership and participation
in Statewide Emergency Networks or of their role in warning us of any
incoming & hostile I.C.B.M.'s. (Wow, such Mensches!)
AS if all of this isn't more than enough for us Night Owl Movie viewers, the movies are usually put into a time slot of 2 hours and requiring all commercial & public service messages and the 90+ minute film to be crammed into the allotted slot. Oh, the dilemma of a station manager can be so exasperating! What to do, what to do!
Enter the cutting room treatment! Certain scenes can be cut from a particular telecast, thus allowing more time for those "Messages of Interest and Importance."* Paying no mind to the continuity and completion of a particular movie, the local station opts to go with the old "Bottom Line" in inserting more and more Commercial$ and other Me$$age$, such as Promo$ for New $how$ of their Network'$. ("$$", get it, Schultz? Er, I meant, $chultz!) Enough of that already!
The other night, Tuesday, we got to view today's topic PRESSURE POINT coast to coast, border to border; without interruption of any kind! Thank you Turner Classic Movies!
Incidentally, how does this film rate such low buzz? It seems to garner no mentions of an example of fine films of the period; being in the early 1960's. It has only gotten good chatter from TV hosts, such as Robert Osborne on cable station TCM.
OUR STORY ..The time was the present (of 1962). A veteran Psychiatrist, Sidney Portier, is confronted by a young Shrink, Peter Falk, who is deeply depressed about his having a difficult time with a current case and is considering throwing in the towel. The older Doctor (Mr. Portier) then relates, in extended flashback, his experiences of about 20 years prior.
The time was ca. 1942, as the United States had just entered World War II. Sidney Portier's character was a newly hired Prison Doctor with a Psychiatric Specialty. This was a period of great stress, not only for the Nation as a whole, but also for Sidney Portier's charatcer's being a Black Man in a highly esoteric branch of the Medical Profession. This was long before the emergence of any Civil Rights Movement or any thought of Federal Legislation in that area.
Although his case load is extremely heavy, one patient seems to garner most of his attention. He is a Convict sent upon a charge of Sedition. Having been an active member of the German American Bund, he had been openly advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government through armed violence.
As a side bar, we must stop to define this organization. The German-American Bund was ostensibly an association whose mission was to promote and preserve all that is Teutonic in Language, Music, Literature, Art and all other things Cultural among those Americans of German descent. In reality it was a front for 5th Column activities and especially for finding potential Young Nazis from the German-Americans to put to use in their future plans to divide the U.S. between the Swastika and the Rising Sun.
NOW, BACK TO OUR STORY! The Prisoner (Mr. Darin), had been a problem child; between his being sternly over-disciplined and beaten by his father and being sexually abused (more implied on film than explicit). As life progressed, he became more and more reclusive and ran away from home at 15.
Knocking around the country, he fell in with all sorts assorted transient scum; even to the point of becoming a leader among them. A brief happy encounter with a loving Jewish turned that turned sour acted as a lightning rod, concentrating his hate toward Jews.
The story is mainly a detailing of the contentious, yet somehow warm relationship between the bright, but totally warped Darin and Portiere as his cautious, skeptical yet totally dedicated Doctor. In the end, when Bobby is to receive a psychological evaluation pending his parole, he tells his skeptical Psychiatrist that the Parole Board will override his decision and grant Parole for a supposedly reformed and model inmate.
The film is only 91 minutes in length and wastes not a frame. Outside of the length, it is reduced to all of the lowest common denominator in all areas. Much like a latter day masterpiece of Sir Charles Chaplin's like CITY LIGHTS (United Artists, 1931) even the cast bears no frills. No characters are given a name; but rather described as 'a Millionaire', 'a Blind Flower Girl', 'a Prizefighter' or 'a Tramp'. Likewise in PRESSURE POINT, the characters are all described with terms like: 'Doctor', 'Patient', 'Father', 'Mother', 'Warden', 'Jewish Father' and 'Jewish Girl'.
And none of the subject matter nor the dialog is to be construed as being fluff. Tough questions about Racial Relations, Tolerance, Equality and Justice are posed for consideration and never sugar-coated, nor slanted in any way.
In closing we can say only one thing. And that would be: HIGHLY Recommended!
NOTE: * Those were the immortal words spoken by Mr. Gerald Mohr at commercial break time on the episodes of "THE LONE RANGER" TV Series (1949-57). Honest, Schultz!
This movie is not what it seems. It seems as if it is one of those patient
and doctor films. You know. The ones that end in a friendship. This movie
everything but a happy movie. The subject is interesting, it is great to
the conflict between Poitier and Darin, but it just ends with no solution.
It just has no point. It only tells about hate and how a doctor can just
fail and not even care. This movie is very interesting, but it's a movie
with no ending and no point. I was very disappointed. 5 out of 10
Sidney Poitier plays a doctor in this film where is the spokesman for the black American community in racial politics in the 60's. He could also be the spokesman for the south African community who at the time had Nelson Mandela as their chosen representative. Peter Falk provides the forum for Poitier to engage in dialectics.
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