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Pressure Point

Ring a Ding Ding

Pressure Point (1962)

     I have sort of jumped from one end of the spectrum to the other with regards to my new exposure to Bobby Darin‘s acting work. The light-hearted rom-com That Funny Feeling could not be more different from the dark and dramatic Pressure Point. Darin never won an Oscar during his brief movie career but was nominated once for a drama, although I was surprised it was not this one.

     Serving a few-year stint in prison for sedition, Darin’s racist “Patient” unveils a mentally distressed man when he is forced to see the black prison psychiatrist, played by Sidney Poitier. Poitier’s “Doctor” is new to the profession but does well to keep his cool when faced with the man who thinks so little of him.

     The patient has been campaigning to overturn the government and the doctor feels he might be too influential to be around the other patients and has the man placed in solitary confinement. There the patient starts to hallucinate and has fainting spells. This provides a legitimate impetus for the prisoner to be open to working with the doctor to remedy the symptoms.

     The patient’s past is marked by an unhappy marriage between his mother and father that included plenty mental abuse. He had only an imaginary friend at a young age whom he physically abused. As a youth he was successful in leading others into mischievous pranks all the while managing to hold down good grades.

     The patient gets to the point that he is willing to talk with the aloof-acting doctor and his comments about blacks also improve. The doctor, however, reaches an internal tipping point and ultimately quits his job over the patient.

     What I found peculiar about Pressure Point is that the story, which is told in flashback, essentially seems to be going nowhere and yet is thoroughly fascinating. We cannot really figure out what either character is aiming for or will achieve, we are just hearing the pieces of a sociopath’s past. Also strange is that Poitier’s character declares at the end that he has been unable to remain objective in dealing with the patient and that the man’s racist jabs have been damaging to him. This was news to me at that point because the doctor seems so relaxed and nearly uncaring throughout the two characters’ discourse.

     Darin, on the other hand, gives a superbly emotional performance as he takes us through his sad past. A child actor (Barry Gordon) also does a unsettlingly good job acting out the patient’s childhood experiences. Although Poitier’s character finds the patient unbearable to continue treating, Darin elicited plenty of sympathy from me. We are entreated to few scenes of his misdeeds and offered more evidence as to why the man was damaged goods early on to the point that we truly feel for him. Poitier’s rather emotionless part fails to pull the audience to his side of the battle. This was a truly unique picture that inexplicably draws one in.

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2 Responses

  1. Have not seen this one but Poitier’s character would take a cold and calculated look at his patient’s racism. It’s a part of their job that they don’t react or engage in heated banter.

    Nice job as always.

  2. I liked this movie very much — Bobby really held his own with the great Poitier. I thought he was excellent, and had he not been scarred by his personal trauma, and if he had lived longer, he very well might have left a body of good dramatic work. I really enjoyed your review.

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