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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.


That Funny Feeling

Ring a Ding Ding

That Funny Feeling (1965)

     I fell in love with Bobby Darin as a singer vicariously through Kevin Spacey. That would sound nonsensical if you were unaware of a contemporary flick called Beyond the Sea. That musical biopic was written, directed, produced and starred in by Spacey as his favorite singer, Darin. The story turns Darin’s life into a musical review of sorts, but I digress. My point is, I have never actually gazed upon Darin or his wife Sandra Dee in a film. Frankly, I never had high hopes for either of them as actors, so did not particularly seek out their work. That Funny Feeling, however, left me wanting more.

     This third of the flicks made by the couple takes the standard romantic comedy plot of mistaken-identity/misunderstanding-gotten-out-of-hand and makes it more complicated and plausible than possibly ever before. Darin is Tom Milford, a skirt-chasing executive of some sort with a posh apartment. Dee is Joan Howell, a wanna-be actress and maid who cleans apartments including Tom’s, yet has never met this Mr. Milford.

     The two meet cute three times by colliding with each other on the street and on the third time agree to have drinks. The two are a nice match, but Joan refuses to reveal her occupation and is ashamed to bring the man home to her disgraceful place. Lucky for her, the Milford apartment she cleans is supposed to be vacant for 10 days as Tom intended to go out of town. She does not know his plans have been cancelled. When Joan allows her date to take her home, Tom is baffled to find he is dropping her at his doorstep. He is so confused that he walks away from his own home in a daze.

     Over the course of several dates, Joan continues to pose as Joan Milford (the name is on the door) and live in the comfy apartment while Tom beds down at his boss’ even more posh apartment. The boss Harvey, played by Donald O’Connor, is only moderately accommodating and is none too pleased when he come home to find that Tom has told Joan that the abode is his own apartment. The story continues on with Joan thinking she has fooled Tom but knowing she has a deadline to vacate and with Tom confused as to why this woman has a key to his place but willing to keep up the charade in order to keep seeing her. Predictably, Tom proposes to Joan that she keep the name Milford and continue to live in his apartment.

     That Funny Feeling is well acted and does a great job of pulling the audience into the romantic plot. The lengths the characters go to hide their secrets seem a bit extreme but they are all adequately justified under the circumstances. At times, however, it does seem Joan and Tom have forgotten they are romantically involved as they put so much effort into maintaining their respective facades. Darin was far more handsome and charming than I expected, and Dee came off more intelligent than I anticipated. Her roommate sidekick in Nita Talbot also provides great comic relief. O’Connor makes a welcome addition to the cast and lends his comedic talent more to the delivery of great lines than to his usual brand of zany, face-pulling antics.

     That Funny Feeling, for which Darin wrote and sings the title song that runs during the opening and closing credits, was the last of three movies Darin and Dee made together. The couple met on filming Come September and were married in 1960 before divorcing in 1967. Dee was 18 at the time of their marriage and was known as being a shy virgin, to put it delicately. The two had a son, Dodd, and although Darin would have other companions before his death at age 37 –rheumatic fever as a child had shortened his life expectancy considerably– Dee never remarried.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

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