Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pressure Point Starring Sidney Poitier & Bobby Darin Airs On TCM

On Tuesday/Wednesday March 4th/5th at 12 midnight, the 1962 psychological drama "Pressure Point" starring Sidney Poitier and Bobby Darin airs on Turner Classic Movies. For years (possibly due to its unsettling subject matter), this film was relatively obscure to most people. However, it has deservedly grown in stature over the last decade.

The story begins in the present as a chief psychiatrist (Poitier) is confronted by a frustrated younger doctor (played by Peter Falk) threatening to resign because of a difficult case he's been assigned. To convince him not to quit, Poitier's character recalls a tough case he had as a prison psychiatrist 20 years earlier in 1942: treating a Nazi supporter (Darin) who was in jail for sedition. Probing into the mentally disturbed inmate's background, the psychiatrist works to learn the reasons behind the inmate's nightmares, blackout spells, and hatred towards Blacks and Jews. As to be expected, the doctor-patient relationship isn't an easy one.

As a teenager in the 1980s, I saw "Pressure Point" for the first time. Even though it was years before I saw the movie again, it stuck with me. I was impressed by the film's use of flashbacks, surreal imagery, and fantasy sequences. One of the most memorable and disturbing scenes involves Darin's character as he recalls the time he worked with a traveling construction crew. On their last night in a small town, he and the crew go to the local speakeasy to have a good time after a hard day's work. They eventually begin playing the game tic-tac-toe and as Darin's character says, they really played it.

The acting in "Pressure Point" is equally impressive; especially by Poitier and Darin (who both gave Oscar-worthy performances). Poitier delivers as expected, but that doesn't make his performance any less powerful. I really sensed the conflict his character felt: even though he was repulsed by his patient's views and behavior, he still wanted to help him. As the troubled patient, Darin turns in a multi-dimensional performance. In scenes such as the ones where he spouts his racist beliefs or jokingly recalls the "tic-tac-toe" incident, I felt nothing but disdain. On the other hand, he also managed to elicit a bit of sympathy from me as his past was revealed.

Another interesting side note is the fact that Bobby Darin even took the role. No pun intended, but I think it was daring for him to play such an unlikable character. Most pop stars of his era would probably have been worried about the damage their career might suffer. Darin not only tackled the role, he makes you forget the image of the finger-snapping singer of such classics as "Splish Splash" and "Mack the Knife".

Whether or not you are able to stay up until midnight to watch "Pressure Point", it's a film that's well worth recording. For anyone who has already seen it or who watches it for the first time when it airs on TCM, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.


X. Dell said...

I'm trying to think if Stanley Kramer ever made a bad movie.

This looks very interesting. I'm going to see if it's in OnDemand. If not, I'll tape it. Thanks for the heads up.

Candy Minx said...

Hey thank you for the heads up about the TCM schedule and the review. I'm actually going over to my tv right now to set a recording on dvr...

Your review convinced me to watch this and sounds like a movie I will really relate to and enjoy. Thanks Malcolm!

Candy Minx said...

.ps. we just bought American Gangster last night and watched it for the first time...haven't writtena review yet.

We went for the extended unrated version right away and skipped the theatrical version...which I understood to be against the directors wishes...but don't have the full story of why there are wo versions. blew my mind what an amazing story...I can't wait to watch it again!...I may sound a little surprised because a lot of people I know were kind of hum-drum in response...I loved it!

Malcolm said...

X. Dell: Until I watched the trailer for "Pressure Point", I had forgotten that Stanley Kramer produced it. If he did have a hand in a bad movie, I can't think of it.

Candy Minx: No problem. Let me know what you think once you watch it. I haven't seen "American Gangster". When I do, I'll have to remember to watch the extended unrated version.

Anonymous said...

I came across this film years ago and was deeply impressed by its daring to take on such a powerful subject. I had my teenagers watch it recently and I appreciated their enthusiastic impression of the movie.

Malcolm said...

Anon: Thanks for stopping by. It's great to hear that your teenage kids enjoyed "Pressure Point". That shows me two things:

1. The movie has lost none of its power.

2. Your teenagers have great taste in films.

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