Pressure Point (film)
|Directed by||Hubert Cornfield|
|Produced by||Stanley Kramer|
|Written by||Robert Lindner (story)
S. Lee Pogostin
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||91 minutes|
|Budget||less than $1 million|
Pressure Point is a 1962 drama film about a prison psychiatrist who is called upon to treat a Nazi sympathizer during World War II. It stars Sidney Poitier and Bobby Darin. The film was based on the short story "Destiny's Tot" by Robert Lindner.
The story is told in flashback. Poitier plays the chief psychiatrist at an institution in 1962. A doctor on his staff is frustrated with his patient and wants him assigned to another doctor. Poitier then tells his story of having a similar experience 20 years earlier with a Nazi sympathizer.
In the flashback, a new prisoner arrives and is assigned to Poitier, a psychiatrist. Poitier soon discovers the prisoner was arrested for sedition by joining the Nazi party during the war and calling for overthrow of the American government. The prisoner discusses sociopathic behaviors throughout his life with the psychiatrist, each being shown as a flashback first to his childhood where he had an abusive alcoholic father and mother with dependency issues, second to his early adulthood where he leads a gang of young adults terrorizing various locations and then to recently in the prisoners life where he had joined the Nazi party. Throughout the inmate's life he displays a lack of emotion for those around them and works to obtain only pleasure for himself through disruptive acts displaying the traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Throughout the series of flashbacks Poitier begins to understand that the inmate is both a danger to society at large and that if he is released that he would go about using his superficial wits and charms for his own ends. Poitier risks his reputation to have the inmate contained because outside of his office the inmate has a reputation as a model prisoner. The psychiatric staff decide to release him against Poitier's recommendation, they believe him to have a personal conflict against the inmate due to his beliefs in Nazism. This ends Poitier's flashback to his doctor and we return to the present. His doctor under him asks about what happened the inmate and we learn that he later beat a man to death for no reason.
The prisoner displays sociopathic behavior, often manipulating people with no regard to consequence but furthermore he talks at lengths of the nature of humanity and how psychotic people take advantage of the needs of people. The ideas of race come up, as the inmate taunts him about his views on Nazism, he talks at length of how people use race and religion as scapegoats to control the minds of people with nothing else to take their frustrations out.
The interactions between Poitier and the inmate draw to the tensions of race relations in the 1960s, when the film was originally released.
The film delves deep into the mind of the inmate through psychoanalysis performed by Poitier. Psychiatry plays a large role in the film and is displayed as a positive force for the understanding of the minds of man.
Poitier himself said the work was "a box-office piece," and the film played on many themes already present in film at the time.
- Sidney Poitier as Doctor
- Bobby Darin as Patient
- Peter Falk as Young psychiatrist
- Carl Benton Reid as Chief medical officer
- Mary Munday as Bar hostess
- Barry Gordon as Boy patient
- Howard Caine as Tavern owner
- Gilbert Green as Jewish father
- Anne Barton as Mother
- James Anderson as Father
- Richard Bakalyan as Jimmy
- Lynn Loring as Jewish girl
- Yvette Vickers as Drunken woman
The film recorded a loss of $991,000.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 145
- Slane, Andrea (2000). "Pressure Points: Political Psychology, Screen Adaptation, and the Management of Racism in the Case-History Genre". Camera Obscura 15 (45): 70–113.