Pressure Point, from 1962, is a hard-hitting racial/prison drama starring Sidney Poitier and Bobby Darin. As often seemed to be the case, Mr. Poitier finds himself taking on a role in which his skin color is an issue. Here in Pressure Point, he portrays a psychologist, and as the film begins, he reflects back to 1942, when he was practicing in a federal penetentiary.
A twenty-nine year old man (Bobby Darin), who has been sentenced to three years for sedition, is sent to the doctor because of erratic behavior and difficulty sleeping. At the initial meeting of the two, the patient's lack of respect for the black doctor is obvious; though the doctor is irritated by the condescending atittude shown him, he is, nonetheless, determined to help the young man.
Feeling there is some deep-rooted reason for the man's aggression, the doctor questions him about his childhood, and a picture of an abusive father is brought forth. Growing to manhood, the patient embraces the teachings of the Nazi party, giving him a hatred for blacks and Jews...a feeling that has only strengthened over time. Believing that the purity of the white Christian stock is endangered by Negroes and Jews, he is an adamant believer in all things Nazi.
Will the doctor be able to help? Will the patient let go of his bigotry and hatred? These are the questions that play out in this hard-hitting drama.
Having only seen Bobby Darin in light romantic comedies, I was surprised to find how good he was in this kind of role. I thought he was quite exceptional...really, in my mind, this was more Darin's show than Poitier's. Yes, Mr. Poitier gave his usual wonderful performance, but I definitely feel Darin stole the show here. It occurred to me that every Poitier film I've seen has him in a role where his skin color marks him for hatred and/or mocking. I suppose that is to be expected given that he he made so many films in the late 50's and 60's; I wonder, though, if he ever grew weary of his characters always having to fight against the bigotry? I wonder if he would have enjoyed the chance to make a film where race wasn't an issue? I suppose he did make films that were less "deep," but I just haven't seen any of those ones.
Unlike many of the racial dramas of that era, the cringe-inducing "n" word wasn't used one time in this film; instead, they used Negro over and over again. Perhaps that word isn't used much nowadays, but I will certainly take it over the other "n" word. Still, though, the man's hatred toward blacks and Jews is quite painful to watch.
While I don't believe Pressure Point is out on DVD, it is available in its entirety on YouTube. HERE is the link if you'd like to watch this well-acted, hard-hitting film.