Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pressure Point (1962)

   "Pressure Point" is a underrated mind-game thriller and precursor to "The Silence of the Lambs," whose Nazi antagonist brings back memories of "American History X"'s Derek Vinyard. Intelligent and well-read, but full of hate, "Pressure Point"'s unnamed 'patient' was particularly dangerous because of his keen insights into the hearts of others and his acute articulation of his racist beliefs.

    Sydney Poitier plays the African-American "Doctor," a similarly insightful prison psychiatrist who tries to help 'patient' with his recurring blackouts. "Patient," impressively played by Bobby Darin, works to tear apart "Doctor" while forcing his Nazi ideology on him.

   At first Patient's bigotry seems a little watered down -- the film refrains from letting him use the 'n' ward and he seems more smug than actually dangerous. But slowly, the character's back story unfolds, revealing him to be an extremely dangerous manipulator and violent criminal.

   The film maintains its credibility by not jumping to a Hollywood "happy" ending. Sydney Poitier is serious and thoughtful, as Patient gradually wears him down and gets inside his head. Patient is cruel and self-satisfied,  but glimpses inside his childhood reveal the hurt boy behind the man.

   The scenes where Doctor interprets Patient's dreams seem a little over-baked, while the childhood flashbacks and the final manipulation are the most interesting part of a movie that is obviously ahead of its time.

   "Pressure Point"   is cutting edge for 1962, and the psychological treatment of its villain even more so. Forgotten but not rightfully so, it is currently streaming on Netflix and should be watched by anyone with an interest in psychoanalysis. It's now a little dated, but in fifty years the modern cutting-edge will be dated, and where will we be then? Worth a look.

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