Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pressure Point

Back on Saturday, I mentioned the movie The Cobweb would be airing tomorrow morning. In fact, it's part of a day of movies set in mental institutions. The first of the day's movies is the interesting, if disturbing Pressure Point, at 6:00 AM.

The movie starts in the office of Sidney Poitier, who is the (unnamed; none of the characters seems to have a name) chief psychologist at a mental institution. Into his office walks Peter Falk, who is early in his career as a psychologist, working under Poitier's direction. Poitier has given him a particularly difficult case, and Falk is none too happy about it. It's emotionally taxing, and frankly, Falk doesn't know if he can help the patient. So Poitier decides to tell Falk about a case he had that he thought, just like Falk, he wouldn't be able to help the patient.

Flash back 15 or 20 years. Poitier is a young psychologist working in a prison, and he's been given the case of prisoner Bobby Darin, who can't sleep well and seems to be having nightmares that make him paranoid. The case itself will prove itself to be disturbing, but there's a bigger problem. Darin is a Nazi sympathizer, and fancies himself as a member of the master race, with a black guy like Poitier being clearly inferior and not worth working with. But there's no way Darin is going to win parole if he doesn't work with the psychologist, so the two form an uneasy relationship.

Darin's problems, as I mentioned are kind of disturbing. He was a sensitive child, in part because of the way his mother treated him. Dad, meanwhile, was a butcher, and the boy couldn't stand the sight of blood. Mom, meanwhile, was physically week, but psychologically controlling, and made the son take care of her to the point that he really resented it. So when the time came to become more adult (which in the movie is during the Depression), he ran away from home. Not having any way good way to make his way in the world, he resorted to the only thing that seemed to work: fall in with the physcially powerful, and use the threat of force to intimidate people. The Nazis were good at that sort of thing.

But there are those dreams reminding Darin of his past. Those are the most disturbing part, reminiscent of Gregory Peck's dream sequence in Spellbound gone horribly wrong. The acting is also quite good. You'd expect it from Poitier, but Darin was originally a singer, and it's a revelation to see that he could actually act.

Pressure Point is a movie that's uncomfortable at times, but one that's well worth watching.

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