Pressure Point (1962 film)

Pressure Point is a 1962 psychological 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.

Pressure Point
Directed byHubert Cornfield
Produced byStanley Kramer
Screenplay byHubert Cornfield
S. Lee Pogostin
Based onDestiny's Tot
1955 short story
by Robert Mitchell Lindner
StarringSidney Poitier
Bobby Darin
Music byErnest Gold
CinematographyErnest Haller
Edited byFrederic Knudtson
Larcas Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 2, 1962 (1962-12-02)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budgetless than $1 million[1]
Box office$665,000[1]


Poitier plays the chief psychiatrist at an institution in 1962. A young psychiatrist (Peter Falk) on his staff is frustrated with his patient and demands that his patient be assigned to another psychiatrist. The doctor then tells of having a similar experience 20 years earlier with a Nazi sympathizer at a federal penitentiary where he then worked as a psychiatrist. A flashback begins.

In the flashback, a new prisoner (Bobby Darin) arrives and is assigned to the doctor. The doctor soon discovers the prisoner was arrested for sedition for joining the German American Bund 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 led a gang of young adults terrorizing a bar and then to recently in the prisoner's life where he had become active with violent, militant Nazi sympathizers. Throughout the inmate's life, he has displayed a lack of emotion for those around him and works to obtain only pleasure for himself through disruptive acts displaying the traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Throughout the series of flashbacks, the doctor begins to understand that the inmate is a danger to society at large and that, if released, would go about using his wits and superficial charm to advance the causes of antisemitism, white supremacy, and autocracy. The doctor recommends that the inmate not be granted parole, despite the fact that by so doing he risks damage to his reputation because outside of his office the inmate is thought to have become a model prisoner. The psychiatric staff decide to parole the prisoner against his recommendation, believing the doctor to be biased against the inmate due to the inmate's belief in Nazism. This ends the flashback. When the young psychiatrist asked what happened to the inmate, it is revealed that he later beat a man to death for no reason.



The film produced under the working title Point Blank.[2]


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 other people's needs. 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 believed that Stanley Kramer cast him for political reasons, i.e. placing a black man in a role that wasn't race-specific, believing that it was more important than any box office. In his autobiography, he notes obviously a picture about a black psychiatrist treating white patients was not the kind of sure-fire package that would send audiences rushing into theatres across the country. But Kramer had other gods to serve, and he was faithful to them.[3]


Leonard Maltin gave the film a three-star review, calling it an intelligent drama.[4]


The film recorded a loss of $991,000.[1]

See also


  1. Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 145
  2. SHEUER, P. K. (1961, Nov 13). Sweden lands new 'first' by O'neill. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. Sidney Poitier - "This Life", Hodder and Stoughton, 1980, P. 242
  4. Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
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