It seems almost a “synchronicity” (I sound so contemporary using such a term) that I would just discover such an important movie as Pressure Point, produced by Stanley Kramer, and starring Sidney Poitier, an amazing Bobby Darin (yes, the 60’s crooner), and even a young Peter Falk in a brief role, right after the events of Charlottesville and the rising profile of the neo-Nazi/”alt right”, and the disconcerting issues raised in my last post just days ago.
The 1962 film concerns a black prison psychologist Poitier in 1942 who inherits a prisoner client (played by a Bobby Darin that revealed his acting chops) who had joined the Nazi movement in America and had been sent to prison for sedition. Refusing to be analyzed by an African-American, he eventually relents when he cannot overcome his sleeplessness and torment over events in his upbringing that made him the Nazi monster he came to be. I cannot think of a movie that more relevantly or intelligently sheds light on how young people can be pulled in to movements that espouse hate of others, even in America and after the terrible experience of the German Nazi regime, and how we can never turn a blind eye, or our backs on such movements that never seem to go away. Even for such an ugly person, it exudes an empathy as we see the family and societal influences that break and corrupt young minds – just like today.
I have only seen part of it so far, but it was so good that I had to recommend it to my reader friends before I forgot, and while you might be able to find it. I discovered it on the MGM HD channel that is carried on cable and satellite. It is also available for rent at Amazon Video, or available for purchase.
As a big fan of film, I have often thought that the “golden age” of particularly American film (and public discourse in general) was in the high-definition black-and-white days of about 1955-64 – the days of brilliantly insightful films like A Face In The Crowd, or Dr. Strangelove. They reflected (and required) a general intelligence and insight from the public that would go over the heads of most of the public today; the students of the late 60s still reflected this intellectual rigor and academic capability, but it has rapidly declined since then.
The producer, Stanley Kramer, produced or directed many of the most unforgettable and brilliant “message” movies of the era – often at personal expense and risk. They included not only this film, but Inherit The Wind, The Defiant Ones, the post-nuclear On The Beach, High Noon, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Caine Mutiny and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
A viewing of the titles mentioned in this post would be an incredibly spiritually rewarding experience for any reader here. I am ashamed to say that not only did I learn the types of spiritual truths from Stanley Kramer’s and similar films that I should have learned from those behind pulpits, but when I reflect on the infantile, Disney-fied (and even harmful) “chewing gum” embarrassments I see produced by Christian filmmakers these days, such as Fireproof or God Is Not Dead, I am almost (but not quite) too embarrassed to tell other thinkers whose “team I’m on”. Will real Christian intellectuals like the C.S. Lewis’ of old ever rise up, and more so, will there ever be an appetite in Christian circles for those who make us think, self-critique and empathize?