RIP to Sidney Poitier, the first Black superstar, and a key contributor to the milestone movie year 1962. Among his many acclaimed performances over the years is an unheralded role in 1962’s PRESSURE POINT, where he deftly plays a prison psychiatrist confronting a wily Nazi patient. This intelligent drama, produced by Stanley Kramer and directed by Hubert Cornfield, is more timely than ever. Poitier and the film are discussed in several pithy passages in CINEMA ’62: The Greatest Year at the Movies.
Additionally, Poitier filmed what would become his Oscar-winning role in a 14 day shoot commencing November 27, 1962. His Best Actor award for that performance in LILIES OF THE FIELD, released in 1963, became a historic first for a Black actor. Later in the decade, he became the top box-office star in the United States (1968), another first for a Black actor, rising to that position on the strength of his “trifecta” portrayals in 1967 for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, TO SIR WITH LOVE, and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?
In ’62’s PRESSURE POINT, he more than meets the challenge of convincingly portraying a prison psychiatrist dealing with a paranoid American Nazi sympathizer (Bobby Darin in a surprisingly effective performance) charged with sedition in the 1940s. The racial conflict adds a sharp dimension to an already intense psychological drama. This largely forgotten film is ripe for rediscovery, in addition to an intriguing Poitier performance that has fallen under the radar.