David And Lisa (1962) is a black and white film directed by Frank Joseph Perry,Jr. (Mommie Dearest). It was based on the book, Lisa and David/Jordi/Little Ralphie and The Creature, by Theodore Isaac Rubin, a phsycologist and former president of the American Institute For Psychoanalysis. The actual screenplay was written by Eleanor Rosenfeld, Frank’s wife (1958-1971).
In the 60’s, the colonial times, mentally ill people were not yet accepted by the mainstream and were very often referred to by most as “lunatics”. They were also believed to be possessed by Satan. Parents of children that exhibited signs of mental illness transported them to the nearest asylum to never return. Before lunatic asylums were built local jails were used to hide the mentally ill from society. There was no true treatment for mental illnesses. It was a disease like most that was treated through much trial and error. Today almost everyone has been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness and treated with more modern treatments and drugs successfully.
David Clemens (Keir Dullea) has been tainted with obsessive compulsive disorder and a severe fear of being touched, Aphenphosmphobia. He fears if he is touched by others that he will be stricken down with a fatal illness and die. This fear is so strong that he prefers being alone rather than take the chance of being touched by others. On top of everything else he has an obsession with clocks and has a recurrent dream about using a large clock’s hand to chop off the head of acquaintances.
David’s mother (Neva Patterson, An Affair To Remember), did not know how to deal with David’s mental illnesses so she decides to take him to an inpatient mental facility. He was not very happy with her decision at first, but when he met Lisa Brandt (Janet Margolin, Take The Money and Run), he instantly felt an attraction to her, as did she. Lisa was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and had two personalities, Lisa (4 year old) and Muriel. He began to observe Lisa’s psychological treatment and felt that she was being treated inappropriately for her split personality disorder. He even went so far as to speak privately with Dr. Swinford (Howard Da Silva, Sergeant York), about her treatment to no avail. David learned quickly that he could get Lisa to talk to him by speaking in rhymes, but only if she presented herself as Lisa. When she was, Muriel she could not speak at all and could only respond to his questions and comments through writing.
David began talking to Dr. Swinford about going to college and becoming a professional physcologist himself. Swinford told him that he could possibly achieve his goals but first must learn to overcome his Haphephobia first. David continues to work on his own personal problems, while also attempting to help Lisa.
David’s mother decides that he should return home so she returns to the inpatient mental facility to retrieve him. He doesn’t want to go but has no other choice in the matter. Once he gets home he realizes how much he misses Lisa and decides to return to the facility without telling his mother. He ends up on the doorstep of the facility and Dr. Swinford readily accepts his return.
Lisa and David become very emotionally attached, even though they are not familiar with or understand these new feelings. David is engrossed in watching another patient play the piano, Lisa becomes jealous and tries to talk to him in rhymes. He yells at her and she gets upset and storms off. Dr. Swinford notices that Lisa is missing, they search for her to no avail. David suggests that she has went to a museum nearby. They all go look for her and find her sleeping in front of the museum. When David wakes her, he is immediately shocked that she is cured of her mental illness. He reaches out his hand to her to assist her into standing position. They walk back to the car, hand in hand.
This dark, epic tale is a must see especially if you are intrigued with human psychological disorders, as I am. The acting is superb because each character transforms themselves into their role. The story was very intriguing and kept me entertained ththroughout, especially David’s take on psychology and his fear of death. The rhyming dialogue is very catchy and you may catch yourself repeating the rhymes days later. Do not waste your time on the 1998 remake, if you do you will waste your time. This extraordinary movie is available on Amazon Prime. I give this show 8 stars.