A Pearl of a Girl

Terri Deno
4 min readMar 24, 2020

A review of David and Lisa (1962)

From the outside, David (Keir Dullea) appears to be a common teenager — he’s smart, put together, well taken care of by his parents. But David has a secret — he is someone that can’t be touched. When someone doesn’t remember this, they see his panic and his anger for being put in a position that could kill him, believing that every touch is taking years off of his life. The audience is introduced to David at the same time as the children and staff of the new facility he is joining. It is here where his parents think that he will be helped with his issues.

From the start, David makes a poor impression. Not only does he walk out of class once he proves that he is smarter than the rest, he also makes a point to insult those who dare try to get to know him. David is also resistant to his therapy, focusing his time with the doctor (Howard Da Silva) on the broken clock on the wall. It is here where the film uses both the idea of time and the intimacy of close-up shots to really give the audience the feeling of what David must be going through — the terror of being near people, the idea the time is ticking away and people surrounding him are only making the second hand go faster.

This fear is also apparent in David’s dreams. He has a vivid recurring dream that features him in front of a large clock. For each number on the clock, he sees the head of a person. Sometimes it is a person he hates, sometimes it is a person who he feared had tried to touch him, either physically or emotionally. Each time he puts his strength in pushing down the second hand, cutting off the heads of the people on the clock.

David eventually finds a focus beyond his condition and in one of the other students at the facility — Lisa (Janet Margolin). At times, she doesn’t speak at all, simply staring people down. It is during these moments that Lisa calls herself Muriel. Other times Lisa is boisterous, but will only speak in rhyme and interact with those who indulge it. David curiosity leads to him diagnosing her with schizophrenia, though no one officially confirms his diagnosis. Although he is intrigued by Lisa, she is still not allowed to touch him, though as Muriel she does threaten to do so.

With Lisa, David’s hatred of others and life in general is put on the back burner, except when it…