Fear Strikes Out (1957)

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If this story were filmed today, the treatment would be much more stark and realistic. But for a film in the mid-50s, it provided quite a punch in conveying the agony of growing up with a loving but very demanding father. When I saw it in the theater, I never questioned Anthony Perkins as a teenager in the first part; today, this is much more difficult to swallow. Even though dated somewhat, the film is still worth a watch.

Karl Malden is excellent as a father driven by his own sense of failure to attempt to live vicariously through his son. As a result, he literally orchestrates his son’s life. Never accepting the `glory’ of the moment, he places constant expectations and demands on his son. Possibly this is Malden’s best role.

Tony Perkins has some fine moments of anguish and neuroticism as the ball player, Jimmy Piersall. One scene between his father and him after his breakdown is superbly acted with Perkins running through a panoply of emotions. That this emotional turmoil is somewhat subdued is to the credit of the film. Norma Moore gives a competent and rather understated performance as his wife. The doctor, played by Adam Williams, is appropriately comforting, but he’s not up to delivering the big line, especially in his intense scene with Malden. Regretfully, Perry Wilson as Piersall’s submissive mother, didn’t have more of a role.

Some very nice photography using the angularity of steps and bleachers and railroad stations conveys the underlying jaggedness and tension of emotions. Elmer Bernstein’s soundtrack is effective in supporting the mood of the film.