Jim Piersall is groomed by his loving but hard-driving father (living vicariously through his son) to play major league baseball. His desire to succeed to please his father leads to mental illness and a nervous breakdown. ... more »Can he overcome those difficulties and return to the major leagues?« less
I do not really like black and white movies but this movie was outstanding! Perkins and Malden were at their best!
A remarkable portrait of a famous sports personality
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for a baseball film solely dedicated to the playing of the sport by the central figure of this film, pass it up. But if you are looking for an intimate, psychologically complex portrait of a famous sports personality as a human being and not a mythic figure, you happened upon the right film. The film is not about how Piersall's talent for baseball was discovered or how his technique broke ground in the field, but rather it is a universal exposition of the steps through which a father's desire for his son to succeed where he failed turn into a desire to live vicariously through the child's glory and the damaging emotional repercussions that it has on the child, as well as the steps back to a normal life. Anthony Perkins turns in what is truly a brilliant performance. The pain he registers has rarely if ever been equalled by another actor alive or dead, and he is almost unbearably poignant in every scene without ever pandering to cheap bathos or melodramatic fits of tears. The pain we see is genuine and haunting, something that radiates from his eyes and his voice and his presence, not from "technique". His expressive face conveys the anguish of a deeply tortured psyche, vacillating from the shy charm he exudes in courting Norma Moore, to the eruption of his lifelong pain heaped upon him by his tyrannical father when he tearfully tells him of how his efforts to help him only hurt him, and to the moments when he cracks up, when either splitting the wood of a door in anger with his fists, or swinging a bat violently after hitting a homerun asking "Was I good enough?". It is one of the greatest performances ever recorded on film, from an actor renowned only for his role in a certain Hitchcock film I'm sure you are all familiar with. Karl Malden transcends the potentially one-dimensionality of his role as the tyrannical father, making it clear that Father Piersall did what he did not only out of a hope that he could achieve the glory he never got in baseball through his son, but that he did it out of love as much as anything else. The rest of the cast is quite fine as well. The details of a delicate psyche under stress is of the utmost importance in this film, as opposed to the details of how Piersall became a great ball player, and that is why it so remarkable. You shouldn't miss this"
A Perfect Bookend to "Field of Dreams"
mjb211 | 05/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For every person who has a warm fuzzy memory of playing catch with Dad, there is the ying-yang expereince of those abused by fathers living vicariously through their sons' little league experiences. Such is the essence of "Fear Strikes Out".
I first saw this movie on late night TV about 20 years ago. It scared the bejeezus out of me. Carl Malden gave a truly frightening performance. However, he was matched scene-for-scene by Anthony Perkins. I remember one early scene in the movie where young Jimmy Piersall is playing catch, rather poorly, with his father. Carl starts yelling. I was getting a pain in the pit of my stomach. Young Jimmy goes behind a shed, I think, to fish out the passed ball he just missed. Tony Perkins stops, his face contorted in angst. This scene stayed with me much like the Flying Monkees in the "Wizard of Oz" or the head-turning scene in "The Exorcist".Every little league dad should be forced to this film at the start of every season!"
Pretty good movie about baseball, and then some.
Benito Vasquez | Naperville, Il | 10/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Karl Malden and Anthony Perkins make a good pair for the father and son Piersall in this movie. Malden had a slew of movies like this where he played a heavy, in this flick the domineering dad that sends Perkins over the edge. And to say Perkins isn't Gary Cooper or Piersall not Gehrig. Well, duh! Not the point of this movie to make a warm loving character study as that of Gehrig in "Pride of the Yankees." And in that effort this movie is totally successful. Not all baseball stories end in warm touching moments, or the game winning walk-off home run that sends the fans a frenzy. Malden is excellent as Piersall's dad. And Perkins plays an edgy Piersall that can only garner the empathy of the viewing audience. I pesonally asked Jimmy Piersall if ths movie was an accurate depiction of how things actually occurred. He responded by saying that everything except for the scene where he climbed the backstop- the scene where he went over the edge and on his way to treatment- was pretty much on the money. And he said so with the humility that only Jimmy Piersall could respond with. He also chuckled when i asked if there was a deleted scene where Malden stopped him on his way out the door and said, "Jimmy. Here's your glove. Don't leave home without it." All that aside, this is a good movie, albeit an uncomfortable one to watch."
Fear Strikes Out
John Farr | 08/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perkins plays young Pearsall with just the right vulnerability, and Malden does a breathtaking turn as his driven Dad. An over-looked classic from young Mulligan, who'd go on to direct "To Kill A Mockingbird" five years later."
Tense and dramatic from beginning to end
magellan | Santa Clara, CA | 12/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Both Perkins and Malden turn in possibly the greatest performances of their illustrious careers in this story of the gifted but troubled center fielder. Perkins is truly brilliant in the role, and its hard to imagine anyone at this point who could have done a better job in the role. Maldon is relentless as the overbearing sports dad, who does love his son and wants him to do well, but whose love is truly a two-edged sword. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, the movie has a fine script, and the film is taughtly directed by Robert Mulligan. One minor quip I did have was that the wife's part, played capably by Norma Moore, could have been bigger. Coincidently, I attended the Norma Moore private school my last two years in high school. :-)
Overall, it's a fine movie about a great baseball player's descent into mental illness and his struggle to return to normalcy, but be aware that it does take some artistic license with the facts. In the film, Piersall's disorder is portrayed as an "anxiety disorder characterized by obsession and occasional auditory hallucinations," (from the Wikipedia article on Piersall), rather than bipolar disorder, which was how it was actually diagnosed. These inaccuracies eventually led Piersall to disown the film. Also, the movie makes no mention of the fact that Piersall's mother was diagnosed with mental illness.
A little trivia note, he became a professional baseball player at only age 18 with the Red Sox, after having been an outstanding high school basketball player. In a career marked by bizarre behavior and various antics, he celebrated his 100th career home run by running the bases running backwards, as promised (although in the right order). He had a career batting average of .272, led the American League in doubles with 40 in 1956, was elected to the American League Hall of Fame in both 1954 and 1956, and earned Golden Glove awards in 1958 and 1961.
Interestingly, Piersall and Perkins, who last names both begin with P, share their first and middle names, since Piersall's middle name is Anthony. Finally, in his autobiography, Piersall once said, "Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jimmy Piersall, until that happened?""