This intense drama is based on the true story of Jim Pearsall (Perkins), a talented Red Sox player who simultaneously faced down curve balls and mental illness. "Fear Strikes Out" (which the real Pearsall largely disowned) links the star player's emotional slide to an obsessive, controlling father (Malden), who will not rest until his son reaches the majors. The relentless pressure he exerts on Jim pushes the young athlete to the brink of madness.
The young, pre-"Psycho" Perkins captures just the right vulnerability in his playing of the troubled Pearsall (he also plays him right-handed, a neat trick since the actor was a southpaw). Meanwhile, Malden gives the performance of his career as his driven dad. Don't balk on seeing this overlooked classic from young director Mulligan, who'd go on to direct "To Kill A Mockingbird" five years later.