America’s Pastime takes a pyschiatric turn in the fact-inspired story of Boston Red Sox player Jim Piersal. So Freudian, even you’ll want to murder the father. A debut pic for the team of producer/director Alan Pakula/Robert Mulligan, and it looks it, with many an awkward transition and no depth to the acting bench in support of sparring father & son Karl Malden & Anthony Perkins. The story tropes of pushy pop living thru a talented son, the kid’s manic/depressive tendencies, a showy public meltdown on the field all feel tattered after six decades of Movie-of-the-Week psycho-dramas. So too, Malden’s habit of dramatically swinging for the fences on every pitch. What keeps us in the game is Perkins. So serious, so charming, so fucked-up, and with those crazy cantilevered shoulders that lend athletic edge to his switchblade physique. He’s the whole show, and worth the price of admission.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Perkins, who’d just made a believably handsome son to Gary Cooper in FRIENDLY PERSUASION/’56, here looks related to Cary Grant, especially in a few extreme close-ups. But Karl Malden as his pop? That’s some 7th inning stretch.