96 Min | Drama – Sport | August 1973
IMDB Rating: 6.9
Director: John D. Hancock
Starring: Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro, Vincent Gardenia
Bang the Drum Slowly Review: Bang the Drum Slowly is set in the world of baseball but it is not a baseball movie. However, I don’t think it would have worked in today‘s free-agency baseball world. The characters in Bang the Drum Slowly all tightly tied to one club. That is the only tie they have to each other until the events of the plot unfold. One of its marginal players is terminally ill, but still functional. His roommate, a star pitcher, has the clout and the heart to make the team retain him, while not revealing why it is important to him. Much of the humor in the movies evolves from the attempts of the team’s coach to find out his motive.
Bang the Drum Slowly, made 17 years later, “opens” the play up with large numbers of outdoor sequences, many of them filmed in an empty-looking Shea Stadium. Side characters are given much more play and there are more humorous sequences included. The big gain is a classic performance as the manager by the great character actor, Vincent Gardenia. But on the whole, the additional time given to the story and the outdoor sequences add very little to the basic story, (“The Musical Mammoths”?). Newman’s and Salmi’s basic warmth comes across better than Michael Moriarity’s rather diffident and Robert DeNiro’s intense method-acting performances.
As always with these old shows, it’s fun to see some famous actors early in their careers. That would include the leads but also George Peppard as “Piney Woods”, the southern hayseed who is a threat to replace Pierson in the teleplay along with Clu Gulager, Bert Remsen and Arch Johnson as other teammates. In Bang the Drum Slowly, Heather McRae is Moriarity’s wife and Ann Wedgeworth DeNiro’s girlfriend while Barbara Babcock, 20 years before “Dr. Quinn”, looks young and beautiful, like a fashion model as the team owner. There is nothing to criticize about Bang The Drum Slowly. It’s simply wonderful.