Bang The Drum Slowly (1973) - Rotten Tomatoes

Bang The Drum Slowly (1973)




Critic Consensus: Bang the Drum Slowly is a touching melodrama that explores the inner workings of a baseball club and its players' personalities with remarkable depth.

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Movie Info

A guaranteed tear-jerker, Bang the Drum Slowly centers on professional baseball player Bruce Pearson (Robert DeNiro) and his team mate Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty), who supported Bruce to the bitter end after learning that the young catcher was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and would soon die. When hayseed Pearson first joined the team, he and Wiggen, the team's red-hot pitcher were oil and water. The other team members were none to thrilled to have Pearson on their team. Wiggen changes his attitude when he learns of Pearson's illness, and when the other team members find out, they too become more helpful until the inevitably teary ending. Look for popular character actor Danny Aiello in his feature film debut. The story is based on a novel by screenwriter Mark Harris and was first filmed for television.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Sports & Fitness, Classics, Comedy
Directed By: ,
Written By: Mark Harris
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 4, 2003
Paramount Pictures

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Michael Moriarty
as Henry Wiggen
Robert De Niro
as Bruce Pearson
Vincent Gardenia
as Dutch Schnell
Phil Foster
as Joe Jaros
Heather MacRae
as Holly Wiggen
Tom Ligon
as Piney Woods
Barbara Babcock
as Team Owner
Nicholas Surovy
as Aleck Olson
Pat McVey
as Pearson's Father
Barton Heyman
as Red Traphagen
Ernesto Gonzalez
as Dr. Chambers
Alan Manson
as Doc Loftus
Jim Donohue
as Canada Smith
Patrick McVey
as Pearson's Father
Nicolas Surovy
as Aleck Olson
Alan Manaon
as Dr. Loftus
Ernesto Gonzales
as Dr. Chambers
Jack Hollander
as Tegwar Player
Lou Girolami
as Tegwar Player
Arnold Kapnick
as Detective
Jean David
as Dutch's Wife
Bea Blau
as Joe's Wife
Herb Henry
as Keith Crane
Dorothy Nuebert
as Bruce's Mother
Pierrino Mascarino
as Sid Goldman
Dell Bethel
as Third Base Coach
Forrest Wynn
as Bat Boy
Vince Camuto
as Baseball Player
Jeff Sartorius
as Baseball Player
Willie Lemmey
as Baseball Player
Doug Major
as Baseball Player
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News & Interviews for Bang The Drum Slowly

Critic Reviews for Bang The Drum Slowly

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (4)

The material is trite, but Hancock's slow-motion treatment of the experience of athletic performance is adroit and graceful.

Full Review… | May 7, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A funny, gentle and honestly sentimental movie that is easily one of the best of the year in any category, and very possibly the best movie about sport ever made in this country.

Full Review… | August 3, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Never before has a movie considered the game from the inside out.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

It is one of those rare instances in which close adaptation of a good book has resulted in possibly an even better movie.

Full Review… | May 21, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Until Field of Dreams came along, director John Hancock's moving buddy drama held the title of the best baseball movie ever made.

Full Review… | May 7, 2014
Radio Times

This sports melodrama about a dying athlete is sentimental and predictable, but it's also very well acted by the young De Niro, Vincente Gardenia and Michael Moriarty.

Full Review… | March 3, 2011

Audience Reviews for Bang The Drum Slowly


In 1973, two films were released that featured two very different performances from a young Robert DeNiro. One was his first collaboration with director Martin Scorsese in "Mean Streets" and the other was "Bang The Drum Slowly". However, despite the critical plaudits DeNiro received for the former, it's was arguably this film that caught everyone's eye beforehand. Either way, they both marked the arrival of, what would be, one of cinema's finest performers.
Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty) is the star pitcher of a New York professional Baseball team. He's the type of player that can name his price when it comes to contractual negotiations. On hearing the news that his friend (and surplus-to-requirements) teammate Bruce Pearson (Robert DeNiro) is terminally ill, Henry negotiates a contract that will keep Bruce in team and save him from being transferred. Henry's intention is to give Bruce a memorable last season at the club.
On first appearances, this film comes off as a cheap TV movie with a music score that isn't far from something as cheesy as "Little House on the Prairie". Quite simply, the music is dreadful but the performances manage to transcend it's dated approach. It's interesting watching a young DeNiro before the heights of stardom and it's easy to see that he's always had the acting ability. There's an innocence and lack of self-confidence to his character and he plays it wonderfully. This, however, adds to another problem in the film; his talents are not utilised as well as they could be. It's Moriarty that takes the lead and although he also delivers a solid performance, he comes across a little expressionless at times. Despite both actors playing well, the close relationship between their characters is never explained and leaves it hard to fully connect with them or accept the events that take place. That being said, the film does still have a heart and a lightness of touch which help it overcome it's faults. It's not a story about a dying man but more a story about life and living it fully. It's a story about integrity and the camaraderie and teamwork amongst men. It's also somewhat of a sports film but that becomes secondary to the human relationships. With material of this nature, the film could easily fall prey to cliche but it manages to avoid the pitfalls which is thanks to it's sensitivity and assured handling by director John Hancock. It's an enjoyable film but left me feeling a little frustrated at DeNiro being so underused. I know he wasn't a star at this time but when he's as good as he is here, you just want to see more. What it does do though, is show that he's always had a magnetic screen presence.
A touching and poignant drama that also manages to be an understated sports film. Not many films manage to achieve this balance and despite some flaws and it's now dated appearance, this is still worthy of attention: if only, to witness the early stages of a very illustrious career.

Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

The most boring baseball movie I've ever seen, and I like baseball, but I couldn't get into this movie. The plot is predictable, and the characters aren't interesting.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

It's a slow-paced little movie about ball players, and one happens to be dying of an incurable disease. It doesn't jump off the screen and captivate viewers, but only because the writing is so pedestrian. DeNiro's performance isn't particularily noticeable, but that's only because of how low-key it is. In fact, all the performances are lowkey, and it's only when Moriarty smashes up a locker room after being confronted with the pain of his friend dying, that we see a spark of life here. The entire team squabbles a little, but as each team member learns of the catcher's disease, they become more empathetic towards one another, until by the end of the movie, they're all singing songs together. This movie had a definite potential, I just don't feel it reached it.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Bang The Drum Slowly Quotes

– Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)

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