The history of the Negro Leagues in segregation-era baseball is a bittersweet one, and The Bingo Long Traveling
All-Stars & Motor Kings impressively gets at many different sides to the story. The film is primarily the story of Bingo
Long (Billy Dee Williams) and Leon Carter (James Earl Jones), big-time rivals in the all-black baseball league during a time when
the Majors were for whites only. As two of the biggest stars in their league Long and Carter (based loosely on legends
Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson) decide to break away from their teams' cruel owners and start their own barnstorming unit
(the team of the title) in order to keep control of their own destinies. The joint owners of the negro teams block the Bingo
Long All-Stars from playing in any official league games, so the fellas take on any local team that'll play them
(including a Jewish team complete with thick Orthodox beards).
Throughout the film (which also includes Richard Pryor in the surprisingly small role of a player trying to fake his way into
the majors as a Cuban athlete) The All-Stars develop an infield personality full of old fashioned showmanship mixed with
great baseball. This sort of Harlem Globetrotter-style entertainment astounds audiences of every ethnicity and draws
increasingly big crowds, until the Negro League owners can't ignore them anymore. After attempts to sabotage the
All-Stars, the owners decide to gamble all on a game, the outcome of which would either end the All-Stars for good or
secure them a spot as an official team. The ending of the film is bittersweet, as one of the All-Star players gets called up to
join the Brooklyn Dodgers, the major league team that famous plucked Jackie Robinson out of the Negro League in real
life. This breakthrough, and the complex reactions that Long and Carter have, underscores the mixed blessing that was
Major League integration. While it was a huge advancement for the sport in reflecting America's rich diversity, it also
spelled out the end for the Negro League, which was home to some of the finest baseball ever played. Sadly now the Negro
Leagues are often treated like a footnote in American history, but at least The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor
Kings tries to memorialize it with humor and memorable characters.
The anamorphic video looks fine. The film is a bit grainy, owing to its origins, but the transfer is top notch, really giving the
dusty Midwestern atmosphere it's correct look. Surely this is the best this film has looked for a long time.
The 2.0 mono soundtrack is also fine. The dialog is clear and the mix works well. English, Spanish and French subtitle tracks
are also available.
An informative commentary track from director John Badham (who went on to direct Saturday Night Fever, WarGames, and many other films) is included. He
eloquently discusses the athletes that inspired the film as well as his reminiscences of making the film. Overall, a very good
A trailer and some text screens are also included.
The Bingo Long All-Stars is a completely underrated film. There are plenty of dramatic and comedic highlights in the
film, as well as some fine performances. This DVD release does the film proud. I'm sure that there are a lot of people out
there clutching their old VHS copies who will be thrilled with this release. For those who have never seen the film, and even
those with only a passing interest in baseball, it deserves a look.