There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace: Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (3rd August 2021).
The Film

Produced by Motown and based on the best-selling 1973 novel of the same name by William Brashler – considered to be one of the greatest sporting books ever written – The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings is set amid the segregated African American baseball league of the 1930s and follows one enterprising team’s journey from humble beginnings to championship-winning success.

Directed with flair by John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, Dracula), this classic feel-good comedy features a stellar cast including a pre-Star Wars pairing of Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones, and comedy legend Richard Pryor (Blue Collar).

Video

Although not advertised as such, this release from Powerhouse Films in the UK of John Badham's The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) is a double bill with Craig Davidson's theatrically released documentary on the same subject as the main feature, There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace: Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues (1983). Consequently, I've given each time in the main video and audio review sections.

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

Fine fictionalisation of a real slice of American history was well received and TV director John Badham's first theatrical feature. With his next, Saturday Night Fever (1977), he hit the big time and continued to make theatrical features until Incognito (1997) after which he returned to television.

A richly coloured slice of Americana with a naturalistic grade but lots of bright primaries (lots of reds!) in the costuming and production design - pink neon at 11:00 fair pops off the screen! Flesh tones are natural but warm and delineation is good with no signs of bleed; this is a fabulous transfer taken from Universal's excellent HD master. Black levels and contrast are as they should be with detail on all focal planes much in evidence; fabrics are particularly notably well served. Shadow detail is excellent and at the other end of the spectrum whites are pure and not blown out.

Image is clean of all signs of age; no damage, no digital tinkering that I could detect. The encode is superb with the film maintaining a filmic look and feel with plenty of grain all the way.

1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.85:1 / 110:46

There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace: Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues

Excellent monochrome documentary about the Negro Baseball League* which is a mixture of history and anecdotes from surviving players. It deals with the good and bad aspects of the players experiences involving celebration and racism.

Typical of such things we have a mixture of stock footage, still photos and talking heads. Image quality considering is very good with all new material being shot in monochrome on 35mm film (according to IMDB). The transfer is taken from an HD master and it looks to my eyes as a full-blown restoration as in the (then) new 1983 footage there are no blemishes, nor signs of age related wear and tear. The vintage material displays all sorts of different problems like blown out highlights, blips, specs and other signs of age-related famage but it's never a problem.

Gamma is perfectly balance so there's no colour bias creeping in that I could detect. Black levels are perfectly dark and deep with decent shadow detail; contrast is supportive. My comments apply obviously to the main, new 1983 footage. Detail is excellent and grain is ever-present maintaining a filmic sheen from start to finish with it being courser on stock footage, finer on the new material. The encode is topnotch ... as always for David MacKenzie and Fidelity in Motion.

1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.78:1 / 59:10

* This is the term used by narrator James Earl Jones and all of the players interviewed.

Audio

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
English LPCM 1.0

There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace: Life in the Negro Baseball Leagues
English LPCM 2.0 Mono

Simple mono track on the doc gets the job done; it's all dialogue and score and they work in concert to give the viewer a clear, uncluttered experience. The main film is obviously a little more sophisticated in it's sound design but dialogue is always to the fore; score is supportive and sound effects are clear. As strong a mono track given it's baked in limitations as I've heard; range is limited but it still managed to tickle the subwoofer on occasion; most notably in the opening newsreel footage.

I could detect no real difference between the 1.0 of the main feature and the 2.0 of the documentary in terms of separation ... with one being cnetre only and the other being front left and right mono.

Subtitles: English HoH (both films)

Extras

Audio commentary on Bing Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings by John Badham (2007)

Badham is a excellent commentator; filling his track with massive amounts of relevant detail and trivia; if you've heard any of his other tracks (Saturday Night Fever, Dracula, Blue Thunder) you know what to expect; chatty, not academic but professional and warm. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Trailers from Hell with John Badham on Bongo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings (2:50)
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:46)


Badham presenting the trailer for his film and giving us a nice little précis of his film. Presented in 1080/24p 1.78:1 with LPCM 2.0 surround (48K) sound. The trailer is 1080/24p 1.78:1 with LPCM 1.0 sound.

Radio Spots (Play All - 4:39):
- Radio Spot #1 (0:30)
- Radio Spot #2 (0:30)
- Radio Spot #3 (0:30)
- Radio Spot #4 (0:26)
- Radio Spot #5 (0:29)
- Radio Spot #6 (0:29)
- Radio Spot #7 (0:11)
- Radio Spot #8 (0:31)
- Radio Spot #9 (0:30)
- Radio Spot #10 (0:30)


Vintage radio promos in which Pryor has a ball, presented with a black screen in 1080/24p 1.78:1 with LPCM 2.0 mono (48K).

Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (35 images)

Decent HD gallery.

40-page liner notes booklet featuring a 1978 retrospective article on the film by Michele Russell, an archival report on a promotional baseball match between the casts of The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings and The Bad News Bears, an archival interview with actor Billy Dee Williams, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace and film credits

The usual superb hardcopy accompaniment we've all come to love and respect. Most interesting was the material on the documentary which was more obscure to me.

Packaging

The usual, standard, clear BD Keepcase.

Overall

Another long forgotten but well regarded American film from Universal and a related themed documentary get the lush treatment from Powerhouse Films in the UK. Image and sound are as good as can be on both features in this double bill. Extras are solid with the doc, booklet and commentary all of a high standard. A shame there's no extras for the doc! Highly recommended!

The Film: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: F Overall: B

 


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