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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Expresso Bongo [Blu-ray]


(Val Guest, 1959)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Willoughby Film Productions

Video: BFI



Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Original Runtime: 1:51:16.183 / 1962 Reissue: 1:45:57.569

Disc Size: 49,277,142,733 bytes

Original Feature Size: 35,563,413,504 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.98 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: April 25th, 2016



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none



Full-length theatrical version (151:16): DVD and Blu-ray premiere of the original long cut from 1959
1962 re-issue version (1:45:57, Blu-ray exclusive): shorter alternative cut which removed a number of songs
Audio commentary for the 1962 re-issue version featuring Val Guest, Yolande Donlan and film historian Marcus Hearn
Alternative sequences from the 1962 cut (2 mins, DVD only): the scenes which were added to replace cut songs
Expresso Bongo Gallery: a selection of promotional material, including stills, theatrical posters and lobby cards
Original theatrical trailer (2:59)
Youth Club (Norman Prouting, 1954, 17:19): COI documentary about dealing with juvenile delinquency
The Square (Michael Winner, 1957, 15:51): Michael Winner's touching debut, long-thought lost
Original US and UK press books (downloadable PDF, DVD only)
Illustrated booklet new writing by Andrew Roberts, Vic Pratt and Steve Chibnall, and full film credits



Full-length theatrical version (111 mins)



1962 Re-Issue Version(106 mins)



Description: When Soho hustler Johnny Jackson (Laurence Harvey), a drummer-turned-music agent, discovers teen bongo player Bert Rudge (Cliff Richard) in an espresso bar, he renames him Bongo Herbert, and secures him a record deal and a TV appearance. Soon, Johnny is riding the coat-tails of Bert's stardom. Val Guest's sharp, witty satire of the music industry was adapted from the successful West End musical by Wolf Mankowitz. This fully remastered release includes the original, full-length theatrical version, as well as the shorter 1962 re-issue cut.



The Film:

In this witty music-business satire, Johnny Jackson (Laurence Harvey) is a talent agent down on his luck who thinks his tide may have turned when he spots a teenage rock & roll fan wailing away in a coffeehouse. Dubbing him "Bongo Herbert" (Cliff Richard, in a role the now knighted and born-again pop icon would probably prefer to forget), Johnny puts Herbert on the fast track to teenage stardom, using his record company and radio connections to make Herbert's first single a smash hit. Johnny then decides that a little image modification might make Herbert a bigger draw, so his follow-up is a treacly, inspirational tune, "The Shrine on the Second Floor," which hardly gibes with Herbert's newfound fondness for strippers and love-starved American actresses. But just when Johnny thinks he has a meal ticket for life, it's discovered that Herbert is really a minor, making his contract with Johnny null and void. Cliff Richard was at the height of his first wave of popularity as "The British Elvis" when Expresso Bongo was released, leading to a great deal of speculation about how closely it mirrored his own career (the answer probably is: not very much).

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

An adaptation of Wolf Mankowitz's 1958 showbiz musical, bristling with period flavour, from the cast's brylcreemed coiffures and snazzy ties to the presence of Gilbert Harding playing himself. More surprisingly, it also bristles with energy and wit, and even survives the presence of the 19-year-old Cliff Richard as the bongo-thumping boy pushed up to stardom by Harvey's impeccably smarmy agent. The result is probably Britain's most abrasive and entertaining film musical.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Expresso Bongo gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from BFI.  It's solidly into dual-layered territory and the 5-minute shorter, 1962, re-issue version (with some of the songs removed) appears to be seamlessly-branched making the quality of both the same. The original theatrical has a max'ed out bitrate and contrast is well-layered in the 1080P transfer.  It's very clean showcasing some surprisingly strong detail. This Blu-ray gives an excellent home theatre representation of the film Expresso Bongo. It far superior than I would have imagined.

















Audio :

The BFI Blu-ray of Expresso Bongo offers a linear PCM transfer for the audio at 2304 Kbps. It sounds clean and clear. The score is by Robert Farnon (notable for composing the music for the TV Series The Prisoner and Jacques Tourneur's Circle of Danger.) There are also David Henneker and Monty Norman's pieces like Nausea, The Shrine on the Second Floor, I've Never Had It So Good from original stage show. Some may take note of - 'Bongo Boy' himself - Cliff Richard singing A Voice in the Wilderness and Love. It all sounds very appealing, flat but some understated depth. There are optional English subtitles (see sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'.


Extras :

As well as BFI including the 1962 re-issue version - it also comes with an optional audio commentary featuring Val Guest, Yolande Donlan and film historian Marcus Hearn discussing the production recalling the details. We should note that the included DVD only has some alternative sequences from the 1962 cut: the scenes which were added to replace cut songs. BFI add Norman Prouting's 1954 COI documentary, Youth Club, about dealing with juvenile delinquency - it runs 17-minutes. There is also Michael Winner's debut short The Square from 1957, long-thought lost. There is a Expresso Bongo gallery with a selection of promotional material, including stills, theatrical posters and lobby cards, a trailer and the original US and UK press books (downloadable PDFs, on the DVD) and the package has an illustrated booklet new writing by Andrew Roberts, Vic Pratt and Steve Chibnall, and full film credits. As stated this is dual-format with a DVD included.



Expresso Bongo would be considered to be quite different that Beat Girl - and, to most, infinitely superior as an intelligent and humorous satire of the era's wayward teen culture exploits. There is an air of fun and it really works in the final tally.  The BFI Blu-ray provides an excellent a/v presentation with valuable supplements. This has a lot of value and we give it a very strong recommendation as both some desirable kitsch and a well-realized film by Val Guest of the immensely appealing The Day the Earth Caught Fire.  

Gary Tooze

April 21st, 2016


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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