Post by Dirty Epic on May 22, 2020 9:44:54 GMT
Apologies if there is already a thread for this/has been mentioned before but I caught Bronco Bullfrog on London based Freeview channel London Live a few days ago and with a few little niggles here and there mainly due to the cast, crew and production featuring locals rather than trained actors it’s a fairly decent and interesting snapshot of the life of late ‘60’s bored, going nowhere adolescents in East London/Stratford.
Much of which that is featured in Bronco Bullfrog, eerily hasn’t really changed over 50 years on despite the massive changes that have happened in the East End – Canary Wharf, 2012 Olympics etc.
Please note this next section will contain spoilers.
It begins with a group of four 15-16 year old friends Del (Del Walker), Roy (Roy Haywood), Chris (Chris Shepherd) and Geoff (Geoffrey Wincott) who in broad daylight break into a closed café. All they get is small change and cakes… not the most promising of starts for their criminal careers. Later the group go to a local cinema where Del catches the eye of Irene Richardson (Anne Gooding) and also bump into their rivals led by Parker (J Hughes Jr.) after leaving the cinema and having a minor skirmish with one of Parkers gang Del returns home smitten with thoughts for Irene.
Del’s home seems dysfunctional with his father (Dick Philpott) seemingly having a hostile and distant relationship with his son and seems to have fancy women with him… Del’s mother left years earlier and has stayed with relatives in the ‘country’. Despite this there is a relationship between the two and when Del’s dad has a win of £500 in a competition he gives Del the money he needs to buy a motorbike he’s been saving up for.
Del calls at the flat Irene lives with her mum Mrs Richardson (Freda Shepherd). Irene’s father is in jail for armed robbery, not much else is mentioned about this except for a reference from Del’s father that he’s Italian or of Italian descent. Mrs Richardson seems to have a sneering attitude of Del – common, wears boots etc. and thinks he’s trouble and no good for Irene. Despite this Del takes Irene for a ride on his bike to the West End with the intention of seeing a movie and a meal in a posh cinema and restaurant – instead as they have little money they settle for a couple of burgers in the Wimpy bar.
A notorious face Jo/’Bronco Bullfrog’ (Sam Shepherd) has been released from borstal. He’s known and sort of friendly with Del and his mates and has plans to knockoff electrical goods from a freight train. He encourages Del and Roy to join him in his plan and they successfully raid the goods from the yard and take them back to Bronco’s bedsit.
Meanwhile the relationship between Del and Irene grows despite increasing disapproval from their parents. Roy meanwhile is ambushed and badly beaten by Parker and his gang which brings the police to Del’s door. Sergeant Johnson (Stuart Stones) is investigating the assault but sensing nervousness in Del may/may not be connecting him to the robbery at the freight yard. Del and Irene become increasingly frustrated with the disapproval and hostility from their parents and against a backdrop of frustration and a feeling their lives in Stratford/the East End are going nowhere decide to runaway. Del tries his luck with his mum’s relatives in the ‘country’ but they let him know there’s also little or nothing (farm work) for him out there either and he’d be better off returning home and trying to find something to do with their lives – Del has an apprenticeship in Greenwich etc.
Del and Irene return where they bump into Bronco who let’s them know the law is after them. Irene’s mum has contacted them when she disappeared and Sergeant Johnson is on their trail. Bronco perhaps more wise/streetwise about things advises Del and Irene they’d be better off going back home and for Del to get back on his apprenticeship.
Del goes to Greenwich to sort this out but before he can return to the East End his bike gets badly damaged by a lorry and has to walk back. In the foot tunnel Del see’s Parker and a few of his cohorts who rough him up a bit, but Del says he’s not interested in a fight with them after a momentary pause Parker’s gang leave him alone and Del get’s back to Bronco’s flat. Shortly after his return Sergeant Johnson turns up on the scene and see’s the stolen goods in Bronco’s flat and Del and Irene. Bronco thumps Johnson and the three make a run for it… seen in the final scenes running wild and aimlessly in the docks against a backdrop of a uncertain, perhaps bleak future ahead of them.
I found Bronco Bullfrog interesting to the fact it was made and featured ‘actors’ who were untrained in the industry and it’s interesting that none of the cast in Bronco Bullfrog really did anything else after this moment in the limelight - the lead's here with perhaps more training could certainly have been convincing faces in anything from The Sweeney, Alan Clarke/Ken Loach productions and even Eastenders for that matter but they just seemed to call it a day after this?
There’s plenty on the web about it but some interesting facts were it led to Princess Anne being jeered and pelted with fruit and veg when she went to a Leyton youth club and seemingly snubbed an invitation to attend it’s original West End premiere, Martin Scorsese regards it quite highly and was almost lost in a skip in the 1980’s and not really mentioned until it’s BFI restoration and re-release in 2010.
Perhaps inspired by some of Ken Loach’s work a few years earlier, perhaps it’s most engaging feature is director Barney Platts-Mills use of non-trained/ordinary people and kids rather than established actors in the film. This was something Willy Russell wanted for the TV adaptation of One Summer and he wasn’t very happy when this did not happen and older/established actors in the +18 age group took the roles in One Summer like David Morrissey, Spencer Leigh and Ian Hart. It gives Bronco Bullfrog an authenticity, however at times things do go a bit clunky and scenes sometimes don’t quite work or flow as they would – again compared to One Summer it feels more stop/start rather than taking you on a journey.
It’s interesting that Platts-Mills stayed within the industry but more behind the scenes and with project work and groups too.
That’s only a minor gripe for me and one the whole I enjoyed and liked what I saw with Bronco Bullfrog. I don’t necessarily think I’d rush back to watch it nor do I consider it a classic piece of film from it’s period. However it is one of the first films/drama’s to feature kids and youth’s who are seemingly trapped in mundane, dead end lives who are going nowhere except into dead end jobs, criminality or both. It’s also a good snapshot of the (sic) ‘Swinging Sixties’ giving way to something else and perhaps those good times were not being felt by everyone back then… it’s a hidden world that would start to become more and more explored in things like Alan Clarke’s work, as mentioned earlier things like One Summer, and independent British cinema in the ‘80’s where you perhaps the DIY ethos pioneered here could get things like Letter to Brezhnev etc. whether you liked what you saw or not.
Bronco Bullfrog is also interesting in showing the sort of last-rites of 60’s Mod Culture and maybe the 60’s in general too before the dawn of the 70’s and things like Ska/Skinhead culture, punk, casuals and then later the more recognised ‘Street’ culture of today started to emerge.
For all the investment, change, fanfare and stimulus the East End has had from the mid-‘90’s onwards like as I say Canary Wharf, North Greenwich and the O2, the reinvestment in Stratford after the 2012 Olympics, the gentrification of Hackney and Shoreditch etc. etc. many of the problems and issues you see in Bronco Bullfrog exist and arguably have changed and become worse… economically, socially, criminally etc. The faces, buildings, circumstances and perhaps morality and violence may have changed but it’s disenfranchised youth tale could easily be updated to something relevant to what is going on in the East End or any other forgotten urban area today although for all the amateur dramatic and clunky feel Bronco Bullfrog has a slicker, more entertainment based update would probably not attract your attention half as much as this would and would probably be bogged down in emulating the US ‘Gangsta’ style many of today’s UK youth and urban drama’s do seem to play up… and sometimes over exaggerate.
It’s a flawed gem and I’d rate it 7/10 but I do recommend you try and catch it and who knows you might quite like it.
I’d sooner see something like Bronco Bullfrog on ITV3 or Drama or even BBC Four for that matter anyday instead of the over-repeated things they show for the 5-millionth time or whatever!