The debut film by “one of the forgotten heroes of British cinema” (Matthew Sweet, BBC Radio 4), Barney Platts-Mills’ Bronco Bullfrog is “remarkable” (Mollie Panter-Downes, The New Yorker), a “breathtaking time capsule” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian), and a “revelation” (Kieron Corless, Sight & Sound).
Seventeen-year-old Del, with no money and nowhere to go, breaks into train cars with his cool, fresh-out-of-borstal (reform school) pal Bronco Bullfrog. But one day he meets the lovely Irene, and despite an earful from his dad (and her mum), the two young lovers run away together… but to where?
Shot in London’s East End in 1969, cast with Doc Marten-wearing “suedehead” locals, and set to a dynamic soundtrack by early ’70s art rock band Audience, Bronco Bullfrog has been compared to the work of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, but with a punk rock spirit. After a minuscule American release following its Edinburgh and Cannes premieres, this “lost gem” (Dave Calhoun, Time Out) returns over 50 years later as a cult landmark of two teens in love, in black and white and cockney—with subtitles.
Sadly, filmmaker Barney Platts-Mills passed away last year so is not here to be part of the re-release of his film. In his stead, Oscar-winning director James Scott will participate in a Q&A after 7:30 PM screening of Bronco at the Laemmle Glendale on Friday, April 29.
From Sasha Frere-Jones recent piece in the Observer:
“The British 1970 film Bronco Bullfrog…is about kids in the streets, full stop. Del (Del Walker) starts up a romance with Irene (Anne Gooding) and bounces around with his friend Joe, aka Bronco Bullfrog (Sam Shepherd), running from cops and parents through Stratford, East London. A year before starring in this neo-realist dream, Walker was talking to director Barney Platts-Mills while they made a short documentary of Walker and his friends doing improvisatory theater with director Joan Littlewood.
“‘Is this better than hanging about in the streets? Is that all you do?’ Platts-Mills asks him.
“‘It’s all I’ve ever done,’ Walker says. “Streets—Stratford, Plaistow, Green Gate, East Ham, Leyton, Sleaford. Everywhere. Get a bit sick of it.’
“That film is called Everybody’s An Actor, Shakespeare Said, but that statement is the plot of Bronco Bullfrog, almost in total. Now rereleased by Gabriele Caroti and Seventy-Seven, a “boutique movie and music label focusing on vintage, underseen, and underappreciated work,” Bronco Bullfrog is a funnel right back into 1969 East London, a bright black-and-white look at several working class kids with no future and all the time in the world. Before Quadrophenia, before the Jam, before the Sex Pistols, there was this.
“‘We both loved the Italian neo-realists, Barney and me,’ cinematographer Adam Barker-Mill told me. ‘Joan and the boys had something.’ In the late ‘60s, Littlewood had been working in a theater in East London, putting on shows with local teens. The gang of boys hanging about in front of the theater was slowing things down, so she put them to work.”
Read the rest of Frere-Jones’ piece here.