Posted in:

Expresso Bongo

In this fully re-mastered release of Expresso Bongo we step back to a time when making movies was still a developing industry, black and white was more of an option than colour and sometimes the sound tracks did not quite match up to the speech patterns.

Many a successful stage play was changed into movie format and in this case became the vehicle for the up and coming Cliff Richard to star in his second movie. That the script proved to be prophetic for this young singer was an unknown factor back in 1959 as he played the part of a young bongo player with attitude, Bert Rudge.

Based on the very successful stage play released in the West End in 1958, at the same time as My Fair Lady, it pulled in an equally as large audience but did not get the same coverage as My Fair Lady, eventually disappearing into obscurity.

Val Guest took this wonderful satire written by Wolf Mankowitz and Julian More based on the music industry and took it to the big screen with a reworked musical score, leaving only The Shrine on the Second Floor in from the original musical score, in order to showcase the talents of Cliff Richard and his band the Shadows. The script was also reworked to allow a downplaying of the sharp satire of the play which in many ways has made the movie somewhat tamer than it perhaps should have been.

Not for the younger viewing audience it features seriously adult themes in the strip clubs which is interesting as the following movies made by Cliff Richard and the Shadows were ‘squeaky clean’ as fitted the developing style of the young singer.

For those who have followed Cliff Richard’s career from the beginning will enjoy this movie as it shows a young and talented young man learning the ropes of an industry which was to take him onto a stellar career that is still wooing the crowds 55 years later.

Enjoyable and intriguing as it also highlights the direction his manger in the late 1950/60’s was encouraging him to move as the British answer to Elvis Presley, but also shows the formidable talent that was there to be developed, although thankfully Cliff Richard did not go on to become a bongo player!

Interesting special features have been added to the DVD with Youth Club (1954) The Square (1957) which allows a trip back in time and for the modern viewer shows a snapshot life in the 1950’s, which will help with an understanding of how the generation of the day spent their leisure time.

Overall a trip down memory lane with beautiful vocals rendered by all actors in a tamed down version of satire, which also makes you appreciate just how far the movies industry has progressed over the past 50 years.


Director Val Guest
Distributor ViaVision Entertainment/Madman
Released 2016
Running Time 1 hour 46 mins
Artists Cliff Richard and the Shadows