Flipside 013-014: Bronco Bullfrog / Private Road

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MichaelB
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Flipside 013-014: Bronco Bullfrog / Private Road

#1 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:38 pm

Flipside 013: Bronco Bullfrog

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Del (Del Walker), a young apprentice, and his 15-year-old girlfriend Irene (Anne Gooding) have no money and nowhere to go. Angry and frustrated, they turn to 'Bronco Bullfrog - fresh out of borstal and living an independent lifestyle - for a taste of fun and freedom. Powerful and authentic, this fascinating record of the then-emerging suedehead subculture, largely improvised by a non-professional cast of teenagers from East London, is released here in a fully remastered High Definition presentation.

Extras
- Everybody's An Actor, Shakespeare Said (1968, 30 minutes): Platts-Mills' documentary charts Joan Littlewood's theatre work with the teenagers who would star in Bronco Bullfrog.
- Joan Littlewood interview (1968, 21 minutes): the formidable and outspoken theatre director discusses her career
- Seven Green Bottles (Eric Marquis, 1975, 35 minutes): a cautionary tale of seven young delinquents, played by non-professional actors
- Fully illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essays, photographs and film credits.

Flipside 014: Private Road

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BFI Flipside presents Private Road a film by Barney Platts-Mills, whose stylish and compelling follow-up of the critically acclaimed Bronco Bullfrog relocates the youthful struggle for social and personal freedom to 1970s Boho London, the suburbs of Surrey and the the wilds of Scotland. A gorgeous, pouting Bruce Robinson (who would go on the write and direct Withnail and I) plays Peter, pausing from finishing his first novel to shack up with sugar-sweet receptionist Ann (Susan Penhaligon). Sex, drugs, and some rigorous rural living ensue, to the dismay of Ann's well-to-do parents. Will Peter choose domestic conformity or pursuit of the artistic ideal. Thought-provoking, witty and compelling, Private Road is well worth rediscovering.

Extras
- St Christopher (1967, 48 minutes): Barney Platt's-Mills' affecting observational documentary about the education of mentally handicapped youngsters.
- The Last Chapter (David Tringham, 1974, 29 minutes): dark tale in which a successful middle-aged writer (Denholm Elliot) is unbalanced by an assured young fan (Susan Penhaligon).
- Fully illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essays

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antnield
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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#2 Post by antnield » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:53 pm

MichaelB wrote:Newly remastered editions now confirmed as a 2010 release, courtesy of a brief mention on Kim Newman's Guide to the Flipside of British Cinema.

More details when I get them - in the meantime, here are the IMDB entries on Bronco Bullfrog and Private Road.
Got to say these were completely unexpected. Platts-Mills has been selling them through his website for quite some time and I figured it would always stay that way. (I reviewed Bronco Bullfrog for DVD Times a few years back: link!)

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/71)

#3 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:35 pm

Time Out...
BRONCO BULLFROG
This healthy antidote to the 'classless' swinging '60s was made for £17,000, a major achievement in itself. What one least expects from the subject - the drift into aimless petty crime and misdemeanours of a trio of working class youths in London's East End - is the dominant mood of shyness that gives the film much of its effect. This can be attributed mainly to a cast of non-professionals unconcerned with showing off by 'acting', and to Platts -Mills' understated storyline and direction. Bronco Bullfrog's true subject is the mediocrity of British life, but at exactly the points where one begins to fear a customary excess of bathos, the film discovers its sense of humour. As such, its feelings are truer to its subject than later, more vaunted youth pictures like Quadrophenia.
Author: CPe Time Out Film Guide

PRIVATE ROAD
Platts-Mills' second feature steps up a class from working to middle, but remains as quietly and sympathetically observant as Bronco Bullfrog, though this time using professional actors and a bolder visual stylisation. Very much of its time in its account of a girl's attempt to escape the cosy suburbanism of her family in Esher - by way of an affair with a classless writer who introduces her to the dropout world - it remains as engagingly unclassifiable as Bronco Bullfrog. Well worth a look for its odd mixture of romanticism and scepticism about society's future.
Author: TM Time Out Film Guide
Yes, think I will be going for this pair on Blu...

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/71)

#4 Post by The Glue Man » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:11 pm

Fantastic - mind you, the R2 RPM DVD of Bronco Bullfrog is one of the first 10-15 or so DVDs I ever bought, and I still haven't got round to playing it!

Private Road is another VERY welcome addition to the Flipside roster... more info please!!! :D

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/71)

#5 Post by perkizitore » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:58 pm

The RPM disc is fetching high prices, if you sell it you will probably make money to buy all Flipside releases of 2010 on blu-ray.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/71)

#6 Post by The Glue Man » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:44 am

perkizitore wrote:The RPM disc is fetching high prices, if you sell it you will probably make money to buy all Flipside releases of 2010 on blu-ray.
Wow... so it is!


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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#8 Post by ellipsis7 » Sat Jun 05, 2010 7:50 am

Xan Brooks in The Guardian on BRONCO BULLFROG back in cinemas... Including recalling the time Princess Anne went to see the film...
Who knows what the princess thought of Bronco Bullfrog? Maybe she liked it. Maybe she didn't and was too polite to say. But Shepherd remembers sitting beside her in the dark while Irene's mother was railing at her daughter's taste in boys. "She turned to me and said, 'My mum was like that.'" Shepherd chuckles at the memory. "It took me a minute to twig that she was talking about the Queen."

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#9 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:46 pm

There's piece on the film by Philip Kemp where he talks to Platts-Mills in the July ish of Sight & Sound, which ends with a note saying these are now going to be two separate BR/DVD releases, BRONCO BULLFROG on September 13th, while PRIVATE ROAD is slated for January 2011...

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#10 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:49 am

I'll be hosting a Q&A with Barney Platts-Mills following a screening of Bronco Bullfrog at the Curzon Soho on Saturday June 19th at 4.30 - details here.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#11 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:25 am

Jason Solomons talks to Platts-Mills on Guardian Film Weekly, from about 27' 00" in....

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MichaelB
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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#12 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:57 pm

MichaelB wrote:I'll be hosting a Q&A with Barney Platts-Mills following a screening of Bronco Bullfrog at the Curzon Soho on Saturday June 19th at 4.30 - details here.
Well, that was enormously entertaining - one of those Q&As where you just wind them up and let them go, and only bring things to a halt when it's time to empty the auditorium for the next screening (it could have gone on far longer). "Them" being the operative word, as co-star Roy Haywood was also there, and brought the house down on more than one occasion.

The print was digital, and sourced from the same master (presumably 2K) from which the Blu-ray and DVD will eventually emerge - and it looked sensational. Aside from one brief scene, which was grainy enough to suggest 16mm (despite the rock-bottom budget, it was shot in 35mm), it looked fabulous - pretty much lab-fresh for much of its length, with onscreen blemishes virtually nonexistent.

Platts-Mills confirmed that it had never looked and (especially) sounded so good, and seemed thrilled by it: although his own edition was also sourced from the same BFI National Archive materials, they weren't given the same expert HD telecine and restoration, and it's safe to say that the new version will have none of the problems of the older one (moderate damage, PAL-to-NTSC conversion).

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#13 Post by GaryC » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:39 am

Presumably that's the reason why Bronco Bullfrog now has a 15 certificate instead of the 12 that Platts-Mills's DVD had. A brief shot of the graffitied word "cunt" probably didn't show up quite so clearly before... (For the record, that DVD is sourced from a National Film Archive print complete with BBFC AA certificate at the beginning.)

Incidentally, what ratio was the film shown in? The Platts-Mills DVD is 4:3, but the trailers I've seen of the new release have been wider than that. 1.66:1 or possibly 1.75:1 would be more likely than 1.37:1 for a 35mm feature at the time this one was made.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#14 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:49 am

It was shown in 4:3, and there's absolutely no compositional evidence that it should have been anything else.

I don't know if Platts-Mills was present at the telecine (though the fact that he namechecked technical supervisor James White suggests he had a certain amount of involvement), but no-one who was at the Curzon last night can have been in any doubt that he considers this new version to be absolutely definitive. He explicitly said that he was unhappy with the earlier DVD transfer, thanks to a combination of technical inexperience and lack of funds.

I agree that the aspect ratio is unusual for the time, but since the film was made entirely outside the mainstream industry they may simply not have known that cinemas would mostly have cropped the picture by then. Not that it got too many cinema bookings in the first place.

UPDATE: I've since found out that:

1) Barney Platts-Mills attended the grading for both Bronco Bullfrog and Private Road, and the latter was also supervised by the cinematographer (I watched a DVD-R when preparing for yesterday's session, and it also looks great - as with many Flipside titles, the mere fact that the original materials have barely been touched means that transfers often come out better than equivalents of better-known but more frequently printed films).

2) Platts-Mills was adamant that 4:3 was the intended ratio for Bronco Bullfrog, even though it would probably have been masked at many cinema screenings. The intended ratio for Private Road is 1.85:1, and the new BFI DVD/BD will of course reflect this.

3) The new BFI trailer for Bronco Bullfrog was deliberately produced in 16:9, simply because 4:3 trailers are a pain for many cinemas. (This is why I'm not that worried about the trailer for The Hourglass Sanatorium being presented in 1.85:1 on the Pro-Motion Blu-rays when the actual film should definitely be in 2.35:1 - trailers often have different aspect ratios from the film they're promoting, for a whole host of technical/practical reasons).
GaryC wrote:Presumably that's the reason why Bronco Bullfrog now has a 15 certificate instead of the 12 that Platts-Mills's DVD had. A brief shot of the graffitied word "cunt" probably didn't show up quite so clearly before...
I asked him if the clearly visible 'Barny [sic] is a big prick' was a deliberate Hitchcock-style "cameo", but he laughed and said that he didn't notice at the time, either during production or editing (presumably it was harder to spot on a Steenbeck).

He also confirmed that he took advantage of the technical need for quite extensive post-synching to tone down a fair bit of swearing, though a couple of "fucks" still managed to slip through.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#15 Post by GaryC » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:16 am

Thanks, Michael. I wonder if there are any plans to release Hero on DVD? I saw it on its one and only TV showing in 1982 and I remember it being flawed, not least by its obviously pitiful budget, but it might be worth another look. (It seems to be available still through Platts-Mills's website.)

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#16 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:28 am

Platts-Mills hinted quite strongly that he wasn't very happy with how Hero turned out. Which may explain why he abandoned feature filmmaking afterwards for an even longer stretch - though his fourth feature is set for a Toronto premiere.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#17 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:30 am

GaryC wrote:Presumably that's the reason why Bronco Bullfrog now has a 15 certificate instead of the 12 that Platts-Mills's DVD had. A brief shot of the graffitied word "cunt" probably didn't show up quite so clearly before... (For the record, that DVD is sourced from a National Film Archive print complete with BBFC AA certificate at the beginning.)
Here's the BBFC report which confirms that the graffiti was the thing that upped the rating.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#18 Post by MichaelB » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:22 am

Full specs announced for Bronco Bullfrog (Private Road is out in January):
Bronco Bullfrog

Del (Del Walker), a young apprentice, and his 15-year-old girlfriend Irene (Anne Gooding) have no money and nowhere to go. Angry and frustrated, they turn to 'Bronco Bullfrog', fresh out of borstal and living an independent lifestyle, for a taste of fun and freedom.

Powerful and authentic, this fascinating record of the then-emerging suedehead subculture, largely improvised by a non-professional cast of teenagers from East London, is released in a re-mastered High Definition presentation.

Special features

* Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
* Everybody's An Actor, Shakespeare Said (1968, 30 mins): Platts-Mills' documentary charts Joan Littlewood's theatre work with the teenagers who would star in Bronco Bullfrog
* Joan Littlewood interview (1968, 21 mins): the formidable and outspoken theatre director discusses her career
* Seven Green Bottles (Eric Marquis, 1975, 35 mins): a cautionary tale of seven young delinquents, played by non-professional actors
* Illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essays, photographs and film credits

Technical details

Bronco Bullfrog (Flipside 013) Cat no: BFIB1064 / UK / 1969 / Cert 15 / black and white / English / Optional subtitles for the hearing-impaired and optional French subtitles / 87 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 // Disc 1: BD50 / 1080p / 24fps /PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit) / Region free / Disc 2: DVD9 / PAL / PCM mono audio (48k/16-bit) Extras Dolby Digital 320kbps / Region 0

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#19 Post by MichaelB » Sat Sep 11, 2010 8:30 am

Beaver on Bronco Bullfrog.

I was pretty relaxed about the reception of this one, as I really don't see how it could look any better - and, sure enough:
Well folks, this isn't much of a comparison. As you would have guessed, the BFI blows the Platts-Mills (now OOP as far as I can tell) out of the water in every way. In fact, the image ranks amongst the most impressive transfers that I've seen from the BFI thus far.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#20 Post by RossyG » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:26 am

Ok, hands up all the Americans who had to switch on the subtitles whilst watching this. :D

Fabulous film. Ditto Seven Green Bottles. Great to see such an uncompromising view of London from this era.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#21 Post by antnield » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:38 am

...and a definite improvement over Platts-Mills self-released disc. I was amazed at how strongly the soundtrack came across, allowing for a greater appreciation of The Audiences' score. Also, the film still holds up wonderfully well thanks to its authenticity. (After watching the film again I looked over my old DVD Times review of the earlier disc and was amused to see that I'd used this month's other Flipside release, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, in a slightly disaparaging manner in order to highlight this element!)

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#22 Post by MichaelB » Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:24 pm

RossyG wrote:Fabulous film. Ditto Seven Green Bottles. Great to see such an uncompromising view of London from this era.
Yes, and it's the first of four Eric Marquis titles that the BFI is putting out over the next few weeks - the other three being on Shadows of Progress (Time Out of Mind, Time of Terror and Tomorrow's Merseysiders). These are particularly rare treats because Marquis' films generally weren't intended for public exhibition, so he's possibly the most obscure of all the major documentary filmmakers featured in the new collection: even specialists might not have had the opportunity to explore his work before.

As Rebecca Vick says in her chapter on Marquis in the upcoming BFI postwar documentary book:
A versatile film-maker, Marquis made public-information documentaries, industrial films and corporately sponsored promotional pictures. In all of these, he was particularly skilled at adding humour and excitement, sometimes surprising depths and, now and again, a certain savagery. Although his films have little in common with the canonic social documentaries of the 1930s and ’40s, still less with TV current affairs, they often amount to ‘social documentary’ of a different and compelling sort. Marquis frequently constructed a vivid, unflinching representation of reality, informed by a detailed understanding of his subjects – this is particularly true of his works relating to mental illness, a theme rarely covered in the non-fiction films of earlier epochs. In histories of documentary, however, his presence is elusive and rarely referenced. Many of Marquis’s best films were commissioned to highly specific briefs, and were intended mainly for showing to professional or educational organisations, whereas the best work of the most talented of the sponsored film-makers was more often distributed publicly. This contributed to Marquis’s lack of profile within general film culture – even further out of sight, out of mind, than many of the others (themselves not exactly household names) profiled in this book. Yet one of the most impressive features of these films is that they refuse to allow their imaginative scope to be limited by these circumstances: Marquis assumes that their ‘specialised’ audiences have the right to be entertained, excited or provoked, as well as informed, by first-rate cinema. If the film-maker has an important message for them from his sponsor, he has all the more responsibility to give them such cinema.
And if you liked Seven Green Bottles, you'll be absolutely blown away by Time Out of Mind, one of the most powerful British films from any era or genre.


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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#24 Post by MichaelB » Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:42 am

A lengthy review by Britmovie's Andy Checkley.

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Re: Bronco Bullfrog/Private Road (Barney Platts-Mills, 1969/

#25 Post by antnield » Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:55 pm

Private Road: 17th Jan 2011

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