Expresso Bongo Review

Johnny Jackson, a sleazy talent agent, discovers teenager Bert Rudge singing in a coffee house. Despite Bert's protestation that he really is only interested in playing bongos, Johnny starts him on the road to stardom. The deal they cut, however, is highly exploitative of the young singer, and their relationship soon begins to go bad.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Dec 1959

Running Time:

111 minutes


Original Title:

Expresso Bongo

Sir Cliff is brilliantly cast as a smarmy young beat singer, ditching his real name to find success as Bongo Herbert, clearly based on Tommy Steele.

In sequences that now seem almost impossible to believe, we see Cliff abuse women, wallow in decadence and, most incredibly, hide beneath a sickening veneer of fake religion, in one classic scene singing The Shrine On The Second Floor, a horrible hymn to mother and God, before going home to beat up his old mum. Laurence Harvey is the fast-talking press agent and Sylvia Syms the ladylike stripper.

Director Val Guest enjoys the chance to spoof Soho, the BBC, coffee houses, showbiz sleaze and the entire pop business. His wonderful opening shot was, incidentally, recreated in its entirety for Absolute Beginners

A good depiction of the pre-Beatles era but not much more than that.
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