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Expresso Bongo (1959)

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 ... See full summary »



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Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Yolande Donlan ...
Meier Tzelniker ...
Ambrosine Phillpotts ...
Gilbert Harding ...
Reginald Beckwith ...
Reverend Tobias Craven


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. Written by George S. Davis <mgeorges@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Laurence Harvey in an outstanding and different motion picture that takes you into a world of burlesque houses .. jazz dens ... and flesh-and-blood people! See more »


Drama | Music


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Release Date:

11 December 1959 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Singing Idol  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The credit titles for writer, producer and director are written on sandwich boards carried by writer Wolf Mankowitz as he walks around Soho. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown on a neon sign outside a theatre, a jukebox, a pinball machine, a barrel organ, a restaurant menu, a pin-board, ending with a sandwich-board man. See more »


Featured in The Love Goddesses (1965) See more »


Nothing Is For Nothing
Music by David Heneker (as David Henneker) and Monty Norman
Lyrics by Julian More and Wolf Mankowitz
See more »

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User Reviews

It was a wonderful movie before it went to video...
14 September 2009 | by See all my reviews

I saw Expresso Bongo on cable TV back in 1979 and thought it was marvelous. So I was thrilled when I learned that it would finally released on VHS, though only in the UK, in the mid-1990s. My favorite scene, of course, was the comical highlight. Laurence Harvey is in the record producer's office, he drops the needle on a disc, the gramophone starts playing music, and the two of them strike up a song called 'Nausea'. They get so carried away that they take the song with them out onto the street, where they dance down the sidewalk. Now that I could at last own my own copy and luxuriate in lovely memories, I ordered a copy right away (I had PAL equipment even back then), it arrived by overseas air mail, and I was mortified to see that the 'Nausea' song was entirely missing. I was astonished at how bad the movie was without that sequence.

Since the video derived claimed copyright by the Rohauer Collection, I called Tim Lanza of Rohauer (it was one of two times I ever contacted him) to ask what had happened. He was surprised by the news. He had not seen the VHS, but he assured me that he was familiar with the film and that the song was certainly included in his 35mm prints. He told me that Kino had also licensed VHS rights, and he wondered if they would include or delete the song. He surmised that perhaps there was a rights tie-up issue with 'Nausea' that prevented its use on video, but he really didn't know.

So I wrote to Wolf Mankowitz (yes, I knew him personally, and his wife Ann) and asked if he could intervene. He wrote back saying that the film's producer, Val Guest, had in his old age acquired the only vice he had not known in his youth: stupidity. He had sold all rights to the film for a pittance and now neither Val nor Wolf had any control over it whatsoever.

At the Syracuse Cinecon shortly afterwards, I asked Jessica Rosner if the Kino edition of Expresso Bongo was complete. Of course it was, she said, as if by reflex. But then she stopped for a moment, and remembered that Kino had received a letter from an irate customer complaining about a missing scene, but that nobody at Kino took that letter seriously, because there was no hint of any deletion in the 35mm print they had used, and the running time exactly matched the running time as originally announced in 1959. My heart sank. I told her about the British VHS, and she said, yes, Kino had used precisely the same 35mm source that the British VHS had derived from. I told her and others at Kino that Tim Lanza of the Rohauer Collection had that scene and that they should go to him for any reissues. Other Kino staff by then had become fed up with me, saying that sales had been poor and that any further restoration would not be financially viable. End of story.

A few years later, in 2002 I think, I met with some movie-buffs at a restaurant in Manhattan. One fellow at the table, whose name I can no longer recall, was an employee of Kino's new DVD division. I asked him if the recent Expresso Bongo DVD was finally complete. He smiled from ear to ear and said that he and others had crawled through all the archives in England but could not find a print with the 'Nausea' song, and so, no, sadly, the DVD was the same as the VHS. I shouted back: 'TIM LANZA HAS IT!!!! WHY DIDN'T YOU ASK TIM LANZA? HE'S THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER!' My outburst made no impression.

According to rayshaw44 who posted a query to the IMDb bulletin board, there are two other songs missing as well: 'I Never Had It So Good' and 'Nothing Is for Nothing'. He could well be right!

Face it. Now with two VHS editions and a DVD edition that are all butchered, Expresso Bongo has a new 'definitive' version, and chances that more than a handful of people will ever see the complete edition are vanishingly small. Unless, of course, we want to pool our resources, license the film, and issue our own DVD when the other video licenses expire. Anyone interested? rjbuffalo@rjbuffalo.com

11 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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