Set in the world of Mods on scooters and motorbikes, Bronco Bullfrog is a critically acclaimed film shot in Stratford in 1969.
The film follows the story of delinquent Del who is driven by boredom into unsavoury activities, together with his girlfriend Irene. Del’s adventures eventually introduce him to recently-released borstal boy Bronco Bullfrog, who turns out to be a little too involved in the rough life, even for Del.
Although acclaimed at the time, the film was largely forgotten until being re-mastered and re-released by the BFI in 2010.
Shot in Stratford, it’s fascinating to see how this part of town has progressed from being a nest of delinquency to the commercial heart of East London that it is now.
The Breakfast Dinner and Tea Shop pictured above appears in one of the first scenes of the film when the group of boys attempt a robbery but only manage to steal nine pence and a slice of cake. But cake is no longer on the menu here, as the cafe became a Thai restaurant called The Pie Crust Café.
But step inside and the atmosphere is not that different from the one in Bronco Bullfrog. Construction and office workers dine in a small space that is low-lit and lace-curtained. They chow down with the same dissatisfaction-with-life look in their faces that can be seen in the 1960s movie. If Bronco Bullfrog was filmed now, one could easily imagine Del and his friends sitting here, enjoying a green curry.
What the boys might not be able to adjust to so easily is the mass of high rise buildings that have popped up around the cafe since the production of the film. The grey, multi-storey buildings leave the cafe looking a little old-fashioned, as if left over from the days of the Mods and the likes of Del and Irene.
Windmill Lane (pictured above), is the street where Del and his father live in the movie. The houses appear to have been in far better nick in the 1960s than they are now. Over the years the brickwork on some of them has been rendered, giving the houses a mismatched look. The picket fencing is gone, the motorbikes lining the streets have been replaced with cars of varying value; and the wooden sash windows have been replaced with functional plastic ones.
With fewer people walking along the street today, or sitting on its brick walls, Windmill Lane has a more desolate and less communal air than it did in the film.
Although a lot of the locations for Bronco Bullfrog still exist, they no longer provide the backdrop for the Mod style featured in the film. When I visited they looked a little lost in an East London that though vibrant and ever-changing, could no longer accommodate the likes of Del and Bronco.