Five hippies pitch their tent in the grounds of a young aristocrat’s estate. He befriends the group and accepts their offer to paint his house while he is away. To make money the group use the grounds to stage a pop festival.
An unusual mixture of pop festival documentary and saucy teen comedy, Bread was exploitation filmmaker Stanley A. Long’s second attempt at what he called a “counter culture gimmick movie”. His first, Groupie Girl (1970), produced by Long, was based upon the real-life exploits of the film’s co-writer, Suzanne Mercer. Her encounters with rock musicians, as salaciously filtered through the distinctively seedy vision of director Derek Ford, had given Groupie Girl the grimy ring of truth, and the film made a lot of money. Unfortunately, despite its title – contemporary slang for cash – the more light-hearted Bread did not.
Tired of arguments with the censors, Long had curtailed his uneasy filmmaking partnership with Ford after Groupie Girl. Bread marked his directorial debut. Suzanne Mercer was back on board as scriptwriter (she was married to the saxophone player in Juicy Lucy, hence securing their performance for the film), but the seedy downbeat authenticity of its predecessor was gone. Bread was released in mid-1971 with a running time of approximately 79 minutes; even before the year ended prints had been pruned down to a double-bill-friendly 62. “I’m not entirely sure I knew what the hell I was making,” Long later admitted. “The distributors promoted it as a sex film, which it really wasn’t, and my first attempt at directing took some time to turn a decent profit at the box-office.” In retrospect, it’s not hard to see why.
Bread is too strange and erratic an amalgam of different film genres to really succeed. There’s not enough sex to make it a sex film; not enough music to make it a music film; and none of the sleazy drama that would move it into Groupie Girl territory. What there is in abundance is mild, cheeky comedy. With bulging tents, sexy ladies, a humorous, dim-witted bicycle-riding policeman, a smattering of very literal toilet gags and boxes and boxes of ‘BIG-UN’ sausage rolls, Bread emerges from the Carry On tradition, and foreshadows Long’s later Adventures series of saucy comedies. In this early accidental prototype, however, the balance is not right and the humour doesn’t quite work. The groovy cast do their best to appear naughty, but it ends up much as Today’s Cinema critic Marjorie Bilbow concluded: “far too recognisably a Cliff Richard musical with nudes and swearing”. Nonetheless, its cheerfully strange fusion of styles and genres make it entertaining and strangely compelling.
Extras: Mute outtakes (more nudity) and a rather amusing safe sex ed feature called Ave You Got a Male Assistant Please Miss?. While it starts out in a groaning manner by going over the statistics of unwanted pregnancies and abortions it gets a little better once its male protagonist goes on a quest for a condom. It runs over 4-minutes and has been decently restored as well.