The Leather Boys Movie Review

The Leather Boys is sometimes described as the quintessential British juvenile delinquency movie, a sort of Wild One with a Cockney accent, but it's something rather different and much more interesting than a "gang terrorizes town" flick. Filmed in great-looking black and white with plenty of fog and rain (it's the only way to imagine England in its early-'60s, pre-Beatles, pre-swingin' days), the movie is actually more of a melodrama about a teenage marriage gone wrong and the frustrations of a young generation looking around and seeing only more rain and more fog.

Sixteen-year-old Dot (Rita Tushingham, pretty but cursed with a Bob Hope ski-slope nose) and her slightly older boyfriend Reggie (Colin Campbell) are the happiest couple among their large biker gang, a relatively harmless group who hang around the Ace Café, admire each other's bikes, and gun off down the motorway in large packs. They all seem to have jobs, albeit crummy ones, and none seem too fixated on the future. Dot, however, is ready to tie the knot, and Reggie thinks it might be a good ol' laugh, so with the grudging approval of both sets of parents, the two are quickly married in a low-rent ceremony from which everyone departs in a double-decker London bus.

The honeymoon, however, is not as jolly. Trapped in a cramped room at a tacky seaside resort during several days of rain, Colin is content to sleep, smoke, and have sex, but Dot wants to get out, do things, meet people, have fun. She even has her prodigious bouffant dyed platinum blonde in an attempt to liven up her day. Bickering leads to drinking and fighting, and within days of their return to London, Reggie has moved out of their one-room flat and gone back to his grandmother's house, where he lived before the wedding. He's given his room there to his best friend, the easy-going Pete (Dudley Sutton), but Pete says no problem, mate, we'll share the space. They share the bed, too, but only in a platonic way.

The rest of the movie chronicles Dot's attempts to get Reggie back (one of her plans is to fake a pregnancy and then fake a miscarriage), the growing friendship between Pete and Reggie (they head to the seashore to hang out and "pick up 'birds'"), and a motorcycle rally to Edinburgh that inspires Dot and Reggie to attempt a reconciliation. While all this "kitchen sink"-style drama may sound a bit humdrum, things get very interesting very fast in the final act, when Pete starts to send subtle signals to Reggie that he's looking for more than friendship. Reggie, who's either hopelessly dense or hopelessly naïve, doesn't catch on until Pete takes him to a creepy gay pub down by the docks, where they've gone to look for a ship that can take them anywhere, as long as it's away from England. Watching Reggie's face as the he slowly realizes what's going on, and watching Pete's face as he wordlessly admits his orientation, is pure cinematic pleasure. As Reggie walks away (he's sold his bike to fund the trip), he realizes that he's lost his friend, he's lost his wife, and he won't be leaving England after all. He's nowhere.

Director Sidney J. Lurie, who's had a long but mainly B-list career, showed great promise here. His eye is unerring whether he's filming a domestic squabble in a tiny room or a bunch of motorcycles racing across a Scottish moor, and he elicits touching performances from his young cast. The dark and deprived post-war England of The Leather Boys is long gone, but it's great that this little slice of that era remains for us to see.

Cast & Crew

Director : Sidney J. Furie

Producer :

Comments

The Leather Boys Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 1964

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