The Leather Boys
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Set in the cult world of fast cycles and loose sex, THE LEATHER BOYS is a shocking view of rebellious teenagers seeking their independence: Dot, the immature bride who finds that legal sex is not so excitingReg, her restless young husband who longs to see the world astride his motorcycleand Pete, his best friend who closets a harrowing secret. A disillusioned trio that discovers independence alone is not enough, and that lifes harsh realities are inescapable. Controversial at the time of release in 1964, THE LEATHER BOYS was one of the first movies that dealt with the then taboo subject of homosexuality.
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Reggie is a very sympathetic lad; he isn't particularly angry, he just isn't quite sure what he wants to do with his life. Dot is an airhead, to put it bluntly, shallow and vain but at least fun loving and well-intentioned. Dot wants to get married, for no particular reason except that that's what girls do and Reggie goes along with it, well, because he's an agreeable guy. Recipe for a perfect marriage, right? Even the honeymoon leads to disagreements and as they drift apart back in London, Dot proves to be a poor homemaker who mostly likes to go shopping with her mum and get her hair done. Reggie starts hanging out with his mates and takes up with the seemingly carefree Pete, with whom he becomes best friends to the exclusion of Dot. Events proceed from there.
This is a fascinating film in every way from its good acting to the fine black and white photography. The scenes of everyday British like in the early 60's is especially priceless from the biker hangout to the family wedding and especially the honeymoon at Butlins big seaside resort (where Ringo Starr once worked) with its crowds and dance hall. As in many of these films, the scenes of daily life seem almost like documentary footage. The motorcycle race from the Ace Cafe to Edinburgh is an unexpected treat in the film, opening it up far more than the usual kitchen sink drama. Though references to homosexuality are in the plot, "The Leather Boys" refers simply to the leather jackets worn by the motorcyclists and not to a gay S&M kind of thing which it might suggest today. While not quite as intense and dramatic as some of the other British New Wave Films, it scores on its honest portrayal of its everyday characters whose lives seem to mirror the lives of many people.
Dot (Rita Tushingham) and Reg (handsome newcomer Colin Campbell), a young working-class couple, get married. She is sixteen, shallow, selfish, and vain. He is sweet, generally light-hearted, and thoughtful, but under pressure reverts to macho, blue-collar stereotype. As a result, they fight constantly and soon separate. Reg meets Pete, a flamboyant and extroverted biker, who becomes his best mate. They move in together while Reg sorts out his life. Despite Pete's constant mothering, possessiveness, and jealousy, naive Reg only figures out that his friend is in love with him when Pete is outed in a dockside bar at the end of the film. Typically, there could be no happy endings for gay men in 1964.
The film is especially interesting due to the photography, period locations, and the early cinematic homosexual reference. Colin Campbell is beautiful, a wonderful actor, and quite suited to the role of a confused youth trying hard, but not prepared, to be an adult. His pretty, boyish presence is essential to the theme of sexual repression which precipitates all the minor tragedies and frustrations in his life.
This Televista version is a poor Pan&Scan version. There are two widescreen issues, from Kino (out of print) and Blackhorse (Region 2), well worth searching for. It makes a great difference to see the film in its original form without half the screen missing. The wide format is especially convincing in the road and racing sequences.