On the face of it, The Leather Boys is about bikers. But it could have been about mods, rockers, teds or any youth cult of the age – because that’s just background. The Leather Boys is actually a movie about relationships.
Set in South London, Reggie (Colin Campbell) and Dot (Rita Tushingham) are a young couple on love – and not long after Dot leaves school, they get married and head off to Butlins for a honeymoon. But not long after returning, the cracks already start to show. Dot wants to be a ‘kept’ woman, while Reggie wants to spend his spare time with his bike and his biker mates at the Ace Cafe.
And then along comes Pete (Dudley Sutton – or Tinker from Lovejoy, as he is probably best remembered). Pete is a like a blast of fresh air, up for fun and adventure – and just the friend Reggie needs as his marriage starts to fall apart. But things aren’t quite as obvious as they seem. For Reggie, Pete is the best friend he never had and someone to rely on in times of strife. But Pete’s motives aren’t quite so pure – he’s very keen to keep Reggie for himself, pulling him away from Dot and into a relationship with him.
All that sounds sensationalist, but it’s not – it is a really well-made film that tackles the subject of homosexuality (still an offence at the time) with some sensitivity, avoiding the camp cliches for most of the movie, spoiled to some extent by the final scene in a gay pub. It’s also a great piece of British grit, a superb period piece (taking in a wide range of locations, from the South London streets to the seaside and up to Scotland) and above all, a showcase for some superb performances from the leads of Campbell, Tushingham and Sutton. And there’s a few familiar faces in minor roles too – check out Johnny Briggs (aka Mike Baldwin off Coronation Street) as Dot’s love interest.
Well worth picking up.