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The frustrations of sexual conflict…

May 6, 2011

The Leather Boys (1964)

Tuesday, May 10th 9pm

Otto’s Shrunken Head

538 E. 14th street (A & B)

Ride hard, die young – England’s motor-bike gang

Based on the novel “The Leather Boys” by Gillian Freeman, this British drama follows the “Kitchen Sink” realist movement style of the early 60’s, portraying real people living real lives. No Hollywood epic here. It deals with taboo issues of underage marriage, teenage angst, sexual and moral ambiguity and homosexuality. Pick up the book if you can. It tells an even darker tale culminating in crime sprees and murder

…now back to the film.

Marriage, they don’t even know the meaning of the word

The Leather Boys, follows rocker couple Reggie (Colin Campbell), a mechanic & Dot (Rita Tushingham), an upper school student, who spend their time at the Ace Kaff drinking tea and racing motorbikes. Now that Dot’s 16 and out of school, they promptly get engaged, “spliced” (married) and run off on honeymoon holiday, but things go downhill pretty quick when both seem to fall into the stereotype of marriage. Dot begins to change, wears “wifely” clothing, dies her hair “pink platinum”, and uses her new position as housewife to goof off instead of helping out. Reggie’s working too hard to support them both, stops wanting to have fun, yells about tea time punctualities and doesn’t find his young bride appealing anymore….The honeymoon is over (after only 6 months)

Columbus went over to America on something newer than that

Reggie starts spending less time at home and more time at the Ace, racing his tweaked but sadly out of date, sub cc bike (a 1963 Triumph T3A) with his new friend Pete (Dudley Sutton). Pete’s a merchant marine, screwball charmer who rides a shiny new 1964 Norton Atlas he’s got on the “never never” (credit) and always plays the ham.

I’m a lovely tenant. I make great tea, and I always wash my feet

When Reggie’s Grandad dies, things at home get even worse. Dot doesn’t want to live with his newly widowed Gran and Reggie won’t leave Gran alone, so he moves Pete in for company and spends most of his nights there as well.

You ‘aint a proper wife

well, you ‘aint a proper husband either…are ya

At the Ace, the gang plans a “big burn out” to Edinburgh and back, 800 miles round trip with a buy in kitty to be taken by the winner. Reggie needs the cash and starts prepping for the race with Pete’s help, but sexual tension grows as it’s vague but clear that Reggie isn’t shagging Dot, and that Pete would rather spend time with Reggie than chase birds with the blokes.

Your baby…Grimm’s fairy stories

Dot, with mum’s help, comes up with the age old plot of telling hubby that she’s expecting, to get him to come home. Of course Reggie knows all too well they haven’t been shagging and calls her on it.

We’ll give the law a bit of a bad time

The day of the big burnout arrives and everyone gathers at the Ace Café. Reggie on his new 1964 Triumph Bonneville 650 which he’s bought on the “never never”, and Dot on the back of her new bloke’s bike, decked out in her old biker gear, and hair died back to brown…The race is on, and we get great shots bikes tearing through London traffic, hitting the ton on the straight-aways, and winding through foggy country roads on their way to Edinburgh.

There’s no baby

At a roadside tea break Reggie learns the truth, and brief smiles are exchanged by the estranged couple before hitting the road hard again. At the next stop, they’re goofing around, and by the third stop, Dot’s fella’s bike is broken down and she happily hitches on the back of Reggie’s. Pete is not pleased.

We ‘aint got a chance of winning that race, but I tell ya…I couldn’t give a damn

Not interested in the race anymore, Reggie’s just happy to be having a good time with Dot and tells Pete to go on ahead, while they dance to a song from their honeymoon on the jukebox.

I’ll see you down at the kaff then. Ta

Back at the Ace, Reggie gets dragged off to pub with Pete and the blokes and leaves Dot behind. But that night, he can’t stop thinking about Dot. Waking early he packs his bags to leave Gran and Pete and head home. Pete tries to talk him out of it with ideas of them hopping a boat to NY, or Singapore, or Japan and leaving all this mess behind, but to no avail.

Shut the door mate. It’s drafty

Dot greets him happily, but won’t let him in, making flimsy excuses of clutter and lack of tea. Reggie busts in the door to find a bloke in his bed. Furious he storms out and races to find Pete and take him up on his cross-continental adventure.

Ride a motor-bicycle do ya dearie?

They make plans to hop the first boat out of port that night. Reggie sells his bike and heads back to the port pub to wait for Pete to arrive with the tickets. Pretty quick he realizes that Pete’s friends and the entirety of the bar is a bit queer. Not to mention the only boat out of port that night is going to Cardiff, not New York or Singapore. Poor Reggie’s been led on and lied to all around

We’ll see you on board love

Walking out of the bar, Reggie shares one last kind, knowing look with his best friend before he walks away and back to Dot, and married, middle class London biker life.

– Corinna

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