• The Leather Boys (AGFA/Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: AGFA/Shout! Factory
    Released on: June 29thth, 2021.
    Director: Sidney J. Furie
    Cast: Rita Tushingham, Colin Campbell, Dudley Sutton
    Year: 1964
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    The Leather Boys – Movie Review:

    Rated X upon its initial theatrical release, director Sidney J. Furie’s 1964 film The Leather Boys introduces us to Reggie (Colin Campbell) and Dot (Rita Tushingham), a young couple who have recently wed. They seem happy enough and do what most young couples do, start working on getting their collective affairs in order and building a life together, though they’re not even out of their teens yet and have clearly gotten married far too early.

    Reggie is a biker in his spare time, and enjoys hanging out with his friends from the motorcycle club. It isn’t too long that Reggie meets Pete (Dudley Sutton), a biker from a rival club, and they strike up a very fast friendship. Soon, it’s clear that Reggie is starting to have feelings for Pete that are more than plutonic. As his marriage to Dot starts to get a little rocky, Reggie and Dot start to drift apart as he and Pete try to figure out just where exactly they stand with one another.

    More of a melodrama than anything else, The Leather Boys is an interesting and well-made film. The script does a good job of fleshing out the three central characters and making them believable enough to work. All three of the lead actors do fine work here, creating sympathetic characters and making them interesting enough to the audience that we want to see how their plight shakes out. Furie is careful not to let the film ever feel too sappy and he keeps a respectful tone throughout the whole picture, never letting the very obvious gay overtones fall into camp or parody. In fact, Furie approaches the plight of closeted gay men of the mid-sixties with a surprising amount of tenderness and sympathy (being gay was literally a crime until 1967 in England). It’s also interesting, thematically, not just in how it explores closeted gay relationships but in how it takes apart the value of Reggie’s marriage to Dot. Neither of them are bad people and clearly it’s emotionally very difficult for the two of them to sort this out, but you’re left wondering why they got married in the first place. The film suggests that it’s because what was expected of them and that it was, in a sense, dictated by their lower class roots. The movie also spends a good amount of time in the motorcycle club subculture of the era in which it was made and, clearly, where the title for the picture came from (the members of the motorcycle clubs pretty much always being decked out in leather as they are here).

    Shot in black and white and in scope, The Leather Boys is a very good looking picture. The cinematography is quite strong and there are plenty of interesting compositions to take in as the picture plays out. In fact, production values are quite strong overall. The film is well put together and features some solid editing and the score from Bill McGuffie that is quite good.

    The Leather Boys – Blu-ray Review:

    The Leather Boys arrives on region Free Blu-ray taken from a ‘new restoration from the 35mm negative’ in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taking up 31.1GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The picture quality is excellent, with the black and white image displaying great contrast and very strong detail. There isn’t much print damage here at all, the image is in great shape and there’s strong depth and texture to the picture in pretty much every frame.

    The 16-bit DTS-HD Mono track, which includes optional English SDH subtitles, sounds fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and nicely balanced and the score sounds good. There are a few spots that sound a tad flat but for an older single channel mix this is of very good quality.

    Extras start off with a commentary featuring director Sidney J. Furie and biographer Daniel Kremer that is quite worthwhile. It’s a very laid back track and very much a conversation between the two men rather than a formal, scripted affair but there’s a lot of good information in here. They cover the script, the film’s production and release history, how the picture was received when it was first released, working with the different cast and crew members, how British laws and politics of the day had an effect on the film and quite a bit more.

    The disc also includes an audio interview with stars Rita Tushingham that runs just over thirty-five-minutes and which was recorded in 2013 as research for Kremer’s book. She covers what it was like working with Furie, her thoughts on the film, what it was like being involved in the production and more. A second audio interview, also from Kremer’s research sessions, runs twenty-nine-minutes and speaks to Dudley Sutton about his involvement in the picture, covering similar ground. Both are quite interesting.

    Taken from the Something Weird S-VHS archive and included here is a short film entitled Consenting Adults: A Study Of Homosexuality, directed by Adam Clapham. This thirty-nine-minute short made in the UK in 1967 for British television broadcast examines the different gay and lesbian subcultures of the day, focusing pretty much equally on time spent with gay men and lesbian women. While it’s clearly a product of its time (and comes complete with a warning advising of such), it does an interesting job of showing how many homosexuals had to life hide their orientation or face discrimination as we meet different gay men and women from different walks of life – some single, some very much in committed relationships, some with family and some without. It is, somewhat surprisingly, more sympathetic to the gay population’s problems than not and an interesting archival piece.

    This release also comes packaged with some reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    The Leather Boys – The Final Word:

    The Leather Boys is an interesting film. It’s very well-made and the acting and direction are both quite strong. It’s sometimes rather subtle in how it explores its themes and situations but it does what it does very well. The Blu-ray release from AGFA/Shout! Factory includes some great extra features and presents this culturally important film in excellent shape. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Leather Boys Blu-ray screen caps!