Even though this film is often listed for sale on various motorcycle book and video sites, it is not about motorcycles per se. It is, however, a surprisingly good film.
When I bought the DVD, I had a vague notion that the film was something about ’50’s British rockers hanging out on Nortons and Triumphs at the Ace Café in London. Well, yes, there are some great shots of very classic motorcycles, the original Ace Café and the look, the feel and the sounds of that era of classic motorcycling. But the motorcycles provide only the ambiance that serves as background support for the main themes, and are not the featured event.
There are several factors that are necessary to make a good film. Things like the plot, the screenplay, the direction, the photography and the editing are among the obvious. But one thing that is almost always present is a multi-level plot that works on various levels and comes together in the end, and The Leather Boys has it in spades.
On one level, it’s a film about the immaturity of teens in lower-class Britain and how they mistake lust for love and show a stunning immaturity regarding marriage. It’s also a little bit about teen rebellion against stuffy parents, most of whom are played as very old fogies with hardly a clue as to what motivates the younger generation.
Colin Campbell does an excellent job as Reg, a bike-loving mechanic who falls for Dot (Rita Tushingham) and has a too-healthy libido. Dot quits high school and they get married, which adds complexity to the layers with a commentary on youth, commitment and maturity.
Dot turns out to be unsurprisingly (to us) shallow, and Reg gets fed up and leaves to hang out with his mate Pete (excellently played by Dudley Sutton). They end up moving in to Reg’s grandmother’s house together to save money on rent. One of the great things about the film is how it slowly becomes apparent to both the viewer and to Reg that Pete is gay and has fallen for Reg and considers him as his own. It’s ironic that the Dot/Reg relationship failed but the Reg/Pete relationship seems more successful and is, in a way, a more ideal pairing.
But as Reg realizes what’s happened, he reevaluates his life and ends up back with Dot. I think it’s all done very well and was certainly a very risqué film and topic for the ’50’s. It is much more frank and straightforward about the problems of youth and society in general than anything that came out of Hollywood about these topics during that era.
The Leather Boys has great shots of bikes, the Ace and the clothing that we see today only in the pages of “Classic Bike” magazine. As long as you realize this is not a movie about motorcycles, but a very good film that is a social commentary, I think you’ll enjoy it. I was surprised and delighted by this gem of a film that will unfortunately remain forever obscure because of its title and because, ironically, it is classified as a motorcycle movie.