|Reggie (Colin Campbell) walks away from Pete (Dudley Suttton)|
"We saw more of each other before we were married!"
The Leather Boys starts out as an examination of a marriage between two young people, Reggie (Colin Campbell) and Dot (Rita Tushingham). At first Reggie always seems to have one thing on his mind, but that begins to change. A major turning point in the marriage occurs when Reggie's grandfather dies and while most of the thoughtless family want to put the grandmother (Gladys Henson), who still has all her faculties, into a nursing home or retirement village, he supports her when she insists she wants to stay in her home, even going so far as to suggest that he and Dot move in with her. Dot is horrified at this proposition, and while you can understand her point of view, she expresses it most insensitively. The couple separate and Reggie asks a motorbiking buddy of his, Pete (Dudley Sutton), to share the spare bedroom [and the bed] in the grandmother's house. This all seems quite innocent at first, but Dot says the two of them "look like a couple of queers," upsetting Reggie and making Pete all defensive. It leads up to a climactic scene when Reggie fully understands the truth about Pete and his feelings and can't quite deal with it. Is Reggie simply a nice straight guy who can't be what Pete wants him to be, or is he a closet gay who isn't ready to come out? -- the film lets the viewer provide his own answers. In a Hollywood film the ending would probably have been quite nasty and homophobic -- and some will see Pete only as a predator after a good-looking guy he wants to "indoctrinate" -- but somehow the picture comes off more as a sympathetic unrequited love story. The entire cast is excellent [some might say Sutton is a little unsubtle at times, giving away the game), and Gerald Gibb's black and white cinematography makes the most of often dreary settings -- parks, housing projects, the dockside, and the like. The later film Best Friends is similar in some ways, but has a nastier, and less frank, tone to it. Sutton later appeared in The Pink Panther Strikes Again and many other films. Gillian Freeman based his screenplay on his novel, which he published under the pen name Eliot George; the plot is different in many ways and much gayer. He also did the screenplay for That Cold Day in the Park.
Verdict: Interesting British slice of life with a gay twist. ***.