By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Befriending a gay biker.
Reggie and Dot (Colin Campbell, Rita Tushingham) are young and in love, at least they think they are. They want to rush off and get married, but Reggie’s father (Lockwood West) feels that they ‘don’t know the meaning of the word’ and he gets proven right as immediately after they tie the knot they are at odds with each other. Reggie begins looking for companionship elsewhere and meets up with a fellow biker named Pete (Dudley Sutton). Pete and Reggie quickly become best friends and begin hanging out together, but Pete is secretly gay and has more of an interest in Reggie than just a friendship.
Director Sidney J. Furie, whose career has now spanned 6 decades, has done a lot of duds in his time, but this isn’t one of them. The stark black-and-white photography helps bring out the bleak working class existence of the characters and the variety of locales used including a nicely captured cross country motorbike race make the story captivating and believable.
The performances are outstanding. Tushingham is especially good at displaying a genuinely nasty side to her character at the most unexpected times. Gladys Henson, who plays the widowed grandmother, is also excellent and the scene where the others argue while right in front of her about how they consider her to be ‘an elderly inconvenience’ who needs to be sent away to a retirement home is downright heart wrenching. Sutton though is the most dynamic in a risky role that helped jettison him to stardom. His distinctive facial features galvanize the viewer’s attention and the ambivalent expressions that he makes particularly when in the presence of Dot are priceless.
The film though takes too long to get to its obvious conclusion as we have a pretty good idea from the beginning that Pete is gay, so having to wait until the very end for this to finally get revealed seems to be stretching the story out longer than necessary. Most likely Pete would’ve made some sort of pass at Reggie at some point earlier anyways especially since the men shared the same bed. The film also ends with Reggie walking away from Pete and essentially ‘abandoning’ him once he realizes that he is gay. The music that is played over the scene conveys the idea that this is the ‘right’ thing to do and parlays the conventional attitude of the time that there is something ‘wrong’ with Pete, which doesn’t make this as much of a landmark movie as it’s widely considered since its ultimate message is still entrenched with the biases and bigotry of that era.
End of Spoiler Alert!
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: March 8, 1964
Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Studio: Allied Artists
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video