Wednesday, 3 June 2015
The Boys (1962)
The Boys is an overlooked cult British film from the early '60s, directed by a pre-Ipcress File Sidney J Furie and starring Dudley Sutton, Ronald Lacey, pop star Jess Conrad and Tony Garnett (before he moved behind the camera) as four young working-class lads from London's East End who find themselves in the dock accused of murder, following the vicious fatal stabbing of an elderly night watchman during a petrol station robbery.
What follows is a neat and effective mix of courtroom drama and kitchen sink realism, with the trial scenes intercut with flashbacks showing the events of that fateful evening and those of the boys' less than salubrious home life. In dealing with the court case itself, it's also a film of two angles; we first see the prosecution evidence given by barrister Richard Todd, with scenes depicting events from the point of view of the prosecution witnesses, and then we see the same things from the viewpoint of the defence, handled by Robert Morley's barrister whose corpulent joviality masks a character of real steely determination. As you might expect, the prosecution and defence version of events are very different from one another and it's quite satisfying to see how minor details are explored from a different angle and approach.
The early 1960s was a time of great moral panic regarding the rise of Teddy Boys and juvenile delinquency in the UK and Furie's film addresses this in an intelligent and thought provoking manner. The prosecution witnesses are largely representatives of the older generation (including Steptoe and Son's Wilfrid Brambell, Allan Cuthbertson, Colin Gordon and Roy Kinnear) who all give one-sided accounts which are unfavourable to the accused who they view little more as rowdy young thugs who need a good dose of square bashing in national service. The generation gap is a line clearly delineated throughout and, perhaps with real life cases such as teenager Derek Bentley's unjust hanging a decade earlier, the film points out the unfairness, the anomalies and the prejudices to make a serious social critique of the day - one which still sadly has a great deal of relevance in the here and now too with working class, unemployed youth being labelled chavs and scroungers. The condemnation of others, because of their social and economic background and because of their appearance, as Morley's barrister describes it in his summing up, is still in existence to this day.
Being in their 20s at the time of filming, Sutton et al may be a little older than the late teenagers they are meant to depict (indeed, Dudley Sutton was 29 at the time and actually a year older than Roy Kinnear who plays one of the older prosecution witnesses here, a nervous bus conductor with 6 children at home! pictured above) but the evocation of the time and culture, complete with its unfair stereotypes seems quite accurate, with the Canadian Furie using his outsider's eye to nail a portrait of London not too dissimilar to the novels of Colin MacInnes; a city of Teddy Boys, switchblades, coffee bars, billiard halls and dance halls and much cherished union cards securing work on the building sites.
The Boys boasts an impressive cast with seemingly every role filled by a familiar face (Ken Loach favourite Carol White pops up as a beehived object of the boys unwanted attention, pictured above, and there's also Patrick Magee, David Lodge, Felix Aylmer, Patrick Newell, Betty Marsden and Rita Webb) and a soundtrack from The Shadows only adding to its Teddy Boy credentials.
Another gem unearthed this week at Talking Pictures TV!