Wednesday, 10 January 2018

40 Minutes: The Outcasts (1985)

40 Minutes was a documentary strand broadcast on BBC2 from 1981 to 1994. Several of the films made for the series are currently available via the archive section of the BBC iPlayer, including this one from 1985 about the Norfolk based biker gang known as The Outcasts.



And it's quite an apposite name. Tucked away on the coast of Great Yarmouth in what would become Alan Partridge country, The Outcasts are a gang who just want to be left alone to do their own thing. They're not interested in waging war with rival clubs or wreaking havoc in the town - indeed their leader, Tramp, has a hotline to the local constabulary and notifies them of a party they're holding one evening and their honourable intentions; it's a wake for a fallen comrade known as Wulfe - they just want to enjoy their bikes and the camaraderie of club life. One of the protagonists is Bobby, a young man who, as we learn from his mother, arguably parted company with conventional society as a result of his beloved father's death when he was just ten years old. Bobby inherited a considerable sum from his late father and, when he came of age, he purchased a still cherished leather jacket and a bike and has never looked back. "All young men like bikes, but they mostly grow out of it," his mother rather affectionately bemoans. "It’s running around with knives and all these medals that I don’t like". Those who have grown out of it, include a rather eloquent and beatnicky looking funeral director who, as a former Outcast, was the first person the club went to to take care of Wulfe's funeral and who takes great pride in his embalming abilities, especially as Wulfe was, as he relates, missing part of his head.



Bobby's mum needn't worry too much, as I've said The Outcasts are, for all their foul language and equally foul, grubby appearance, are more like 'The Mild Bunch', than The Wild Bunch. Indeed the barman of their local is on hand to testify to their hygiene being impeccable, citing that they only smell of petrol and oil and can bathe up to two times per day. The biggest crime the documentary relates is some fraudulent unemployment benefit claims made by some of their number. This being Thatcher's Britain, the documentary explores the hand-to-mouth existence of 'prospects' (apprentice bikers, earning their stripes - or patches - within the motorcycle club) who openly reveal that they're left with just £7 of benefit to last all week following the rent on their flats, along with any fines and dues taken by the club. At times, this relative mildness displayed by The Outcasts is unintentionally hilarious; watch one biker crush his beer can against a fence before tossing it into the lake and stomping back to his steel horse and you instantly think of The Comic Strip's Bad News, a memory that is further exacerbated by the programme's unexpected emulation of (extremely) soft porn;  heavy metal soundtracked footage  appears over of a girl sat atop a shuddering motorbike. She is naked save only for a fluorescent yellow helmet, and these images are then intercut with one biker's gleeful recounting of their appeal to the ladies. As our Outcast testifies that once you've gone biker, you never go back, the girl peers out from her visor and pouts in a manner that intends sexual aggression, but look more like she's finding the saddle uncomfortable and/or cold, before smearing her bare thigh with grease.



Ultimately, The Outcasts is an interesting study of a sub sect who, one suspects, are just like everyone else in society -  seeking a purpose to their lives and and their own place in the world.

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