We are about to watch a trial, where four teens have been charged with murder and it is up to the jury to decide whether they are guilty or not. Their social standing is against them from the beginning, as they have no social standing, regarded as part of the Teddy Boy culture that has alarmed Britain as the epitome of its juvenile delinquency problem. What they may or may not have done is killed a night watchman, an elderly gent who never did harm to anyone, and all for the hundred pounds they believed was in the petty cash box, though as it turned out it actually contained a few shillings. The witnesses are lined up, the defendants and present, so here we go...
The Boys was not a film that received much praise in its day, largely dismissed as yet another courtroom drama in an era where audiences were having enough of them, though on television ten years after popular drama Crown Court proved that as with many things in pop culture, there are cycles to popularity. This took its time to detail the workings of the courtroom with as much adherence to reality as they could muster, so a lot of time was given over to the minutiae of the law in such circumstances which contributed to the authenticity of what we were watching, or at least that's what you had the impression director Sidney J. Furie was aiming for in such intricate design.
There was a danger that the viewer could be stultified by hanging around waiting for the film to get to the point, and if you liked a story that cut to the chase and delivered on action, then you were not going to get along with The Boys. If however, you understood that all this was being carried out for a reason, and the whole thing had a very serious point to make that it could not have highlighted without taking so much time over what led up to its conclusion, you would find the manner in which it played out, well-nigh methodical in its execution, not only intriguing but absorbing too, especially thanks to a structure that owed much to a certain arthouse hit of recent vintage, Rashomon.
Yes, we were back with that Akira Kurosawa classic once again, where the same event is depicted from different points of view, though here it was more accurate to observe we were not so much offered different versions as the same version, only expanded on with new information. For the first half, we are agreeing with the witnesses, the four boys look and act like thugs so it's little wonder they reverted to type and carried out the murder, yet for the second we hear the accused side of the story and start questioning our prejudices. Are we as guilty as those witnesses for deciding they must have been up to no good? Because there's a distinct doubt emerging in this case that the boys had anything to do with the crime at all, they may actually have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The cast were excellent throughout, from the defendants, played mostly by newcomers - Dudley Sutton, Ronald Lacey, Jess Conrad and Tony Garnett, all about to make great waves in the entertainment industry in one way or another, though Conrad was already a successful singer - to the witnesses, including familiar faces like Roy Kinnear and Wilfrid Brambell. Maybe the best performance was from Robert Morley as the defence counsel, who makes it clear confusing the jury is a useful tool in letting your clients off, but has the most resonant speech at the end when the implications of the conclusion are sinking in. The quietly authoritative Richard Todd was first-billed, but this was really an ensemble piece, and one with a message about the value of the death penalty which was in the headlines during the lead up to its abolition during this decade, pertinent to the plot since that's what the title characters are faced with should they be found culpable. Well-argued and sympathetic, The Boys deserved its latter-day rediscovery. Music (though not a lot) by The Shadows.