The Boy Friend, directed by Ken Russell and starring famous 60s model Twiggy, is usually considered by critics to be right up there with The Great Gatsby as one of the most iconic 70s-does-20s period movies. Yet it isn’t nearly as well known, and until recently has been impossible to get on DVD. Luckily, the BBC showed the film last month so I was able to see what all the fuss was about.
First things first, if you love extravagant costumes, you should absolutely watch this film. The creative costuming was by far the most exciting part of the movie, with Greek maidens, dancing dice, elves, sequinned showgirls, starfish, and some lovely 20s and 30s style gowns. The sets were also fantastical and a fitting homage to the Busby Berkely films of the 1930s.
The rest of the film was variable – the music was nice but not incredible, and although it heavily referenced musicals of the 30s, it was missing the light-hearted, big-sound exuberance that is their trademark. In particular the at-times-nonsensical ‘dream sequences’ left you in no doubt that this was a movie of the psychedelic era rather than the determinedly optimistic 1930s (though actually being set in the 20s, the surreal element is not entirely out of place). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; one of the interesting aspects of the film was the mixture of 60s and 70s aesthetics with those of earlier eras. This really showcased how different generations become interested in ‘vintage’, and you can see clearly why 30s-referencing labels such as Biba became so popular when films like this were being shown in cinemas.
You can now buy The Boy Friend on Amazon, though it seems to need to be imported direct from Warner. It gets better though – I have also managed to find it on You Tube, where you can watch it in sections for free. It is, however, a shorter version which was released for the US market, so you’ll be missing out on a few of the dance numbers.