That Certain Thing Called The Boy Friend: The Charm That Soothed Ken Russell’s Savage Breast


What to do when Netflix et al no longer holds whatever meagre charms they once did? Rifle through your own stash of DVDs and beg, borrow or steal the treasures of cine-loving friends. The rewards can be considerably more satisfying.

As a HUGE Ken Russell fan, it’s frustrating that so much of his catalogue is mired in rights issues that keeps them out of circulation. So to get a copy of The Boy Friend (1971), usually only available as a special order from the Warner Archives, was a coup.

Straight off The Devils (another classic never available in its full theatrical form), Russell transformed a 1953 West End musical into an all-singing, all-dancing acid-laced Biba-esque extravaganza. A musical-within-a-musical-within-a-musical, it’s set in the 1920s, amongst a direly-talented English seaside theatrical company, regularly spinning off into Busby Berkeley fantasies steeped in Clarice Cliff palettes. Twiggy (in a role that marked Julie Andrews’ stage debut ) is all dewy-eyed ingenue in a cast of English stalwarts (such as Barbara Windsor and the George of George and Mildred fame).

An uncharacteristic affection dissipates Ken Russell’s usual bombast and makes it so much  more enjoyable.

Author: davidlatta

David Latta is an award-winning editor, journalist and photographer. His work has appeared in scores of Australian and international newspapers and magazines including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Australian Financial Review, The Courier-Mail and Travel & Leisure. During the last two decades, he has largely concentrated on travel and tourism, editing more than a dozen B2B titles and major conference and incentive travel publications. He is the author of critically-acclaimed books on such subjects as architecture and design, Australian history, literary criticism and music. These titles include Lost Glories: A Memorial To Forgotten Australian Buildings, Sand On The Gumshoe: A Century Of Australian Crime Writing, and Australian Country Music. He is currently working on a book about the nightclub scene in 1970s Sydney as well as a sprawling thriller set in Sydney during World War II. As an arts commentator, humourist and trend-spotter, his opinions are sought across the gamat of traditional and social media.

2 thoughts on “That Certain Thing Called The Boy Friend: The Charm That Soothed Ken Russell’s Savage Breast”

  1. Thanks for the reminder of that charming film. I was a great fan of Twiggy. I didn’t realise that this came straight after The Devils. What a force that film was, I’m probably emotionally mature enough to watch it now without screaming.

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