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United Kingdom 1961
Directed by
Basil Dearden
100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Although tending at times to be a little too self-consciously programmatic in laying out the issues at stake, Victim, scripted by Janet Green and John McCormick, was a brave film in its day, when homosexuality was a crime on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dirk Bogarde plays Melville Farr, a successful married barrister and closet homosexual, who finds himself caught up in a blackmail scheme.  After a  young man with whom he dallied (the film is careful to keep Farr non-active) commits suicide to protect him, Farr decides that enough is enough and that the law must be changed even if it costs him his career and marriage.

Whilst stylistically the film is very typical of artisanal British productions of the period, packing its theme in the cleverly palatable form of a crime story with various red herrings and mis-directions, in terms of content it was a ground-breaker, empathetically presenting homosexuality as a reality of all levels of society, rather than as the usual caricatural “queerdom”. Bogarde, himself gay, gives one of his best screen performances as the man who strives to do the right thing even as his comfortable world crumbles around him.  It effectively destroyed his career as a matineé idol and precipitated his move to the art-house films, something which most people would regard as a good thing. In a small role Sylvia Syms plays Farr's wife, Laura, to good effect.

As a bonus, and typical of Dearden’s directorial style, there are lots of atmospheric exteriors featuring central London of the day.




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