is quite simply a watershed moment in cinema history. The first mainstream film to portray sympathetically and realistically homosexual society, it did so at a time when homosexuality was still a crime in Britain. Janet Green and John McCormick's screenplay makes Dirk Bogarde's Melville Farr a deeply conflicted man; married and in love with his wife, he also has relationships with men; while as a lawyer he is bound to uphold the law, even as he is compelled to break it. When Jack Barrett (a young Peter McEnery) commits suicide to avoid the consequences of blackmail, Farr sees this as murder, and decides to end the extortion even if it costs him his career.
Rather more skilfully plotted than it initially appears, Victim generates considerable tension, and boasts fine performances from an ensemble cast including Sylvia Syms as Farr's wife, Norman Bird, Donald Churchill and John Barrie. Basil Dearden, who memorably featured Bogarde in an early role in The Blue Lamp (1950), directs with professional assurance. Not just a historical document--though the location footage of central London circa 1961 is fascinating in its own right--Victim was instrumental in changing attitudes, which led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality. A turning point for Bogarde too, the film marked a move from matinee idol to the more serious fare of The Servant (1963) and Darling (1965).
On the DVD: Victim is presented in an anamorphically enhanced 16:9 transfer, which beautifully captures the noir-ish black-and-white cinematography of Otto Heller. There is occasional print damage, but it is minimal and doesn't distract from the film. The mono sound is very good. The disc also includes the original trailer, an annotated gallery of production photographs and a 28-minute television interview with Dirk Bogarde. This excellent feature was filmed in the actor's house just prior to the release of Victim and finds him discussing his career with particular reference to Hunted (1952), the Doctor comedies, Song Without End (1960) and his latest, "bitterly controversial" picture, which he says couldn't have been made even two years earlier. --Gary S Dalkin
Dirk Bogarde stars as a Q.C. with a past he has tried to bury. Now married, he has tried to forget a homosexual affair, but finds he cannot escape it when he receives a phone call from his former lover. His lover, Jack Barret (Peter McEnery), has been arrested by police for theft, but the police found that he has no money to his name and have come to the assumption that he is being blackmailed. When Bogarde refuses to speak to him Barret commits suicide. Opening himself up to legal proceedings, Bogarde decides to prosecute the blackmailers himself.