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Victim 1961

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In its time, Victim was considered as a daring a film as had ever been made in England. Taken at face value, Janet Green and John McCormick's screenplay is nothing new: Dirk Bogarde plays a lawyer who agrees to defend an old friend (John McEnery) on a theft charge, only to be enmeshed in a blackmailing scheme. What set this one apart is the fact that the lawyer had once been the male lover of his client. At a time when homosexuality was a criminal offense in England, any film that depicted the gay scene in a non-judgmental light was in for a rough time from the bluenose brigades. What really startled filmgoers of 1962 is that the homosexuals shown in Victim were seemingly normal, everyday blokes, a far cry from the stereotyped nance characters common to films. Denied the MPAA seal when it was released to the United States, Victim surprisingly ran into very little interference when it was released to television in the mid-1960s.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Starring:
Sylvia Syms, Hilton Edwards
Rental Formats:
DVD

Product Details

Discs
  • Feature ages_12_and_over
Runtime 1 hour 36 minutes
Starring Sylvia Syms, Hilton Edwards, Norman Bird, John Barrie, Peter McEnery, Peter Copley, Anthony Nicholls, Donald Churchill, John Cairney, Dennis Price, Nigel Stock, Dirk Bogarde, Derren Nesbitt, Charles Lloyd-Pack
Director Basil Dearden
Genres Drama, Thriller
Studio ELEVATION
Rental release Limited availability
Main languages English
Hearing impaired subtitles English

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed.

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is one of those classic British movies - and the film world would be a sadder place without it.

Faultlessly directed by Basil Dearden, it's a dark melodrama of unpleasant matters, mostly concerning the antiquated laws governing gay culture.

Remember that the film was made in 1961 - before the sexual revolution, and before homosexuality was decriminalised. In hushed tones, the press of the time would occasionally mention a 'subculture' or a 'twilight world' that respectable people wanted nothing to do with.

Well, in this brilliant and ultimately uplifting film, the most upstanding and right-thinking characters are brought face to face with things they would perhaps prefer not to admit.

Blackmail, fear, and obsession stalk the monochrome streets of London - and this film is endlessly absorbing.

There are plenty of surprises, some of them very touching, and the acting from the well-chosen cast is superb throughout. Dirk Bogarde is terrific as a lawyer about to reach the peak of his career - only to have his ambitions dashed by -

But that would spoil it. The plot is cleverer than that, and keeps you guessing.

Be glad this film is available on dvd in such a sumptuous print - it's one to return to again and again. Go buy.
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Format: DVD
Dirk Bogarde plays Farr, a top barrister on the verge of becoming a judge, who thinks he's being blackmailed by a young man with whom he once had a brief, platonic dalliance. As it turns out, the young man is the one who is being blackmailed about his relationship with Farr and to protect Farr he kills himself. Farr resolves to track down the blackmailers and bring them to court, even though that will expose his own situation and in so doing end his career, his marriage, and as that was the law then, get him sent to jail.

This film manages to succeed in everything it tries to do. Firstly it is a classic piece of campaigning film making, bringing home how ridiculous the legal situation was then. In fact, it has been said that this film managed to help in some small way to change the law.

Wisely though the film doesn't preach too obviously at the audience, which would create something that is worthy but dull, as is often the case with campaigning films. Instead it draws you in with a well-constructed mystery tale. There are numerous story strands with red herrings galore, each inviting you to work out who the blackmailers are and who else is involved with the mystery being viewed from both the police's and the victims' viewpoint. The characters too are believable and the acting from the leads is convincing. Dirk's relationship with his wife Sims in particular is moving.

Even though the film is ahead of its time, some aspects feel clunky. Every time a bigot expresses a view you feel that the script has been analysed beforehand by the censors to produce a speech they'll accept. And there's a silly bit where it's realized that a famous actor is being blackmailed but his name is drowned out to imply something.
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Format: DVD
Given the age of this film (early 1960's) it is nothing short of incredible.

It handles the subject of homosexuality in a very sensitive and yet inspiring way. I was especially impressed with the relationship between husband and wife - this could have been treated in a very negative way, but was in fact very moving.

This is a film that everyone should see at least once as it is profoundly significant - I would put it on a par with The Colour Purple - as it similarly confronts the viewer with human truths.
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Format: DVD
There are lots of reasons why you should watch this film (and it repays repeated viewings)but Dirk Bogarde is possibly the best of them. Here he is in a role that few actors - at the time - would have dared attempt (the fact that Bogarde was himself a homosexual, albeit one who preferred to keep his private life to himself only emphasises how much he stood to lose in a less 'liberal' social climate than the one we have today). With one stroke, he ended his increasingly uncomfortable career as a matinee idol and became the great actor he was always destined to be.

This film is criticised nowadays for its attitude to homosexuals: it treats them as sad, tortured creatures who deserve our pity - and whilst I can understand people making that objection, I think that director Basil Dearden and all involved had their hearts in the right place. You'll also see a very early (and moving) performance by Peter McEnery and a couple of excellent acting turns by Sylvia Syms and Dennis Price.

Definitely a film to watch, learn from and savour.
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Format: DVD
I love this film for both personal & critical reasons - I saw it at a time of personal stress and so any film that gets you a bit weepy / is cathartic will have resonance and stay in the mind but also it tackles a theme that I cant think was tackled seriously before. It is able to highlight the position of gay men (all resolutely in the closet on account of repressive laws on the statute book) before 1967 - being blackmailed, and in the main preferring to pay up rather than risk prosecution. Brave move by Dirk Bogarde to take on the lead role and he is the main reason why the film is so good, and the justly famous "confrontation scene" with him & wife Sylvia Sims (also excellent) is nigh on heartbreaking. The film is never preachy but now and again there are points where the audience are told some facts - usually by the main policeman in the film. No-one is trashed in this - all the various views whether sympathetic or non-sympathetic are given a hearing. It can be a bit gloomy but it has a hopeful ending. Five stars for this one!!!
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