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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.
Victim 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 Not just a historical document--though the location footage of central London circa 1961 is fascinating in its own right--Victim was instrumental in changing attitudes, which led to the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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Never more true than in this remarkable (for its time) film. Apart from being a story of courage, determination and sacrifice, it presents a picture of a time, now happily gone, when to be gay was a matter of secrecy and shame. Dirk Bogarde's career could have disappeared overnight when he took the brave decision to make this film and he gives a fine performance of a man torn between his comfortable life and successful career and his deep and secret passion. He is surrounded by a fine ensemble cast led by the splendid Sylvia Syms as his wife, Peter McEnery as "Boy" Barratt, the object of his desire and with Dennis Price, Nigel Stock and Charles Lloyd Pack in strong support. A special mention should go to a character actor by the name of Norman Bird who plays a second-hand book seller deeply in love with "Boy" Barratt, the catalyst for Bogarde's actions. Bird gives a wonderful and very moving performance as this bland little man who must mourn his loss in secret. Well ahead of its time, the film still packs a significant punch and tells a heartbreaking tale about what it was to be gay before the law changed in 1967.
The film works on many levels. On one level it is a whodunit - a homosexual commits suicide, and the man's lawyer (Bogarde) tries to track down the blackmailer who drove him to it.
On another level it is a drama - as the lawyer goes deeper into the gay world, it reopens his uncertainty over his own sexual orientation, and puts a strain on his marriage (to Sylvia Sims).
On a third level it is gay propoganda. At the time (Early 1960's) male homosexual acts were illeagal. This film led to greater tolleration by the public - leading to a change in the law. In fact, this has probably had a greater impact on changing public opinion (on any subject) than any other British film.
Some gay activists may now dislike the film, because many of the gay charaters are shown as sad, pathetic individuals living secret lives in the shadows, who only wanted to be left in peace away from the police and blackmailers. However, this was probably an accurate reflection of the times.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
you must buy and watch this film. very true to life and excellent acting by everyonePublished 14 days ago by Mrs O.
An absolute must have Classic! Dirk was himself in the closet at the time, I believe. I loved the interview and wonderful accents.Published 1 month ago by Peti Buchel
In my view this is Dirk Bogarde's finest hour as a London Barrister involved in trying to bring down a blackmailing operation. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Timothy
Whilst historically significant, for most of its duration 'Victim' is a generic early 1960s British crime drama, with the sort of direction you'd expect from a television... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Peter Webb
EXCELLENT PERIOD DRAMA CONCERING HOMOSEXUAL BLACKMAIL THAT WAS WIDESPREAD AT THE TIME
BOGARDE PLAYS GC AND HAS RELATIONSHIP WITH A WORKING CLASS BUILDER
THIS IS NOT... Read more