a film by Basil Dearden
1961 | 90 mins | UK
›› Victim
a landmark work that shone the spotlight on an antiquated law.
Victim by Basil Dearden Highly controversial in its day; this b/w feature now thankfully dated can be viewed instead as groundbreaking British film noir styled entertainment, beautifully lit and directed and complete with a series of exemplary performances from the supporting cast. Yet at the time of its release, this compelling work dared to focus public attention on an antiquated law that made being a practicing homosexual in Great Britain, a criminal offence, subject to imprisonment and with it social and employment ruin.

As happily married English barrister Melville Farr would all too soon realise. For into his world of law and order enters one Jack Barrett; a young working class lad who brings to the surface his long repressed homosexual proclivity. Ever conscious of the social and political repercussions of such an inclination, Farr promptly ends their brief relationship, unaware that their final moments together have been captured in photographic form. Namely the very medium that then subjected many to extortion, as Barrett would discover to his cost. Now all too aware of a blackmail ring that targeted homosexuals and on the verge of being appointed to serve on the Queen's Council, Farr is faced with the heart-wrenching decision to either yield to blackmail, or to uphold the law, only to feel the severity of its homophobic legal wrath.

Victim by Basil Dearden In short, here was a film that in the wake of the Peter Wildeblood trial and the noted Wolfenden Report, was literally telling the British Government to get its act together and decriminalise homosexuality. That writers Janet Green and John McCormick were conscious of just how serious a political statement they were making, goes without saying, for in shining the spotlight on the injustice of a law that prior to 1967 was in effect a blackmailers charter, they were going where many feared to tread.

Yet Green and McCormick were not alone. For proud to play his part, here Dirk Bogarde cast aside his matinee idol image, in favour of the cause. Then again, this is Bogarde's career defining performance and whilst Sylvia Syms excels in her portrayal of a woman torn between her love for her husband and the realisation of the calamitous implications of his homosexuality being made public, it is Bogarde who delivers the emotional foundations of the piece, in a role that he would later cite as being "the wisest decision I ever made in my cinematic life." The result is a landmark work that will forever be remembered for having played its part in the eventual decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults of twenty-one-years or over in England and Wales, through the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. It remains a gay screen classic.

Gay Visibility - overt for its day. 
Nudity - none. 
Overall - file under ... 4 stars. 
available on DVD as part of the Home Vision Entertainment US catalogue.
starring: Dirk Bogarde / Melville Farr, Sylvia Syms / Laura, Dennis Price / Calloway, Anthony Nicholls / Lord Fullbrook,
Peter Copley / Paul Mandrake, Norman Bird / Harold Doe, Peter McEnery / Barrett, Donald Churchill / Eddy,
Derren Nesbitt / Sandy Youth, John Barrie / Detective Inspector Harris, John Cairney / Bridie,
Charles Lloyd Pack / Henry and Frank Thornton as George, Henry's Assistant.
Revised and Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #096
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