Over ten years after working together on The Blue Lamp, director Basil Dearden and Dirk Bogarde teamed up again for this epochal drama – for Victim, remarkably, was the first-ever English language film to use the word ‘homosexual’. In the early ’60s, it was reported that 90 per cent of all blackmail attempts involved accusations of homosexuality, and the film followed on from Dearden’s attempts to create a debate about another topical social issue – racism – with the 1959 drama Sapphire.
Bogarde plays Melville Farr, a top barrister who is happily married – to wife Laura (Sylvia Syms) – but has always had homosexual leanings. Although he’s on the verge of becoming a QC, he finds himself becoming embroiled in a sinister case of blackmail and homophobia when a young acquaintance commits suicide. Under pressure from both his wife and a group of victims (including a peer, actor and photographer) to investigate, Farr slowly starts to get to the bottom of things. His detective work leads him into direct confrontation with the vicious couple behind the blackmail attempts.
An earnest, liberal movie that is still eminently watchable today as a gripping drama, Victim features one of Dirk Bogarde’s finest performances (it was also, presumably, a subject close to his heart). Variety noted that the film had been made with “obvious sincerity and intelligence” and that “this time Dirk Bogarde has come up with a winner. Victim has something pertinent to say about an urgent social problem but in its own right is a well-written, well-directed thriller-drama that is sustained entertainment.”
“Fear is the oxygen of blackmail. If Barrett was paying, others are. Find me one!”
UK / Rank – Allied Filmmakers – Parkway / 100 minutes / 1961 black and white
Writers: Janet Green, John McCormick / Cinematography: Otto Heller / Music: Philip Green / Producer: Michael Relph / Director: Basil Dearden
Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Sims, Dennis Price, Peter Copley, Peter McEnery, Anthony Nicholls, Donald Churchill, Nigel Stock, Derren Nesbitt,