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Extraordinary for its era....
wisewebwoman12 November 2004
1961 in England. Homosexuals were routinely jailed just because they were homosexuals. It was still the love that dare not speak its name.

Blackmailers had a terrific open season on gays - extorting funds for silence. It is incredible that this movie was made - on two levels. One being the obvious, who would want to star in such a controversial film?

Enter one Dirk Bogarde, putting both his reputation and his career on the line. He moved deliberately beyond his "Doctor in the House" series of light romantic leading men to make this benchmark film.

It may seem dated today to some eyes, but it captures an authentic London of 1961 and is filmed on location in the streets for most of it. One can see the barriers, goofophiles, holding the passersby back from the location shooting! "Flower Drum Song" is featured on a marquee in one of the scenes.

The suspense is carried along beautifully, you are never sure how it is all going to turn out, there are no easy solutions, there are some wonderful sub-plots, unexpected little surprises, like the childhood friend of a victim staunchly loyal against his wife's homophobic wishes.

The husband and wife story is beautifully depicted and completely non-formulaic. I love the rush and buzz of London surrounding the taut, tense story. Groundbreaking film. 8 out 10.
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Ground-breaking movie
deano-103 February 2004
It would be easy to view this movie as nothing more than a somewhat dated film. However, for it's time, this movie was ground-breaking, for any number of reasons, including its superb acting. Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Syms, in particular, were perfect in their parts.

What many don't realize is that this movie is credited with helping to decriminalize homosexuality in Britain. When "Victim" was released, it started a nationwide discussion about homosexuality and associated blackmail. At the time, approximately 90% of all blackmail cases involved homosexuals, and Bogarde's character was a classic example of a blackmail "victim". The point of the movie wasn't that all homosexuals were victims, but they could only be victims so long as the law permitted it. The blackmail wasn't merely because they were homosexual, but due to the harsh prison sentences a homosexual could (and often did) receive. How often does a movie get the opportunity to help create such a profound change in society?
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Predator And Prey
Lechuguilla7 July 2006
From what I have read, this was the first British film ever to use the word "homosexual" in the dialogue. That may, or may not, be technically true. Regardless, in 1961, overt gay references were risky to filmmakers, at least in Britain and the United States. Thus, the most amazing thing about "Victim" is the simple fact that it was made.

The film's theme is anything but subtle. Viewers in 1961 learn that government laws punish gays and encourage blackmailers, who function as predators to extort money from those whose instincts are out of sync with societal "norms". The film thus portrays gay men as prey, and tending to be secretive, scared, nervous, and sad. Dirk Bogarde gives an excellent performance as a powerful married barrister, secretly gay, who thinks he himself is on the verge of being blackmailed.

But while the film thus has obvious educational benefits, it is also quite entertaining, thanks to the plot rationale, which revolves around trying to guess who the blackmailer is. It's a whodunit mystery. Well into the film, a rather strange looking young man appears on a motorcycle and proceeds to chastise a barber for trying to escape from impending blackmail payments. But is this young man the real blackmailer, or just an envoy?

Adding to the entertaining plot line is the wonderfully off-kilter, noirish lighting from DP Otto Heller. The B&W cinematography conveys an appropriately moody, sometimes sinister, tone, consistent with the film's theme.

Some films try to be educational but end up preachy. Other films succeed at being educational, but lack entertainment value. "Victim" succeeds both as education and as entertainment, owing to its daring and absorbing screen story, its excellent direction, its good performances, and its effective cinematography.
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A Striking, well shot and memorable film
tresdodge28 October 2004
Set in 1950's Britain at a time when homosexuality is against the law, a top Barrister ( Dirk Bogarde) puts his career on the line to tackle the outrageous blackmail of London's homosexuals.

Impressive cast and outstanding performance by Dirk Bogarde as the troubled barrister whose anguish and pain one can see in his face throughout the film. Watching this now in the 21st century, it seems unbelievable to think that homosexuality was illegal here forty years ago. This is not to say that homophobia is not a concern now, because it still is, however there have been large strides forward for the acceptance and tolerance of homosexuals in mainstream society.

This film is an excellent historical snippet at a time of contentious laws as well as being a fine piece of art. Basil Dearden directs brilliantly and the script maintains a gripping interest throughout. In addition it was nice to see many parts of London as they were in the fifties before factories were knocked down and the hordes of yuppie apartments where built along the Thames.
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Still a powerful movie
claudecat25 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This drama is well acted and beautifully shot, with gorgeous, dramatic lighting and some interesting camera angles and movement. The story is cleverly written as a thriller, keeping the audience guessing, and building up sympathy for the characters before explaining their "abnormality" (probably a necessary tactic in 1961). Like other British movies of the time period, the film is not action-packed by today's standards, but the suspense is maintained, and I never found my attention wandering. Some of the dialogue is didactic, but is usually well-enough handled that it doesn't destroy the line of the story.

I didn't agree with another IMDB viewer that the movie portrayed homosexuality purely as "an affliction": my impression was that the writers were trying to show the common view of the time. Certainly most homosexuals in that era would have been affected by the general attitude and internalized the idea that they are abnormal and shameful, and the movie shows this. (Some of the dialogue may be difficult for gay people today to watch, since it is very insulting.) However, I wasn't convinced the authors fully agreed with the straight characters who were sympathetically condescending, partly because of the pains they took to create strong gay characters, and also because of the glimmers the film offers of a better future. [NEXT SENTENCES may contain slight SPOILERS] Listen to the trio of characters Bogarde confronts toward the end of the film: are they all filled with shame? What about the reaction of Bogarde's law assistant? The handling of a particular photo also supports this idea: it is hidden for most of the story, and then turns out to contain a more poetic and sympathetic image than we'd expected.

Some viewers think "Victim" is no longer socially relevant, but I disagree: not only are many parts of the world still very anti-homosexual, but the idea that homosexuality is a choice is current in America, and this movie is one of the few I've seen that explores what happens when someone tries to force himself to lead a "normal" life. Is that character happy in his "choice"? Are the people in his family better off because he made that decision? The film presents a complex story and lets the viewer decide.

One thing I did find outdated was the impression the authors give that homosexual men are more sensitive and fragile than straight men. However, this provides an opportunity for several scenes involving tears or held-back tears, which are well-acted. I can understand why some people thought the film had too many secondary characters, but I thought most of them were colorful and interesting, so I wouldn't have wanted to cut them out.

All in all, an interesting movie for those who like to consider social issues.
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Dirk Bogarde Comes Out
danielledecolombie3 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I though it was important to remind myself that Victim was made in 1961, when homosexuality was still a crime in many civilized countries. That's partly why I think Victim belongs in a class of its own. Basil Dearden, the director of The Blue Lamp is a personal favorite of mine and Dirk Bogarde, well Dirk Bogarde is an actor who also belongs in a class of his own. Courageous is the first word who comes to mind. He was a hugely popular actor in 1959's England. Beautiful to look at on top of that. A matinée idol who was also gay in real life. Imagine the courage it took to play a secret gay in this movie and he doesn't shy away from giving a face, his face to the truth of his tortured character. - Kudos also to Sylvia Syms who plays his wife. Sylvia Syms who also played the Queen Mother to Helen Mirren's The Queen in 2006 is a real standout and her reaction to her husband's revelation is worthy of study. Superb. Dirk Bogarde with a successful career behind him, started, with this film a new and spectacular career, starring in films directed by Luchino Visconti, Joseph Losey, Reiner Werner Fassbinder, Alain Resnais and others.
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Engrossing, intriguing drama
moonspinner5530 June 2007
Straightforward, non-sensationalized British film, an original from screenwriters Janet Green and John McCormick, has a ring of blackmailers taking advantage of the laws prohibiting homosexuality in England and threatening to 'out' certain parties if they don't pay up; after one victim commits suicide, a former friend--and married lawyer--decides to play detective and expose the blackmailers, at the risk of ruining his own career and marriage. Dirk Bogarde is excellent in the lead; his grimace of both humility and humiliation is rather touching, and very human. The victims are the usual lot (an actor, a hairdresser, etc.), but the film is exceptionally engrossing and well-made, neatly camouflaging its plea for tolerance under the guise of a suspense drama (and the denouement is nicely staged). Director Basil Dearden includes a few intentionally sardonic visuals, and he isn't afraid to knock down walls (though any male-to-male intimacy stays off-screen). Still, a watermark for gay cinema. *** from ****
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Drama Holds Up Well
harry-7628 March 1999
When first released in 1961 "Victim" was considered a bold comment on a then hushed-up subject. Looking at the film today, the work is still a forceful, frank account of British societal mores, firmly backed up by laws. While attitudes and behaviors have changed regarding alternative lifestyles, this drama powerfully documents conditions as they existed for many years in England. Sir Dirk Bogarde, one of Britain's most distinguished actors, adorns this presentation with his unique charismatic presence and skill. Ably supported by a strong cast, Bogarde subtly delineates a respected lawyer risking both his professional standing and his marriage by confronting hard-line blackmailers. A taut screenplay and tight direction enhance this thriller.
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Excellent ground breaking film
aemmering2 September 2007
This is probably the most mature film ever made about the realities of gay life in 1960s Europe (not just Britain). Bogard's unflinching portrayal of a gay lawyer's search for the truth about an attempted blackmail of his ex lover is masterful. Sadly, a lot of the particulars depicted here still hold true-gays in public life are still persecuted and subject to blackmail (since not all are "out" in the current sense of the word). There is none of the hideous sniggering anti gay attitude here that characterize many later films about homosexuals (ie, Cruising, and especially, Staircase-a truly awful film featuring two straight actors, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison, both engaged in a disparate attempt to prove they are 'not gay' I suppose). Beyond the subject matter, actually much too serious for a standard film noir, the film is photographed beautifully in moody early sixties black and white, perfect for a noirish crime drama such as this.
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one of the greatest of gay movies
MOscarbradley20 March 2006
During his lifetime Dirk Bogarde never admitted to being gay and before his death he destroyed many of his private papers. Nevertheless, his sexuality has long been an open secret and Bogarde's desire to keep his private life private had to be respected. It was, therefore, an astonishingly brave decision to take on the role of Melville Farr, the closeted gay barrister who is willing to 'come out' in order to break a blackmailing ring in Basil Dearden's pioneering thriller "Victim".

Bogarde says he chose the part because he wanted to break free of the matinée idol roles he had played up to that time but by doing so he risked alienating his fan-base. Of course, by playing Farr and subsequent roles in films like "The Servant" and "Death in Venice" it could be argued that he was vicariously acting out on screen what he was feeling in real life.

That "Victim" was made at all is as astonishing as Bogarde's decision to take the lead. This was 1961 and homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. "Victim" broke new ground by making it the central theme and by making the gay characters sympathetic, the victims of the title, and by making the law, (at least in the form of John Barrie's investigating copper), sympathetic to their plight. This was a crusading work and is today largely credited with bring about the change in the law that decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults in Great Britain.

Viewed today it is, of course, both melodramatic and didactic. At times it seems the characters aren't saying lines but making speeches. As a thriller it's reasonably exciting, (it's got sufficient red-herrings to keep us guessing), and Dearden admitted that without the thriller element the film might never have been made. (He did something similar with racism in the film "Sapphire").

"Victim" also featured a number of other gay actors in the cast, notably Dennis Price, superb as an ageing actor, and the actor/director Hilton Edwards. Whatever his motives for taking on the role, Bogarde is superb and he has at least one great scene when he finally admits his true nature to his wife, beautifully played by Sylvia Syms. There is certainly no doubt the film has dated and yet it remains one of the greatest of all gay movies.
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A milestone in gay cinema
Red7Eric3 April 2004
"Victim" is probably the first mainstream film on either side of the Atlantic to feature a gay hero. Granted, Dirk Bogarde plays a married closet case who hasn't actually engaged in a homosexual act in many years. Nonetheless, it's fairly amazing that, given what we know about attitudes toward gay people in the 1950's that a film this affirming of gay rights could have been made in 1961. It's a movie that's much more about "gay" as an identity than it is about sexuality; it centers on a blackmail ring that includes our closeted hero, a star of the London theatre, a lonely old barber, a Rolls-Royce salesman, and others. As a group, the gay men are intermittently desperate, proud, accepting, self-loathing, and scared -- which said more to me about 1961 than it said about gay men. The title is interesting to me; it seems that the journey of Bogarde's character seems to be the road out of victimization and toward (if this isn't too corny) self-actualization. It's a mildly entertaining movie, but a fascinating historical artifact.
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A Plea For Tolerance
seymourblack-128 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Fortunately, it's unusual for any law to be responsible for creating more crime than it actually deters, but the legislation that criminalised homosexual acts between men came to be seen as the "blackmailer's charter" and caused an incredible amount of human misery before decriminalisation in 1967 eventually removed the intimidation and fear that so many British gay men had previously endured. Basil Dearden's remarkable movie "Victim", provides a priceless snapshot of how the lives of many gay men living in London were affected by this now discredited piece of legislation and in so doing, points to the need for more tolerance to be used in order to achieve a greater measure of justice for everyone.

Although by 1961, public and police attitudes to homosexuality in Britain were becoming more relaxed, taking this kind of stand and addressing the issue so overtly in a mainstream movie was still extremely controversial and risky. "Victim" is widely credited as being the first movie in which the word "homosexual" was used and also includes words such as "invert" and "queer" which are no longer in common use.

Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde) is a highly successful London barrister who repeatedly refuses to take telephone calls from a young man called Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery). Unknown to Farr, Barrett is desperately attempting to leave the country because he's being pursued by the police. Being broke and having failed in his attempts to get help from his friends, he's soon arrested and charged for stealing a large amount of money from his employers. When police checks establish that he has no expensive possessions and lives very modestly, Detective Inspector Harris (John Barrie) quickly recognises that this young man is obviously being blackmailed.

Barrett refuses to say what he did with the stolen money or to provide the police with any information about the scrapbook clippings about Farr that was found in his possession at the time of his arrest. Harris then interviews Farr but he's unable to offer any meaningful assistance. The barrister then looks visibly shaken when Harris informs him that Barrett has committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell.

Farr is happily married but has also had a couple of unconsummated gay relationships. One was with a fellow student at university and the second was with Barrett. His wife Laura (Sylvia Syms) knew all about his homosexuality before she married him but only learns about Barrett after his death. Feeling terribly guilty and upset about what happened to his friend, Farr bravely decides to track down the blackmailers even though doing so means risking his reputation, his marriage and his career. His investigation soon reveals that the blackmailers' victims include a wide range of men from different social classes and occupational groups.

Dirk Bogarde was an enormously popular film star who was ambitious to advance from his "matinee idol" status to be regarded as a serious actor. He certainly achieved this by taking the role of Farr and his performance in this movie led to him being offered the more challenging types of roles that he became known for in the second stage of his career. His courage in risking his entire career in order to pursue his professional ambition was impressive but due to the prevailing attitudes, it still wasn't really possible for him to declare his own sexual orientation at that time.

Melville Farr is one of the most honest characters imaginable as he's remarkably straightforward with everyone he encounters. Bogarde is perfect in his role and Sylvia Syms brings great dignity and intelligence to her portrayal of his wife who stays incredibly strong and loyal despite the emotional pain that she suffers.

"Victim" is clearly a movie with a point to make and achieves what it set out to do very effectively. Commendably, however, nothing is sacrificed in terms of entertainment in order to get the message across as it's also an engrossing thriller which eventually leads to a surprise revelation near the end.
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Very Intelligent
Theo Robertson26 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In 1950 Basil Dearden cast Dirk Bogarde in a groundbreaking film called THE BLUE LAMP , groundbreaking because it was the first film to use the word " bastard " . Eleven years later Dearden cast Bogarde in an even more groundbreaking film called VICTIM which was the first film to use the word " homosexual " . Not only does it use the word but the whole plot revolves around homosexual characters ! This must have shocked the world at the time


Looking upon it today it may not be so shocking but it certainly remains one of the most intelligent British movies from that period . Unlike a lot of screenwriters today Janet Green and John McCormick leave the audience to make up their own minds as to the rights and wrongs of whether homosexuality should remain illegal or not . There are a couple of very good points the screenplay makes

1 ) Being gay is only a crime if it can be proved that you were committing homosexual acts . The victims are more guilty of living a lie than committing a crime . Their indiscretion rather than their sexuality is what got them into trouble

2 ) The police aren't portrayed as being pro actively hunting down homosexuals like a bunch of Nazis . It's interesting to note that in an era like today where liberal values dominate the British police force have never been held in greater contempt by the public . If they're not hunting down people committing homosexual acts ( or smoking weed ) how come they're too busy to catch burglars ?

As I said this is an amazingly intelligent script that lets the audience think for its self . One running subplot is two characters being constantly followed by a character who ( Bitterly ironic with hindsight ) looks like Jeremy Thorpe . All through the narrative I was certain that these two men were victims of blackmail while their stalker was the blackmailer . Get ready for a shock when it's revealed how these three men fit into the story

The cast are very good , more so when you consider that most of the original choices turned the roles because of the movie's subject matter , but Dirk Bogarde is nothing less than superb and probably gives a career best performance as gay barrister Melville Farr though he does come across as perhaps a little too self righteous to be truly effective and perhaps if he came out to both his wife and firm earlier he could have saved himself a lot of grief . As I stated being gay wasn't the crime , you were only prosecuted for being indiscreet . But all in all very good film on a controversial topic ( Much more so in those days ) that never once becomes patronising or polemical
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The gays' raven.
dbdumonteil20 November 2001
Henri-George Clouzot's "le corbeau" (the raven,1943) always comes to mind when it comes to slanderous mail.The principal differences between the French movie and Dearden's one is that in the former,the raven was not a blackmailer,he was not in it for the money ,but out of pure wickedness,and he would "punish" not the gay-it was too soon- but the adulterer,the abortion and other little sins.

Dearden's work is a bold move for the time.The movies dealing with homosexuality were very rare then.It was one of the first to fight against intolerance. Of course this topic was in Tennessee Williams' plays ,but it was not really militant .We can mention in the sixties the almost contemporary "children's hour" (Wyler,1963) "the fox "(Mark Rydell,1967) and "the staircase" (Donen,1969).

Dearden's work suffers from a certain inflation of secondary characters which weakens the drama.(Dennis Price's part does not seem much relevant.)Consequently,the best moments are to be found in the first twenty minutes:Peter MC Ennery (who would be Rasputin's assassin in "j'ai tué Raspoutine"(1967) ,and coincidence,this Yusupov was also a gay)'s escape ,recalling sometimes James Mason's in "odd man out" ,is breathtaking:alone in a world gone hostile and threatening,his phone calls remain unanswered,and everybody turns his back on him:his buddy's girlfriend's attitude is telling ,full of contempt and repulsion.The scenes between Dirk Bogarde -I do not need to add to the praise he has already received- and his wife are also great moments of true emotion.Had Dearden focused on the husband/wife/young man,his film would have gained in strength.Nevertheless,this courageous plea is still worth watching.
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Give it a watch--it is not necessarily a "gay" picture
MartinHafer21 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The fact that this was probably the first mainstream picture that addressed homosexuality does not mean this is a movie only for gay audiences. The bottom line is that it is an exceptional movie...period--gay or not.

The film begins with a young man contacting various acquaintances begging for help. However, in each case, he was made to feel about as welcome as cancer. Eventually, you learn that the man is gay and he's frantic because he's being blackmailed because of this. However, he has no money and is running out of options. Ultimately, his secret gets out and the police arrest him. Soon afterwords, he hangs himself in his jail cell.

Later, one of the men (Dirk Borgarde) the young man tried to contact finds out about the suicide and what led to it and he is determined to destroy the blackmailers. This is a serious problem because he doesn't know who is behind the ring AND because he, too, is gay (or at least bisexual) and is being blackmailed by them. Even more serious is that until 1967, homosexual behavior was punished by imprisonment in the UK--and the film was made in 1961.

As I said above, this isn't a gay-only picture, but a film that is for a much wider audience. Regardless of your attitudes about homosexuality, the blackmail scheme was evil and Bogarde's character choosing to risk everything to see justice was compelling. This deeply closeted man was rich, married and a barrister (A fancy English term for a lawyer who appears in court to argue cases). The bottom line is that the film is very well constructed, written superbly and makes a very compelling case for the elimination of the anti-sodomy laws, as it made those involved liable to blackmail and other mistreatment.

FYI--Bogarde actually was gay, though he only admitted it later in life. Despite his reticence, he played gay or women-hating men in quite a few films such as DEATH IN VENICE and CAST A DARK SHADOW and so it wasn't exactly surprising when he finally acknowledged his lifestyle.
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Extremely important and progressive social message and superb acting!
misterjiggy4 August 2013
Since this film has so many reviews, I shall simply focus entirely on the impact that this film had on my inner emotions vis a vis the main character - Dirk Brogade who plays the barrister/solicitor.

Mr. Brogade is an another fine actor from the British screen. He is so compelling and unforgettable in this role and thankfully he does it justice because Mr. Brogade brings to life or parallels the perils of homosexuality in a time when gay people were persecuted criminally.

The Victim is an apt title but you really ponder how many victims in this cruel and well acted drama?

I urge all to watch this beautifully written and directed and extremely well acted film but most of all, follow-up the actual plot with real life struggles that gay people assumed at the time of the criminalization of homosexuality.
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Excellent Drama/Thriller
bandw11 February 2008
This is the story of Melville Farr, a high-ranking English barrister who has just been offered an appointment to be a Queen's Counselor. But Farr is gay, and in investigating who has been blackmailing a friend he is exposed to being blackmailed himself. How Farr deals with this and the impact it has on his career and marriage makes for a quality drama.

I was thinking that in order to appreciate this film you had to put yourself back in the time when homosexuality was against the law in England, since we have now come such a long way from that time to where some elected officials are now openly gay. On the other hand, the basic theme of this movie still plays. A closeted high-ranking lawyer with a reputation as an upstanding family man could still be open to blackmail. People are still "accused" or "suspicioned" of being gay and often feel the need to defend themselves against such charges, as if there were something inherently wrong with it. Acceptance of differences comes slowly.

The performances are good, particularly Bogard and Syms. Lovers of skillfully filmed high contrast black and white will appreciate this - it's an art form that has pretty much disappeared. The first half hour, before you really know what's going on, is particularly engrossing. It plays in the style of a film noir thriller.

The one thing I found a bit bothersome was the apparent need for the characters to vocalize their plight, with statements like "Don't they understand that we are just like anyone else," and "Why are we singled out," and so forth. The plot makes these points well enough, what with a suicide, a heart attack, ruined careers, and multiple blackmails.

However, it probably took a fair amount of courage at the time just to make this film, which was clearly a plea for legal reform. Reform that came six years later in 1967.
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"The Blackmailer's Charter"
theowinthrop20 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I doubt if many people know him...have you ever heard of Sir Henry Labouchere? Labouchere was a prominent wealthy Victorian - Edwardian journalist and politician, who was radical in someways (he was highly critical about the expenses in supporting the Royal Family), and was usually supporting the "Liberal Party's" policies. He was a firm supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Home Rule, for example. But Labouchere did father one peculiar piece of legislation. He was a vigorous heterosexual, and while (supposedly) happily married to a former actress had had affairs with other ladies. He detested homosexuality. In the late 1880s he authored a statute in Parliament that made any homosexual act (even between consulting adults) a criminal act. It was this act that eventually destroyed the dramatist Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Labouchere probably never thought of what his legislation "allowed". While blackmail certainly existed without this law, it encouraged a peculiarly vicious form of it. If you were willing to set up a homosexual rendezvous, you could surprise a wealthy, prominent victim, and drain him dry. After all, he would be guilty of violating a serious criminal law.

Homosexual scandals had always erupted in British society (as in other countries). Kings William II (a.k.a. William Rufus), James VI of Scotland and I of England, King William III of England were all gay monarchs. James I's court, with his two favorites Somerset and Buckingham, may have had the most corrupt court in British history. In more recent history, Lord Castlereigh may have killed himself because he believed he was suspected of sodomy. In 1889, Labouchere pushed for serious investigation of the Cleveland Street Affair (about a male bordello, that Queen Victoria's grandson and others may have been members of) with the intention of applying his statute to these illustrious figures. Victoria's courtier, Lord Arthur Somerset, had to flee to France and spend the rest of his life there as a result.

As you can see, the atmosphere of Great Britain to homosexuals was already poisonous, and Labouchere's law solidified this. VICTIM was one of the first attempts to attack the law as harmful and needlessly cruel.

Dirk Bogarde is a successful barrister, married to Sylvia Sims. He discovers that someone has latched onto his homosexuality, and is threatening to reveal it to the police. Of course, this not only means possible criminal charges, but disbarment as well. But Bogarde is of sterner stuff than most, and he starts tracking other victims of the blackmailers. One is Dennis Price (in real life Price was a bi-sexual, and Bogarde a homosexual) who is a prominent actor. He won't assist. Few of the victims will (it's cheaper to pay). But Bogarde finally goes to the police, and since he is willing to testify they start really looking into the case. It turns out that it is tied to a suicide by a young friend of Bogarde's who was also being blackmailed.

Homosexuality was rarely shown in movies so seriously before VICTIM. Several people on this thread mention THESE THREE (Lillian Hellman's THE CHILDREN'S HOUR), but the play's discussion of a lesbian relationship was changed into a slander campaign against two innocent teachers in the film. It was only in the later film remake in the 1960s that the lesbian theme was really emphasized. A better example was the German film MAEDCHEN IN UNIFORM, about a lesbian relationship between a student and a teacher in a German School. But it was easier to discuss the alternate lifestyle in continental films (at least before the Nazi and Fascist regimes of the 1930s and 1940s) then in the British and American cinema.

Yet it was well suspected in British and American society. Certain cultural figures opened up suggestions by their behavior. Liberace in the 1950s, or British actors Noel Coward and John Guilgud (who was caught in a nasty little scandal in the early 1950s), and composers Cole Porter, Marc Blitzstein (who would be killed while doing some "cruising" on a vacation in Martinique), Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. But (for the most part) these people were protected by being extremely discreet in conducting their affairs (Blitzstein was a sad exception), or were so well liked they were not bothered by the scandal sheets.

For giving a serious sounding board on the legal difficulties facing British homosexuals, Basil Dearden, Bogarde, and the crew of VICTIM deserve high marks. For stimulating the British public to reevaluate "THE BLACKMAILER'S CHARTER", and finally repeal it, they are owed the thanks of millions of people who no longer have to fear arrest or ruin as they once did.
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A Brilliant Drama, even without the gay context
audiemurph10 February 2012
This is a great British drama. Most of the other reviews focus on the homosexual context of the film, which is certainly important from a social standpoint; however I would like to focus on how great this movie is, aside from the gay angle.

What impresses me most about this film is how tight and taut it is. Not a word is wasted. Every actor moves with incredible precision; not a pinky wiggles unnecessarily at any moment. The effect is mesmerizing. The script is fast-paced and constantly moves the plot forward. The camera-work is sublime, masterfully and carefully zooming in here, gracefully panning there; a true masterpiece of art from the director.

Dirk Bogarde plays the upper class barrister with the true stiff-upper lip that we associate with the Britain's best class. His wife, played by Sylvia Sims, does not overdo her part as the humiliated wife; this is a role that could easily have slid into over-ripe dramatics, but she is as equally reserved and in control as her husband.

All of the supporting cast are top tier as well. The blackmailer, who we meet not too far into the movie, is particularly sleazy and slimy, in a manner reminiscent of some of Dirty Harry's lead criminals. And don't assume you know everything that is going on either; the script has a number of twists and surprises at the end that will leave you very satisfied and entertained - you will be pleasantly surprised at how easily you have been misdirected!

There are a couple of delicious ironies in the film. First, look for, in the apartment of the man who is blackmailing homosexuals, a sketch of Michelangelo's (nude) David. Very cute and clever. And second: hey, who is that actor in the tiny role of George, the assistant to the hairdresser? Its Frank Thornton, better known as "Captain Peacock" of the great British comedy, "Are You Being Served"; you will remember that the funniest cast member of that series was John Inman, playing the hilariously flamboyant and openly gay Mr. Humphries! A highly recommended drama.
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A unique, intelligent film.
Tequila-187 December 1999
This is a powerful drama\thriller about the pursuit of truth, no matter the cost. Still interesting after nearly 40 years. Bogarde, as the noble lawyer, with a past, is excellent. Victim is an intelligently written film which will keep you watching until the end.
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a film with something to say that is also a thrill to watch
christopher-underwood25 August 2017
Of course this is bold, brave, daring and ahead of its time, but it is also a thrilling and emotional ride. I had rather expected this to be earnest and prejudiced, presenting the case against the then law against homosexuality, as if to a child. But, this opens at a gallop and barely pauses as we struggle to find out what is causing the young lad to run for his life seeking help from old colleagues. Along the way we catch fantastic glimpses of late 50s/early 60s London, particularly St Martins Lane, Cambridge Circus and Chiswick Mall. There are several scenes shot inside The Salisbury pub which apparently was a gay pub at the time, although not openly presumably. Dirk Bogarde is great in what can't have been an easy role, particularly at that time. He plays well off Sylvia Syms, who also does well and even Dennis Price puts his head on the block with a similarly brave performance. It would be nice to think todays film makers might be able to make a film with something to say that is also a thrill to watch. Fat chance.
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Sinister drama tackling the dilemma of the inhuman discrimination of homosexuality
clanciai12 April 2017
Highly sensitive and important thriller charting the dilemma of homosexuals being extorted for what they are and bringing the necessary attention to inhuman legislation in the field to have it reformed and changed. This was the first film of its kind in England and was soon to be followed by others. Dirk Bogarde makes a very truthful characterization of the lawyer who risks his career, well aware that he can't avoid public unpleasantness or even ruin, by taking up the fight with the blackmailers. The tension of the thriller is that you can never guess who the real blackmailer is until the motives behind it surfaces toward the end. Sylvia Syms makes an equally convincing performance in playing the honest wife who realizes the importance of uncompromisingly facing the truth. The insight into the matter goes deep and is very revealing in its thoroughness and more or less exposes the whole width of the terrible dilemma, which should have been settled with already by the experience of Oscar Wilde. Here it takes two suicides for the matter to be brought to final trial, and it was definitely about time. Dennis Price is also in it, and Peter McEnery opens the drama by staging a mystery - its revelation brings on Dirk Bogarde to action. Philip Green's music adds to the drama, and Basil Dearden's direction is uncompromisingly relentless.
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A window on a by-gone prejudice.
The_Film_Cricket5 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
*** SPOILER WARNING *** Racial problems and the Civil Rights movement were major news in the early sixties but homosexuality was a subject no one discussed, not even in whispers. I am not saying that one subject is more important than the other, but for a film of this era to tackle such an issue was not only brave but was considered professional suicide.

The network of characters in the film is astonishing, most of them are victims of the blackmail and as Farr follows the trail of victims that lead to the blackmailers we see the effects of what has been done to them. The movie follows the trail, beginning with a penniless man named Barrett (Nigel McEnery). As the film opens, Barrett is on the run from the police for embezzlement and is attempting to get out of London. He tries various sources to gain the money to get out but mostly finds doors slammed in his face. The police close in and catch him in a men's room attempting to flush pages from a scrapbook. The police piece the book back together and find that it contains clippings which follow the career of Melville Farr. Barrett had called Farr but he hung up Farr had spoken to Barrett but hung up on the boy when he called him for help. He is startled when he is informed that Barrett hung himself in his jail cell. Why startled? Farr was in love with him.

Farr can't hide the truth especially when a photograph shows up that was taken when he attempted to break off the relationship. His wife Laura, who knows about his past, senses immediately that something is going on and presses her husband to admit to truth. He admits that he never had physical contact with Barrett, that he broke off their affair when he sensed a sexual attraction. She understands that what he felt was stronger and (although the film never states it directly) he is more likely to love a man more than he could ever love her.

The way the screenplay unfolds this story is done entirely through words. There are no scenes of gay men cavorting; there are no scenes of sex, debauchery, no scenes of what is being explained. The physical acts of "perversion" are only spoken about, not in an over-the-top manner but in dialogue that is both direct and indirect. We understand what has gone on in the past, and we are given just enough dialogue to understand it but not overstate it. We aren't positive that sex ever happened between Barrett, and Farr but we know that the attraction was there.

I was also struck by some of the characters in the film. There are two or three characters who seem accept Farr's past without ever granting an overt approval. There is the police detective who reads the Barrett situation almost immediately and tells one of his young disapproving sergeant that "If the law punished every abnormality, we'd be kept very busy." There is another scene at the very end when Farr's assistant William tells him that he has respected him for 10 years and does not intend to change his opinion. But the most striking is the last scene between Farr and his wife Laura when they agree upon their relationship, but it becomes a moment dictated by their personalities, not by the machinations of the plot.

The characters set Victim apart from other films of this type. At the time (and for many years to come), movies about homosexual characters were dark tragedies which had one inevitable conclusion: a grisly death. Here, Melville Farr does not end up dead, does not end up going down the road of his own destruction, he has people around him who are willing to help but never seem overtly willing to accept who he once was.
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A Brave Piece Of Film Making
ha-rob6 March 2012
Looking at this film from today's perspective it looks very tame, the story is a group of gay men from different social economic groups being blackmailed, but this film was made in 1961 6 years before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which decriminalised sex acts between men over the age of 21 in private, the film was made during the period which became known as the British new wave when British films wanted to become more realistic and challenge the accepted view of society and the establishment but this was still a brave move at the time, the film treats the men sympathetically (who at the time would've been regarded as perverts and criminals) and argues (as much as it dares) for the law to be changed, Dirk Bogarde plays a successful barrister who decides to take on the blackmailers and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that that decision will destroy pretty much every aspect of his life, the film is well acted and very well made, i think because of its time and subject matter the film will always be very interesting as a period piece more so as time goes by, to think that less than 50 years ago there were laws like this and people were persecuted and prosecuted for their preferences is a disgrace and i think that's what most of todays audiences will think.
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Dirk Bogarde plays Victim for Basil Dearden
wes-connors7 July 2011
London construction worker Peter McEnery (Jack "Boy" Barrett) is tracked by blackmailers and police. Desperate, he turns to successful barrister Dirk Bogarde (as Melville "Mel" Farr). The men had been having car sex, but Mr. Bogarde, who married Sylvia Syms (as Laura Hankin) and intended to give up homosexuality, called off the affair. Now, Bogarde avoids the younger man, fearing exposure. When Mr. McEnery hangs himself in jail, Bogarde decides to risk his marriage and career to track down the blackmailers who are preying on the city's secretive gay community...

Not knowing what to expect here, the plot completely eluded me until Bogarde's excellent performance put the pieces together. Fortunately, it didn't take too long, and the story being about the blackmailing of gay men becomes obvious. This is a fine production; however, the "sympathetic" approach to the subject matter leans perilously close to pity. Still, it was released at a time when sexual contact between people of the same gender was illegal - and, if things were different, they'd be no basis for the blackmail plot. Bogarde and Basil Dearden deservedly won honors.

******** Victim (8/31/61) Basil Dearden ~ Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Peter McEnery, Dennis Price
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