Director Basil Dearden and writer Janet Green team up together for another bash on British social prejudices. Two years before they had hit on the racial tensions on the streets of London in the late 1950’s in the excellent drama Sapphire. This time they hit the controversial bar high again, for at the time, this film gave the British Board of Film Censors kittens and proved to be way too risque for the US Motion Picture Production Code.
Tagline – A Daring Picture About the World’s Most Un-talked About Subject.
The subject matter this time is homosexuality and during this era in the UK any act between males was illegal until the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 was brought into practice. Victim deals with the problem which arose from the ban which involved the black mailing of men who were caught out by either entrapment or seen in public and held to ransom, otherwise their secret would be exposed.
The wonderful Dirk Bogarde, who I am slowly working my way through all of his films, is again outstanding in his portrayal of barrister Melville Farr. A wealthy successful gentleman who is on course to become a judge. He is married to his lovely wife Laura (Sylvia Syms) and all couldn’t be more pleasant for them? Until that is Melville starts receiving panicked telephone calls from a young man who goes under the name Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery), from here on things start falling apart for the barrister.
Can Melville Farr keep his name out of the public eye, can he find out what is going on? Working his way around the city meeting with friends and associates trying to find help or advice. Is the situation bigger than he had thought? Can he save himself and reputation. How will his relationship with Laura survive such difficult times? It’s really worth tracking down this incredible drama filled with so many outstanding performances.
I believe the film, just like Sapphire, deals a very thoughtful and realistic approach to the subject, bringing with it the face of dread and shame between these men but also a welcoming degree of thoughtfulness and understanding.
Now the sad truth was that these men lived in constant danger of being found out. With family tensions, prison time, court cases and possible loss of careers looming over their heads. But there was another fate that was worse for a time and that was chemical castration. Something which was used on one of my inspirational heroes, Alan Turing the mathematician and computer scientist who worked on the Enigma code breaking at Bletchley Park and is also one of the forefathers of artificial intelligence coming up with the famous Turing Test. On being prosecuted in 1952 he accepted the controversial treatment rather than a prison sentence, resulting with him dying from apparent suicide two years later. I still wonder if the world might of changed for the better if he had carried on figuring things out!
From what I read, Victim played it’s part in pushing awareness of the problem and could of helped in the future Sexual Offences Act 1967 which decriminalised these so called crimes. It wasn’t until 2013 that Alan Turing received a pardon from the Queen and The Alan Turing Law was set up in 2017 to pardon all victims convicted under those historical legislation acts. There was a staggering 49000 convictions put forward for pardons.
It was a very courageous move from everyone involve in making this picture. It is said quite a few first choice actors turned down the part before Dirk Bogarde took the role. Secretly though you can imagine Basil knew he could rely on Dirk if need be and he sure does bring another stellar performance with him. An exceptional movie.
All the best… Mikey The Wolfman