Groundbreaking British suspense film about Melville Farr, a closeted gay barrister (Dirk Bogarde) who puts his marriage and his thriving career at risk when he takes on a ring of blackmailers targeting gay men. Directed by Basil Dearden of Sapphire and The League of Gentlemen.Originally released in 1961, six years before homosexuality was decriminalised in the United Kingdom, the film was highly controversial, earned an "X" rating from the British censors (modern releases have been labelled "PG") and was for a time banned in the United States.Notable as the first film to use the term "homosexual," thanks to Dirk Bogarde, who refused Basil Dearden's suggestion of "inverts" as a euphemism and rewrote several scenes himself. It's worth noting that Bogarde himself was gay, and considered Victim an extremely personal project.Victim has been widely credited with impacting British support of gay rights. None other than Lord Arran, who introduced the legislation repealing the Criminal Offences Act, wrote Bogarde praising the film as helping to create a climate where such reform was possible. Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet, singled Victim out as the first film he watched which didn't make him ashamed to be gay.
This film contains examples of:
- Armored Closet Gay: The chief blackmailer (wearing leather, having nude art in his flat) is strongly implied to be this.
- The Beard: Laura Farr.
- Bury Your Gays: Boy Barrett. Pointedly averted with Melville.
- Crusading Lawyer: Mel morphs into one after the death of Barrett.
- Gay Aesop
- Get Back in the Closet: Very much in effect in the original judgement of the British film censors. One of their four main reasons for giving the film an X rating was Melville's simple statement "I wanted him."
- Incompatible Orientation: Laura Farr can't stop loving her husband, despite her gradual realisation that he can never return her feelings.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Calloway the actor is an Expy of NoŽl Coward.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: Sergeant Bridie is outspokenly homophobic, but that doesn't stop him doing his utmost to bring the blackmailing ring to justice.
- Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Averted.
- Red Herring: There's a lengthy subplot involving an older blind man and his partner which implies they're involved in the blackmail ring. Turns out they're just minor swindlers.
- There Should Be a Law: Or rather, there should not.