Set in 1960s England, when anti-sodomy laws were still active and rigorously implemented, Victim recounts the story of a wealthy attorney from London, Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde). Aspiring to become a successful judge, the man has a restive encounter with an old acquaintance, Jack “Boy” Barret (Peter McEnery), with whom he was romantically involved in the past. Although happily married to his caring wife, Laura (Sylvia Syms), Melville is in fact a closeted homosexual. Assuming that Barret wants to make public their short-lived affair, the barrister avoids any contact with his former lover and tries to move on with his life. However, a few days later Barret is found dead in his prison cell after being arrested for purportedly embezzling money.
It becomes apparent that Barret was in fact not trying to extort Melville, but instead warn him of a blackmail ring that is targeting gay men in London. As the lawyer later finds out, his now-deceased friend had used the stolen money to pay off the cons threatening to release a compromising photo of the two men. Looking for help and financial aid to leave to another country in order to avoid being apprehended by the police, Barret finally kills himself after his last resort fails. Shocked and determined to take the offenders full-on, Farr tracks down other victims in an attempt to bring justice to Barret’s death. Unfortunately, this brave endeavor does not only jeopardize his career and reputation, but also the relationship with his loving wife, who is yet unaware of Farr’s complicated past.
“It’s a film of courage.”
— Roger Ebert
“It may sometimes feel like an archaic gay rights lecture, but it’s nevertheless an involving and well-made thriller that brought homosexuality to the filmic mainstream for the first time.”
— Big Gay Picture Show
“One simple message emerges from amidst all the other moral and social complexities that it stirs up: fearful prejudice, bitter contempt and legalistic persecution that are directed toward any form of love between consenting adults makes victims of us all.”
Did You Know?
The leading actor in Victim is gay and has made many additions to the film’s dialogue. Collaborating with Basil Dearden on certain parts of the script, Bogarde was the one who demanded the use of the word “homosexuals” instead of “inverts”. Similarly, the movie’s most notorious scene, where Farr finally admits to his wife that he “wanted” Barret, was partially written by Bogarde and included at his request. Review our Gay Themed Films Here