Victim | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


A groundbreaking film from 1961 decrying the criminalization of homosexuality

When this film was made, men in Great Britain could still be jailed for being gay. So while Basil Dearden's film uses the existence of this law to propel the melodrama, it also openly rails against it. Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde) is a rising barrister who finds his secret life as a gay man unraveling when he is threatened with blackmail. Risking his career, social standing and marriage, Farr opts to uncover the blackmailers, abetted by a relatively sympathetic police detective. As the investigation runs through various milieus of London, the viewer is shocked (or not) to find homosexual men everywhere – in pubs, barbershops, private clubs, and so on. Bogarde is fantastic as the anguished Farr. The film, shot mostly on location, is full of moody interiors and noirish nights, in notable contrast to London's obvious post-war vibrancy -- what future for those condemned to live in the darkness of the past? Victim's once-controversial material is admittedly dated: Even as the film offers an impassioned defense for the right to be gay in peace, it still presents homosexuality as something that the individual must either suppress or bravely shoulder on with, like an incurable disease. Regardless, this is a fascinating milestone -- really, the first gay-rights film -- and while it may now seem a bit dusty, Victim was nothing less than groundbreaking in its day. Starts Fri., Oct. 23. Harris

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