This drum-tight thriller daringly smashed through 1961's homosexual taboos and remains a brilliant study of blackmail and paranoia. Victim was ground-breaking for directly addressing Britain’s archaic laws against homosexuality and cleverly using the film noir genre to open the issue to broad audiences.
Dirk Bogarde is needle-sharp as Melville Farr, a sophisticated London barrister set to become a QC. However, when his former lover, Barrett, is blackmailed, Farr – who is married – agrees to investigate.
Trying to solve this case is no easy feat when victims won’t admit to being such, and investigations could lead to costly exposure. With all players well-versed in concealment, the film operates on multiple levels with motives being concealed, and our suspicions and expectations constantly misdirected.
Victim was a surprise hit at the box office and is regarded as the work that finally stirred Parliament to amend Britain's laws against homosexuality. As Bogarde wrote in his autobiography, Snakes and Ladders, "It is extraordinary...that this modest film could ever have been considered courageous, daring or dangerous to make. It was, in its time, all three."
Icily brilliant mystery thriller.