"Daring, and well ahead of its time."

Once in a while a film comes along and shakes things up; it takes a social faux pas or a political hot potato and brings it to a damming light. Where thoughts of black- rights equaliser, In the Heat of the Night or war-is-hell recogniser Platoon - and the like - may float around your mind, spare a thought for Basil Dearden's Victim...

Released at a time when any homosexual act between men was illegal, Victim has often been cited as the catalyst for the liberating Wolfenden Report and the subsequent legalisation of homosexual activities. Revolutionary and aware of its own importance, Victim successfully treads the precarious tightrope, being both a gripping drama and a taboo-smashing landmark.

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Headed by Dirk Bogarde's closeted barrister, blackmail and oppression hides in the shadows. In an England besieged by quiet indiscretions and even quieter blackmails Bogarde's dogged lawyer finds himself on the receiving end of some tactical extortion. Hiding his own damning secret he sets out to right the wrongs of the nation's crooked capitalisation of cloaked homosexuality. Aided by John Barrie's non-biased copper the two embark on a exposing the blackmailers - an endeavour bound for a nail-biting courtroom dénouement.

Making Brokeback Mountain look like a hormone-fuelled boy scouts trip Dearden's film is an excursion of quiet restrain. Tackling a real problem, taking real risks, both cast and crew triumph in putting across the film's core message. The scope of Victim's integrity is visible in early glimpses of industrialised backdrops - coupled with the latter polarity of sprawling homesteads, the realisation sets in that, despite any class restrictions, the 'problem' of homosexuality' is invariably spread throughout Blighty's stoic land. And then there's the dreaded 'H' word. Being the first picture to lend the word its grand utterance you can't help but feel a slight tingle down your spine upon hearing it. Offering no easy answers and a payoff bound to ingrain itself in any viewer's mind Victim stands as another landmark in British filmmaking - daring, and well ahead of its time.

Pivotal and historically aware this dalliance in social mistreatment begs to be rediscovered on DVD.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2006
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Damning revelations fill this forgotten Brit classic as a closeted lawyer tackles a group of blackmailers.
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Director: Basil Dearden

Writer: Janet Green, John McCormick

Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Dennis Price, Peter Copley, Derren Nesbitt, Donald Churchill, John Barrie

Year: 1961

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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