Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Our next movie is the historically important 1961 movie Victim, airing on February 11 at 6:45 AM and 12:45 PM ET on IFC.

Dirk Bogarde stars as lawyer Melville Farr, getting involved in a case he'd rather not. It seems that a man who was arrested by the police for embezzling money from his boss had a scrapbook of Farr that he was trying to dispose of when the police arrested him. Worse, the man hangs himself in his jail cell. It's clear to Farr that the dead man was a victim of blackmail, and the reason for the blackmail is that the man was gay. This was 1961, and in the Britain of the time, it was strictly illegal to engage in homosexual acts. One of the side effects of this law is that unscrupulous people would blackmail homosexuals -- not so much because they were gay per se, but because by having the sexual relations they were, they were violating the law.

Melville Farr decides to go after the blackmailers, for personal reasons: the reason the dead man kept the scrapbook was because he and Farr had had sexual relations themselves several years earlier. Farr realizes that they're about to come after him, and that despite being married, his life is going to be turned inside out. As such, it doesn't matter whether he outs himself by trying to catch the blackmailers; he's going to be outed either way.

Bogarde gives an excellent performance in what is a significant, if somewhat dated movie. The attitudes that the characters have toward gay people might induce cringes in audiences fifty years on, but in point of fact those attitudes were probably not far off -- especially the sense of shame and self-loathing the gay men feel. (In that regard, it's very much like No Way Out.) London is also well-photographed. London was not entirely (and possibly not at all) the swinging city of the late 1960s that's portrayed in the Austin Powers movies. Instead, there's quite a bit of shabbiness and grayness, even in the more upper-crust areas where the Farrs and other wealthy Londoners live; the black-and-white cinematography captures this quite well.

Victim was also influential in getting Britain's sodomy laws repealed, at least as they applied to homosexuals. What could have been a career-ending move on Bogarde's part ended up being a triumph. If you don't have IFC, you're in luck; Victim is available on DVD.

No comments: