Victim (film)

Victim (film)

Victim is a 1961 British film directed by Basil Dearden, starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Syms.


The bleak story of Victim concerns a successful barrister, Melville Farr (Bogarde), who has a thriving London practice. He is likely to become a Queen's Counsel and people are already talking of a judgeship. He is apparently happily married to a wife played by Sylvia Syms.

But Farr is approached, in desperation, by "Boy" Barrett (Peter McEnery), a younger man with whom Farr shared an emotional but not sexual relationship. Farr rebuffs the approach and not long afterwards Barrett hangs himself in a police cell. A vicious blackmailing ring closes in, and Farr becomes their most notable victim. His marriage is nearly destroyed. But Farr agrees to help the police, to give evidence in court, no matter that the national papers will undoubtedly destroy his career. When, at the end of the film, Farr talks to his wife and burns the picture that originally incriminated him, he chooses to let his wife stay by his side.

Background and production

Until the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which implemented the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report, homosexual acts between consenting adults were illegal in Britain. There were prosecutions and Sunday newspapers that gave space to the court reports. Yet, by 1960, the police were as relaxed as possible over the old laws. There was a feeling that the code violated decent liberty. But police restraint did not deter the menace of blackmail.

When the team of producer Michael Relph and director Basil Dearden first approached Bogarde, they warned him that a lot of people had already turned down the script because the material might be dangerous or unwholesome. Bogarde in 1960 was 39, and just about the most popular star in British films. He had proven himself playing war heroes (The Sea Shall Not Have Them; Ill Met by Moonlight); he was the centrepiece in the hugely successful Doctor in the House series; and he was a reliable romantic lead in movies like A Tale of Two Cities. He was flirting with a larger, Hollywood career - playing Liszt in Song Without End. Bogarde was a suspected homosexual, living in the same house as his business manager, Anthony Forwood, compelled every now and then to be seen in public with attractive young women.

Bogarde seems not to have hesitated over the role of Farr. Similarly, Sylvia Syms never flinched from the part of his wife, though apparently several actresses had turned it down. Bogarde gives a very moving performance, but he never took the opportunity to admit, or even to hint, that he and Farr had things in common. On the other hand, Victim served to separate the star from his fond, young following and to pave the way for The Servant, Darling, Modesty Blaise, Accident, Justine, The Damned, Death in Venice and The Night Porter.

It may at times seem reminiscent of Bogarde himself that Farr does not renounce his inclinations, while, at the same time, he does not seem to be willing to give in to them.


Victim became a highly sociologically significant film; many believe it played an influential role in liberalizing attitudes (as well as British law) regarding homosexuality. It was the first film in which the word "homosexual" appeared.


See also

External links

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