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Thread: Victim (1961)

  1. #41
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    There are some wonderful character studies in the film included Norman Bird as 'Boy's former lover, Mavis Villiers as Madge, the 'fag hag', and Frank Pettitt as the bigotted barman. I also thought Peter McEnery's sensitive performance was an asset to the film. Ten years later he played gay again, in Entertaining Mr Sloane, but IMO was miscast.

  2. #42
    Senior Member Country: UK Windyridge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joenoir
    There are some wonderful character studies in the film included Norman Bird as 'Boy's former lover, Mavis Villiers as Madge, the 'fag hag', and Frank Pettitt as the bigotted barman. I also thought Peter McEnery's sensitive performance was an asset to the film. Ten years later he played gay again, in Entertaining Mr Sloane, but IMO was miscast.
    erhm, not gay, a chancer, who slept with either sex for his own gain. "Ooh Mr Sloane, I'm all in the rude..." great, great movie.

  3. #43
    Senior Member Country: England AdobeFlats's Avatar
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    It also reminded people that sex is just a part of people's lives. The characters all had jobs: Barrister, Hairdresser, Actor, Car Salesman etc, and were getting on with their lives. Intruding on to which was the nasty blackmail element. Fine picture though.

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joenoir
    There are some wonderful character studies in the film included Norman Bird as 'Boy's former lover, Mavis Villiers as Madge, the 'fag hag', and Frank Pettitt as the bigotted barman. I also thought Peter McEnery's sensitive performance was an asset to the film. Ten years later he played gay again, in Entertaining Mr Sloane, but IMO was miscast.


    We're just 3 weeks away from the 40th anninversary of the premiere in the UK of 'Entertaining Mr. Sloane" (1st April, 1970 at the Carlton,Haymarket).

  5. #45
    Senior Member Country: UK Mr Sloane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Windyridge
    erhm, not gay, a chancer, who slept with either sex for his own gain. "Ooh Mr Sloane, I'm all in the rude..." great, great movie.
    I agree a gay for pay having met and seen some of this characters in action my only complaint is the character even though he is a murderer is not unpleasant enough. I do love the film especially Harry Andrew's performance, the film lead me into the world of Joe Orton a fascinating character.



    I would recommend the diaries (edited by John Lahr) and the Prick Up Your Ears film to all interested in an talented and complex couple.

  6. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Windyridge
    erhm, not gay, a chancer, who slept with either sex for his own gain.
    That may well be the correct interpretation, but I believe Orton based a lot of the character of Slone on himself. I first saw it when the leads were Sheila Hancock as Kath and Dudley Sutton as Sloane. It is a brilliant play, I was not as impressed with the film.

  7. #47
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    Directed quite brilliantly by Basil Dearden.

  8. #48
    Senior Member Country: England AdobeFlats's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tigon Man
    Watching this classic drama again many years...I wondered whether Sandy the blackmailer...was himself secretly homosexual?
    Camper than a Millets tent shop.

    And what about his co-blackmailer? God, uptight, repressed or what?

    How are they related? How did they meet to hatch their plan?

  9. #49
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Dirk Bogarde's Victim shines a light on London's shadowy past

    This gripping thriller, part of the BFI's Bogarde retrospective, daringly smashed through 1961's homosexual taboos, but has weathered best as a study of blackmail and paranoia


    As part of a retrospective season dedicated to that utterly unique English actor Dirk Bogarde, BFI Southbank is this week screening his 1961 film Victim. Bogarde stars as Melville Farr, a brilliant, upwardly mobile barrister with a dark past: he's an in-the-closet gay man who risks exposure (in the days when it was illegal) by taking on a homosexual blackmail ring. It was co-written by Janet Green � a thriller/whodunnit specialist who counted Midnight Lace among her credits � and directed by Basil Dearden.


    What a gripping film � melodramatic and self-conscious, yes, but forthright and bold. Its tendency to show homosexuality as a tragic, pitiable quirk of nature may now look like condescension, but for the time this was real risk-taking. It has some of the earnestness of the traditional "issue" movie, but it's also a drum-tight thriller with a neat twist in the tail. Some characters, notably a kindly liberal police inspector, voice rather elaborate campaigning sentiments about how the unreformed law is just a blackmailers' charter. But there's some succinct point-making too: the same inspector, bemused by his sergeant's loathing of homosexuals, reminds him that puritanism was once against the law as well.

    For all this, however, it could be that Victim may come to be valued, 50 years on, not as a study of homosexuality, but of blackmail and paranoia.

    Two years ago, I blogged about Harold Pinter's screenplay for the Joseph Losey film The Servant, starring Bogarde, which, though made two years after Victim, keeps the idea of homosexuality largely implicit. In that piece, I theorised that Pinter's disturbing, menacing style of dialogue may have been indirectly inspired by the pre-Wolfenden world of homosexuality: a world in which tense men � though desperate to be understood � were also terrified of denunciation or blackmail or prison.

    The word "homosexuality" is not said aloud in Victim until around 30 minutes in; until that time, there is indeed something elliptical and mysterious � Pinteresque, even � about all these men flinching and wincing at sudden phonecalls, visits and scrawled letters. But I realised that it reminded me of someone quite other than Pinter. In an opening scene, Farr's brother-in-law, a widower with a young son, worries about packing the boy off to boarding school: it looks and sounds like The Winslow Boy, and in fact the whole movie, with its elegance, the craftsmanship of its plot, and the gallant extension of sympathy towards female characters, does look like something by Terence Rattigan.

    Rattigan famously took gay themes and story lines and prudently "heterosexualised" them. If he had tackled homosexuality head on, Victim is the kind of stage-play or screenplay he might have produced. Melville Farr himself is, tellingly, not actually guilty of the criminal act itself: it appears he had a passionate, unconsummated infatuation with a young man at university. His young wife, played by Sylvia Sims, forgave him for this before their wedding and trusts that these tendencies are a thing of the past. A liaison (again unconsummated) with a young building-site worker, shows that they aren't.

    Bogarde is lit and made up to look more of a drawn and haunted figure than he actually was � particularly so in the agonised and very shadowy scenes in which his wife confronts him. Interviews from the time show a much younger, animated-looking Bogarde, almost as boyish as his Simon Sparrow persona.

    There is in the film a good deal of the world of Patrick Hamilton � another writer I always find myself coming back to in writing about British movies of this era. This is the seedy, nasty world of pubs and drinking holes around Cecil Court, St Martin's Lane and the Charing Cross Road in London's West End. The blind man and his creepy amanuensis are inspired characters, unforgettably disturbing and unpleasant, sitting in the corner of the pub, parasitically soaking in all the neurotic whisperings. Perhaps the blind man is inspired by Tiresias in TS Eliot's The Waste Land, foresuffering all the cheap and sordid goings-on. Or perhaps he is that sinister West End figure that the paranoid Harold Wilson talked about in 1976 when he told Sunday Times reporter Barrie Penrose: "Occasionally when we meet I might tell you to go to the Charing Cross Road and kick a blind man standing on the corner. That blind man might tell you something, lead you somewhere." It is perhaps in its evocation of the strange, occult world of blackmail, conspiracy and shame, and the seediness of a certain type of London, that Victim holds up best.

  10. #50
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    Melville Farr himself is, tellingly, not actually guilty of the criminal act itself: it appears he had a passionate, unconsummated infatuation with a young man at university. His young wife, played by Sylvia Sims, forgave him for this before their wedding and trusts that these tendencies are a thing of the past. A liaison (again unconsummated) with a young building-site worker, shows that they aren't.
    I got the impression that Bogarde's liasion back at University was consumated. Its never said one way or another (unlike with Boy Barrett which he says wasn't) and the way Bogarde reads his lines and does his facial reactions when talking about it to Dennis Price and co implies that it was. Both Bogarde and Darren Nesbitt were excellent I thought.

  11. #51
    Senior Member Country: United States theuofc's Avatar
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    If you'd like to view the video of the recent Q&A on VICTIM by Sylvia Syms, Peter McEnery, and John Coldstream at the BFI Southbank, I've uploaded information on it at the Bogarde thread: an interesting and lively discussion.

    http://filmdope.com/forums/ac...ml#post2017995

    Best,

    Barbara

  12. #52
    Senior Member Country: Scotland Gerald Lovell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theuofc View Post
    If you'd like to view the video of the recent Q&A on VICTIM by Sylvia Syms, Peter McEnery, and John Coldstream at the BFI Southbank, I've uploaded information on it at the Bogarde thread: an interesting and lively discussion.

    http://filmdope.com/forums/ac...ml#post2017995

    Best,

    Barbara
    Many thanks for that link, Barbara.

  13. #53
    Senior Member Country: United States theuofc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerald Lovell View Post
    Many thanks for that link, Barbara.
    Hello, Gerald and Freddy,

    It was a great interview, wasn't it? Sylvia Syms is a breath of fresh air.

    Best wishes,

    Barbara

  14. #54
    Senior Member Country: England Elaine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m35541 View Post
    I got the impression that Bogarde's liasion back at University was consumated. Its never said one way or another (unlike with Boy Barrett which he says wasn't) and the way Bogarde reads his lines and does his facial reactions when talking about it to Dennis Price and co implies that it was. Both Bogarde and Darren Nesbitt were excellent I thought.

    How could it have been, when Meville Farr vehemently denies it. This is a film about a man who has denied the feelings of his body all his adult life. He takes a wife in his attempt to be a "Straight Guy" He doesn't want to be gay, with all of the awful predjuces, and criminal implacations this will bring him if he lets his natural inclanations rule his life. So he settles for the "Normal" and lives and loves Laura.
    But, when he weakens, he keeps a tight rein on those forbidden thoughts and actions for a good few years, Mel pays the price, and so does Laura.
    Last edited by Elaine; 23-08-11 at 05:32 PM.

  15. #55
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    Victim's victory | The Spectator

    Victim’s victory


    John Coldstream
    3 September 2011

    Fifty years of the movie thriller that helped decriminalise homosexuality in Britain


    On this Friday 50 years ago, at 1.30 p.m., the house lights at the Odeon Leicester Square dimmed for the first public screening of a British movie called Victim. It carried an ‘X’ certificate, which to the fans of its star, Dirk Bogarde, seemed decidedly odd. His reputation as the idol, not just of the Rank Organisation’s flagship cinema but of all the country’s Odeons, had been based largely on performances as Dr Simon Sparrow and Sydney Carton, and in other undemanding fare.

    The film’s release turned out to be a defining moment in the career of a great screen actor and a landmark in British cinema. For some, though, this efficient little black-and-white thriller helped to change the world.

    The plot involves the hunt for blackmailers who are targeting homosexuals. A young wages clerk, Jack Barrett, played by Peter McEnery, has been photographed, in tears, in a car driven by a successful barrister, Melville Farr (Bogarde). The nature of their relationship is less important than the fact that the lawyer is evidently compromised. As the pressure mounts on both men, confrontations take place between Farr and his wife Laura (Sylvia Syms) which to this day have lost none of their shock value and poignancy.

    Beneath the basic story lies unashamed propaganda. When the film was shot, the ‘Government report into Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’, delivered to parliament by Sir John Wolfenden and his committee in late 1957, was stranded on the legislative rocks. Its principal recommendation — that homosexual acts in private between consenting adults should be decriminalised — had been, spasmodically, the subject of intense discussion; but for Westminster it was a reform too far.

    Into the debate stepped the writer Janet Green, the producer Michael Relph and the director Basil Dearden. They had made Sapphire (1959), which used the detective-thriller format to plead for greater understanding in race relations in the wake of the Notting Hill riots of 1958. Now they were to espouse reform of a law, unchanged since 1885, that had become known as the ‘blackmailer’s charter’.

    The film-makers consulted in depth with the Secretary to the British Board of Film Censors, John Trevelyan, whose liberal approach predisposed him towards their cause, but who was on highest alert to the ground-breaking theme and to its language. Despite many coy or ultra-flamboyant representations on screen, audiences had never heard the word ‘homosexual’ uttered on a soundtrack — not even in the two films then on general release about the misfortunes of Oscar Wilde.

    By October 1960, four months after a Commons majority of 114 again put paid to any action on Wolfenden, Relph and Dearden had a viable script and turned their attention to casting. Several actresses declined to play the barrister’s wife, but, despite being five months pregnant, the enduringly feisty Sylvia Syms agreed. The central role of Mel was a hotter potato. Jack Hawkins withdrew at a late stage; James Mason and Stewart Granger were approached, but unavailable. Then Earl St John, executive producer at Pinewood, came up with a surprising suggestion: Dirk Bogarde.

    At the time Bogarde was negotiating the end of his Rank contract. He was tired of being straitjacketed and, in his most recent film, The Singer Not the Song, had camped it up to a risible level as a Mexican bandit, sashaying about in leather and caressing a cat, largely as a protest against being cast opposite John Mills. When Dearden brought him the Victim script, it was manna from heaven.

    There is a good deal of mythology about the atmosphere on the set, some of which would provide Bogarde with capital for his memoirs and public appearances in later years: how Dearden instructed the cast and crew not to refer to ‘pansies, poofs, nancies and faggots’ but, rather, as ‘inverts’; how a chippie broke the reverential ice by warning a colleague as the latter bent down: ‘Hey, Charlie, watch yer arse!’

    Sylvia Syms remembers the entire operation as brisk, professional and unremarkable. But everyone recognised the importance of the subtext. She was involved in the film’s most powerful scene, largely scripted by Bogarde himself, when Laura challenges her husband about his real feelings for Barrett, and he replies: ‘All right, you want to know. I shall tell you. You won’t be content until you know, will you? Till you’ve ripped it out of me. I stopped seeing him because I wanted him. Do you understand. Because I wanted him.’

    Such truthfulness and frankness both startled and reassured when the film went on release. If critics were divided as to its importance, audiences found it exciting and genuinely thought-provoking. The homosexual community responded with a sigh of appreciation. For the now-acclaimed director Terence Davies, then 15 and working as a clerk in a Liverpool shipping office, the screening of Victim at the local Odeon was a near-epiphany: ‘You could have heard a feather drop.’ The film had told him he was not alone.

    It was another six years before parliament passed the Sexual Offences Act. Soon afterwards Bogarde received a letter from the eighth Earl of Arran, who had piloted the bill through the House of Lords. He had not seen Victim on its initial release, but finally caught up with it ‘on telly’. He told the actor how much he admired ‘your courage in undertaking this difficult and potentially damaging part’, then added that the swing in popular opinion favouring reform had been from 48 to 63 per cent. This, he understood, was in no small measure due to the film. ‘It is comforting to think,’ he concluded, ‘that perhaps a million men are no longer living in fear.’ Which, in itself, is a review in a million.

    Victim, by John Coldstream, is published as a BFI Film Classic. A season marking the 90th anniversary of Dirk Bogarde’s birth runs at BFI Southbank until 22 September.

  16. #56
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    A film which has aged well, and is still a compelling piece of work.

    One of the very finest British films of the 1960's, and imo one of the best British films full stop.

  17. #57
    Senior Member Country: United States theuofc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ayrshireman View Post
    A film which has aged well, and is still a compelling piece of work.

    One of the very finest British films of the 1960's, and imo one of the best British films full stop.
    Well said, ayrshireman!

  18. #58
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain mariocki's Avatar
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  19. #59
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain scenesixty's Avatar
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    I watched Victim this morning after an absence of many years. The dialogue from the barman hasn't changed in fifty odd years and continues to this day! A very punchy film-it holds your attention from the start.

  20. #60
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain scenesixty's Avatar
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    Good to see Norman Bird in fine fettle-as he was in 'Cash On Demand' released the same year. The Barber played a very believable part-tragic demise-I'm sure this sort of thing was common place all those years ago.

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