Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Victim (Basil Dearden)

Forty-four years is a lot of time in one person's life, but not in the span of history and human development. That's why it seems crazy that this 44-year-old movie is the first English-language film to ever say the word "homosexual." It also seems crazy that this British movie was never released theatrically in the United States because of its subject matter. Homosexuality was illegal in both the U.S. and Britain at the time, and many British authorities referred to the law as the "blackmailer's charter," which is more than accurate, considering that, at the time of the film's release, homosexuals were the victims of 90 percent of British blackmail cases, and that's just counting the blackmailers who were caught. That's what this movie is about, and that's what dates it. The film is a product of its time, albeit a daring one, but its real appeal now is as a competent and exciting police thriller. Dirk Bogarde is fine in the lead in what was probably a very personal role (Bogarde was a closeted homosexual for most of his life), but I liked him better in later films like "The Servant," "Providence," and "Daddy Nostalgia." The supporting characters are all much more exciting, especially the blackmailer, a scooter-driving, goggle-wearing, menacing creep who always seems to appear out of nowhere. It's worth watching, but time has softened its impact and turned it into an ordinary, though well-done, sociopolitical thriller.

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