Made in 1961, Victim was the first English-speaking movie to utter the word “homosexual,” and brought mainstream attention to the plight of men blackmailed for being gay. At the time, being gay in England was a crime, and the English tabloids covered those trials as if there was nothing good on TV. One accusation and a man could lose his job, his family, even his life, and it led to a rise in blackmailers taking advantage of anyone caught in compromising situations. That’s the basis behind Victim, a socio-conscious noir where a picture of one man consoling another runs a streak of destruction through multiple lives. Public sentiment had not yet turned (England’s anti-homosexual law wouldn’t be overturned until 1967), and director Basil Dearden and star Dirk Bogarde went out on a limb making this movie. Particularly on the part of Bogarde, a man who lived his whole life in the closet because his contract with Rank Pictures (the studio distributing Victim) included a morality clause.

The above review first appeared in Boulder Weekly Vol. 27, No. 42, “Home Viewing: Pride Streams.” Header photo courtesy The Criterion Collection.