Starring Dirk Bogarde, Dennis Price, Sylvia Syms, Nigel Stock
A successful lawyer tries to defeat blackmailers who are making demands against a homosexual man.
It is shocking to read that there was once a time in the UK when being homosexual was illegal and would mean that a person found of being gay would be sent to jail. Those who were homosexual had two options; pretend they were straight and have heterosexual relationships or live in fear of being ‘outed’.
Thankfully, the “Sexual Offences Act 1967” no longer criminalised homosexuality and those with this sexuality could live their life free and as open as they wanted. However this film was released at beginning of the 1960’s and shows the damaging environment which was around at the time when it was made.
Melville Farr (Bogarde) is a successful lawyer but has a major chip on his shoulder after discovering a group of individuals who blackmail people as they say that they will reveal gay people to the police. Farr’s motivations are completely sensible as any right-minded person would have done the same as him but Farr has an added reason as to why he’s doing this as he is homosexual too and has a family. Farr also discovers that one of the people which have been targeted by these blackmailers was a former lover of his and if this was ever revealed it would destroy his life completely. But will Farr defeat these malicious people at all or will the bad guys be victorious?
The first English language film to use the word ‘homosexual’, the way in which it is shot by the director is remarkable as it created an environment which is dark, cramped and not an ideal place for someone to live. This could be seen as a cinematic representation of the world in which homosexual men lived in as they feared their every move when they embarked on a homosexual activity. The visual representation of this is completely different from the ‘heroicness’ of how the British war film painted the country; an oppressive society controlled by fear simply because of their sexuality and how it is hidden is in stark contrast to the likes of ‘The Dam Busters’ and it is to the director’s credit that he successfully creates this.
But what makes this movie even more remarkable is that Bogarde was a closet homosexual. He was admired by women for his handsome looks but, like his character Farr, tried to cope with his sexuality in reality. Whether he was blackmailed by menacing figures will never be known but if like many other people who had significant problems in dealing with their sexuality then this portrayal by Bogarde is nothing short of remarkable as it seems that he was able to give a personal side to Melville Farr.
As well as Bogarde, Sylvia Syms impresses too. She plays Melville’s wife Laura and, at first, she and Melville seem inextricably happy together. With Melville earning a decent wage in post-war Britain, they might not have children but are happy in each other’s company. When Melville reveals to her that he is homosexual, the reaction she provides is probably similar to what other people in her situation found themselves in but it is the mark of a fine actress that Syms does this convincingly and is that remarkable that you genuinely believe her actual husband has revealed his true sexuality.
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