Bogarde was by 1958 the number one box-office attraction in England. And like the character he portrayed, Bogarde is now known to have been a closeted man in an era of widespread intolerance, a lifelong bachelor who was widely accepted to be gay although he never spoke of it, even insisting in his copious late-life memoirs that he was straight. His performance in Victim is particularly poignant in this regard, then, for the way it speaks words Bogarde himself never voiced.
What’s great about the film is that it never resorts to the type of crude gay stereotypes that likely fuelled the rabid ire of homophobes at the time. The men trying to keep their sex lives hidden are entirely normal and, in fact, rather dull. There are some more flamboyant characters, but they are rooted in reality rather than a simplistic cultural perception.
Could Victim in fact have been more frank than it is? It is only fair to say that it could not. As far as those who made it are concerned, the challenge to their skill and integrity has, for the Britain of 1961, been successfully met. The tougher challenge will come when the case is put with less sympathetic characters in unflattering circumstances, and still presented convincingly.