VICTIM. Allied Film Makers, UK, 1961. Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Dennis Price, Peter McEnery, Derren Nesbitt, John Barrie, Hilton Edwards, Margaret Diamond. Written by Janet Green and John McCormick. Directed by Basil Dearden.

   This is gripping and unusual: A film with a Cause that doesn’t pound a drum or beat its chest, content to make its case with a taut, involving, thriller-style story.

   Peter McEnery opens the film as a young man on the run from the law, desperately seeking help from a rather odd circle of acquaintances who either can’t do much or reject him outright, including Dirk Bogarde as a rising and happily married barrister, who threatens to call the Police if McEnery bothers him again.

   This sets the tone for a noirish chase film, sustained even after McEnery gets busted and kills himself in Jail, which is when Dirk learns McEnery was being blackmailed for illegal homosexual activit — and died trying to protect him. Filled with grief and anger, he resolves to go after the blackmailers responsible for the death of a man whose only crime was loving him.

   Of course it’s not all that simple, not for a married man, and to their credit the makers of this film give due regard to the emotional conflicts of his wife (Sylvia Sims) without slowing the pace a bit. In fact, we very quickly get the idea that Dirk is up against something big and very nasty. There’s a sinister blind man who overhears the gossip at a crypto-gay bar and plots to make “collections;” a well-dressed habitué who seems to keep a sharp eye on everyone there, and a beefy young man on a motorcycle who just enjoys breaking things.

   Faced with massive odds, Bogarde pushes through the seamy underworld with only his wits and his own resolve for support, and in a nice bit of understated irony finds himself shunned by the people he’s trying to help—just as he dismissed McEnery early on.

   Along the way we get a bit of social commentary from sympathetic players who deplore the laws against homosexual conduct (this is 1961 remember), but they don’t stop the action to make speeches about it, and toward the end, writers Green & McCormick (a married couple with some fine films to their credit) indulge in a delightful bit of misdirection before confronting Bogarde and the viewer with the evil genius behind the blackmail racket.

   And it’s here where Victim really excels. I won’t reveal the surprise, but the identities and motives of the “Gang” but they really ring true, adding a frisson of personal insight to a film that was already a dandy noir thriller. Catch this one.