Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom, 1961. Allied Film Makers. Screenplay by Janet Green, John McCormick. Cinematography by Otto Heller. Produced by Michael Relph. Music by Philip Green. Production Design by Alex Vetchinsky. Film Editing by John D. Guthridge.
Landmark British drama was the first English-language film to use the word “homosexual”. More importantly, it was also the first to feature gay men as main characters, and sympathetic ones to boot. Dirk Bogarde plays a happily married lawyer (to Sylvia Syms) who decides to put his life out into the open when his secret boyfriend commits suicide. Bogarde learns that the young man was being blackmailed by unknown individuals who were doing the same thing to a whole slew of other gay men in London (homosexuality was a legal offense in England at the time). Resolved to not let the boy’s death be in vain, Bogarde decides to rock the boat and go after the blackmailers in order to put them away forever, even at the risk of his own glorious career. Beset on both sides by dangerous warnings from the shady culprits and pleas from the men he is fighting for to not get involved, he plods on ahead in an effort to get to the bottom of the mystery. Made during the heyday of British New Wave cinema, this film features striking photography and a terrific screenplay, one with some outmoded viewpoints but liberating ones all the same. Years after its original release, the subject matter isn’t shocking but still manages to feel so while you’re watching it, and the film’s sleuth structure makes it all the more entertaining.
Venice Film Festival: In Competition