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A plea for reform of England's anti-sodomy statutes, this film pits Melville Farr, a married lawyer, against a blackmailer who has photos of Farr and a young gay man (who is being blackmailed and later commits suicide) in Farr's car. After the suicide, Farr tracks down other gay men being extorted for money by the same blackmailer. The well-educated police Detective Inspector Harris considers the sodomy law nothing more than an aid to blackmailers, and helps Farr in calling his blackmailer's bluff. The movie, far ahead of its time, ends with Farr and his wife coming to terms with his homosexuality after the public exposure he faces in the blackmailer's trial. Written by
Mike Mills <email@example.com>
Henri-George Clouzot's "le corbeau" (the raven,1943) always comes to mind when it comes to slanderous mail.The principal differences between the French movie and Dearden's one is that in the former,the raven was not a blackmailer,he was not in it for the money ,but out of pure wickedness,and he would "punish" not the gay-it was too soon- but the adulterer,the abortion and other little sins.
Dearden's work is a bold move for the time.The movies dealing with homosexuality were very rare then.It was one of the first to fight against intolerance. Of course this topic was in Tennessee Williams' plays ,but it was not really militant .We can mention in the sixties the almost contemporary "children's hour" (Wyler,1963) "the fox "(Mark Rydell,1967) and "the staircase" (Donen,1969).
Dearden's work suffers from a certain inflation of secondary characters which weakens the drama.(Dennis Price's part does not seem much relevant.)Consequently,the best moments are to be found in the first twenty minutes:Peter MC Ennery (who would be Rasputin's assassin in "j'ai tué Raspoutine"(1967) ,and coincidence,this Yusupov was also a gay)'s escape ,recalling sometimes James Mason's in "odd man out" ,is breathtaking:alone in a world gone hostile and threatening,his phone calls remain unanswered,and everybody turns his back on him:his buddy's girlfriend's attitude is telling ,full of contempt and repulsion.The scenes between Dirk Bogarde -I do not need to add to the praise he has already received- and his wife are also great moments of true emotion.Had Dearden focused on the husband/wife/young man,his film would have gained in strength.Nevertheless,this courageous plea is still worth watching.
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