FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
IT’S time I gave more credit to the ABC for those worthy British pictures they show in the middle of the night. Oliver Twist ( Monday, 1.25am) is one of David Lean’s two great Dickens adaptations, but the interesting one to stay up for is Victim ( Wednesday, 12.45am), the first British film to plead for tolerance on behalf of homosexual men.
That was brave filmmaking in 1961. Homosexual acts were illegal in Britain and most known cases of blackmail targeted gay men trying to stay in the closet. In Basil Dearden’s film, Dirk Bogarde plays a young barrister at the height of his career who discovers that his former ( male) lover, a wanted criminal, has been blackmailed.
‘‘ What I think we want to say,’’ wrote producer Michael Relph, in language we wouldn’t use today, ‘‘ is that the homosexual, though subject to a psychological or glandular variation from sexual normality, is a human being subject to all the emotions of other human beings, and as deserving of our understanding. It is wrong for the law to pillory him because of his inversion.’’
Britain’s chief censor John Trevelyan was reluctantly persuaded to agree, despite taking issue with 13 specific scenes and a general impression, as he saw it, that ‘‘ the world is largely peopled by queers’’. ( Victim was refused the seal of the Motion Picture Association in the US.) According to Bogarde’s biographer John Coldstream, those passed over for the lead role included James Mason and Stewart Granger, with one contender, Jack Hawkins, turning down the part on the grounds that it could ‘‘ prejudice his chances of a knighthood’’.
In Dearden’s hands the story is treated as a mix of investigative thriller and marital drama, and remains one of the most powerful treatments of a contemporary social issue.
In Resident Evil ( Sunday, 11.30pm, Seven), a virus has escaped from a secret facility called the Hive and turned all the researchers into flesh- hungry zombies. It sounds like another version of Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later .
Wicker Park ( Wednesday, 8.30pm, Seven), in which a young business executive forgets about his forthcoming marriage and goes in search of the woman who was once the object of his obsessions, is a remake of Gilles Mimouni’s 1996 French mystery, L’Appartement . But you can take it from me that the Steve Martin comedy Cheaper by the Dozen ( Friday, 8.30pm, Seven) is a dumb remake of the 1950 Clifton Webb classic, and best avoided.