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The aristocratic Tony moves to London and hires the servant Hugo Barrett for all services at home. Barrett seems to be a loyal and competent employee, but Tony's girlfriend Susan does not like him and asks Tony to send him away. When Barrett brings his sister Vera to work and live in the house, Tony has a brief hidden affair with her. After traveling with Susan and spending a couple of days in a friend's house outside London, the couple unexpectedly returns and finds Barrett and Vera, who are actually lovers, in Tony's room. They are fired and Susan breaks with Tony. Later, Tony meets Barrett alone in a pub and hires him back, and Barrett imposes his real dark intentions in the house, turning the table and switching position with his master. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Dirk Bogarde is "The Servant" in this 1963 film written by Harold Pinter and also starring James Fox, Sarah Miles, and Wendy Craig, and directed by Joseph Losey.
Fox plays Tony, a wealthy young man who doesn't do much in the way of work. There is vague talk of a project or two, but basically he fools around with his girlfriend Susan (Craig) and that's about it. He hires Hugo Barrett (Bogarde) as a manservant. Barrett is quiet and efficient, but he makes Susan uncomfortable, and she encourages Tony to get rid of him. Barrett brings in his sister Vera (Miles) as a maid for the household, and it doesn't take her long to seduce Tony. He later finds Barrett and Vera in his bed and learns that they're not related - except in purpose.
This is a fascinating, murky psychological drama about seduction, the classes, and the strong versus the weak, with homoerotic undertones. The servant slowly becomes the master by preying on the vulnerabilities of a purposeless upper class playboy.
The John Dankworth score, with vocals by Cleo Laine, has been mentioned. Frankly, I found it intrusive sleazy '60s music that contributes to dating "The Servant." It's a shame, because the cinematography by Douglas Slocombe is exceptional, showing the house as it changes throughout Barrett's tenure and its gradual darkening, and his use of shadows and odd angles is exemplary.
The acting is tremendous, with James Fox pathetic as the weak-willed Tony, and Sarah Miles sexy and vulnerable as Vera, and Wendy Craig is appropriately cold as Tony's fiancé.
But the star is Dirk Bogarde. As a predator of the weak and corruptible, Dirk Bogarde is fabulous - restrained, sinister, dignified, he gives no doubt who holds the power in the household. And when he drops the manservant act, shirttails hanging out, hair uncombed, and cigarette dangling from his mouth, he's downright scary. Bogarde began a new, non-matinée idol career for himself beginning with 1961's controversial film Victim, and his roles would grow more and more interesting as the years progressed. Bogarde is well-known in the U.S., perhaps becoming increasingly more well-known with his films being shown on TCM, but it's hard for us to measure his tremendous fame overseas. It's probably on a par with Gregory Peck's - they were both post-war stars who worked into the late '90s. My sister lived in England in the '70s, and I asked her if he was big over there, and she said, "Uh - YEAH." Definitely worth seeing for the direction, acting, camera-work, and those Pinter touches.
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