The Servant [DVD] (1963)
Get £1 Off Amazon Video*
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Director Joseph Losey's classic study of class warfare, adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter from Robin Maugham's original novel. Spoiled young British aristocrat Tony (James Fox) buys a handsome Georgian townhouse and employs Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) as his manservant. Initially appearing to settle in well to his new position, Barrett, however, soon begins to exert his influence over his master, subtly ingratiating himself whilst plotting his next move, much to the horror of Tony's fiancee Susan (Wendy Craig). As his influence becomes steadily more pervasive, culminating with the hiring of his 'sister' Vera (Sarah Miles) into a position in the house, Barrett's sexual machinations eventually lead to a complete role-reversal, as he finally attains domination over his master.
The Servant marks the start of one of the most potent creative partnerships in 1960s British cinema, between ex-pat American director Joseph Losey and playwright-turned-screenwriter Harold Pinter--a teaming that also gave birth to Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1970). It was a key film for Dirk Bogarde, too, the first of four he made with Losey that let him make the transition from lightweight matinee idol ("I was the Loretta Young of my day") to seriously regarded actor.
The Servant--amazingly, Pinter's first screenplay--quivers with sexual and social tension and unspoken menace. Tony (ex-child actor James Fox in his first adult role), an affable but none too bright young man living in Chelsea, advertises for a manservant to keep his household in order. What he gets is Barrett (Bogarde), buttoned-up and porkpie-hatted, whose deferential courtesy barely conceals his lacerating contempt for Tony and everything he stands for. Steadily he proceeds to take over, ousting Tony's posh fiancée and installing his sluttish "sister" (Sarah Miles) to complete the hapless young man's downfall. Douglas Slocombe's insidious camera, sidling and lurking to catch unexpected angles as the mood darkens, subtly maps the shifts of the power relationship. Here, as in their two later films together, Losey's outsider viewpoint catches the nuances and cruelties of the English class system in a cool, beady-eyed stare, while Pinter's flair for the unstated meanings between and behind what's said sharpens the pitch-black comedy as it slides towards nightmare.
On the DVD: the only extra feature is the theatrical trailer, stylishly understated. The print's flagged as "widescreen", which is a bit overstated for 1.66:1 (the original ratio). No sign of remastering on either sound or vision, but it's a good clean transfer. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Top Customer Reviews
More recently, I had the chance of seeing "The Servant" on the big screen and my hopes were very highly set. I could at last see the whole of the film and understand what had lead to the situation I knew and expected.
My impressions were somewhat different this time. There is undoubtedly a difficult claustrophobic feel about the film, but there is also comedy - a dark, bleak and grotesque comedy - that makes this work all the more richer for the ambiguity it instores. One shifts between extremes, between the heaviness and unhealthiness of the interlocked lives of the protagonists, the staleness and decadence of the house, the perverse demonstration of strength throttling weakness, of the servant inversing roles and finally taking the upper hand against his master, who ends up crawling very low indeed; and on the other hand, the numerous comic dialogues, the very funny situations bred out of the master's ineptitudes to live independently...
The homosexual element is also of great (and grave) importance. It is constantly slipping about in undertones (one must not forget that homosexuality was not legal in Britain at the time), seeping in at the fringes and thriving at the very core of what is going on between the two characters.Read more ›
As I child, I loved it. I knew it virtually off by heart, without really understanding a word of it.
Thirty years later, and rather more grown up, I rejoiced at its release on dvd. Douglas Slocombe's stunning black and white photography looks infinitely finer than it ever looked on telly, and the nasty little world that Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter have created from Robin Maugham's novel is compelling viewing.
There are some magical moments of pure Pinter, both tragic and very amusing, and for my money this film is vastly superior to the rather tedious 'Accident'. The performances are remarkable, with the crown of course going to Dirk Borgarde, whose creepy Barratt manages to act everyone off the screen without upsetting the balance.
'The Servant' sums up an era, and the hard winter of 1963 is shown to great effect. The rain and snow over a bleak London are obviously the real thing - and every bit as chilly as the emotions of the characters portrayed.
This film is one for the collection. Enjoy (if that's the right word!)
When well-to-do Londoner Tony (Fox) hires Hugo Barrett (Bogarde) as his manservant, he gets more than he bargained for. Especially when Hugo's sister Vera (Miles) also arrives on the scene...
The Servant remains as enigmatic today as it was back on its release in the early part of the 1960s. It's a film that defies classification, that rare old cinematic treat that continues to cause debate about not only its worth as art, but also its very meaning(s). A head bothering delight that revels in toying with your perceptions as much as Hugo Barrett enjoys toying with his supposed master. Lets play master and servant - indeed.
Set predominantly in the confines of Tony's swanky Chelsea abode, there's a disturbing claustrophobia that pervades the narrative, and this before we even begin to ponder the power of man, his ability to dominate and manipulate, or the reverse side that sees another's lack of ability to not succumb to the downward spiral instigated by a supposed lesser man.
Sprinkled over power issues are sexual desires, obtained, unfulfilled or simmering away unspoken. As the literate screenplay comes out in sharp dialogue snatches, breaking free of Pinter's other wise cement ensconced writing, there's evidence that this is a psychological study as opposed to the class system allegory that many thought it was way back then. This really isn't about role reversal, the finale tells us that.
Visually it's a box of atmospheric tricks as well.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This DVD is great because of its content and the marvellous acting of Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. British cinema at its bestPublished 3 days ago by gilbert thom mcdonnell
Fabulous, Dirk's portrayal of the devious servant hell bent on taking over the house is one of his best performances. A real treat.Published 10 days ago by booklover
Its was alright, of its time and stylishly set in the sixties.
Hoping for a Brief Encounter-esque experience but didn't quite deliver.
Rather feeble ending.
Of course, by the time Dirk Bogarde’s deceiving 'underling’, Barrett, is pleading his case to Wendy Craig’s schoolmarm-ish Susan, the pairing of director Joseph Losey and... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Keith M
It's a DVD, which I chose, it either works or doesn't. It worked.Published 4 months ago by mr g griffiths
As usual Amazon have helpfully lumped all the various editions together without any thought whatsoever. Read morePublished 6 months ago by N. M. Fletcher