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The Servant [DVD] (1963)

4.4 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig, Catherine Lacey
  • Directors: Joseph Losey
  • Writers: Harold Pinter, Robin Maugham
  • Producers: Joseph Losey, Norman Priggen
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, Mono, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Optimum Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: 7 Jan. 2008
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000Z63YXE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,661 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

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.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I first saw this film quite by accident, switching on the television on a dismal sunday afternoon. I gather I missed the first half of the film but what I did see utterly ruined my day. The big, fat, weighty emotions on the screen litterally suffocated me, made me feel quite sick and all the time I knew there was something very powerful happening there: two people, marvelously acted, caught up in a web of ugly dependance, eating at each other, until only one is left, the other ultimately assimilated into an unhealthy symbiosis-subordination.
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
'The Servant' used to be shown on telly - a lot. It seemed to crop up just about every school holiday - on BBC2, where it was shown at a 'respectable' hour when young minds could not possibly be corrupted by it.

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!)
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Format: DVD
The Servant is directed by Joseph Losey and adapted to screenplay by Harold Pinter from the novelette of the same name written by Robin Maugham. It stars Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Mles, Wendy Craig and James Fox. Music is by John Dankworth and cinematography by Douglas Slocombe.

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.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Studio Canal Blu Ray version: THE FILM: This is one of the finest films ever committed to celluloid and deserving of this high quality restoration; Harold Pinter's screenplay, a reworking of an original short story, was written at the height of his powers, cleverly omitting enough from the narrative for the viewer to think and draw his own conclusions (the covert hints of homosexuality, the unspoken battle of who is really the master of the house, an observation of the class structure). The camerawork and lighting exemplify the finesse with which Douglas Slocombe executes his craft as the master - look at the rainy afternoon in the lounge scene and you'll see what I mean. This is one of those rare films that improves with age, capturing the atmosphere of 1960s Britain wonderfully. The off-beat humour injected by Patrick Magee as a bishop in the restaurant scene is pitched well. And notice Patrick's gritting of teeth as he swigs the last of his wine! A very fine film which I hope one day will be released in 4K. For those interested, Losey was taken ill during filming and Bogarde took over some of the direction, at times receiving instructions from Losey by telephone from his sick bed. When Losey returned he was unhappy with some of the direction and re-took certain scenes. Dirk mentions the tension between himself and the Director in an autobiography but adds that he always respected Joseph's professionalism. The pub sequence was actually filmed in a real pub in Fulham, although sadly it no longer exists as a pub. THE BLU RAY: Picture quality is excellent - clearly a lovingly restored project. There are also many interesting extras. Amazon has a serious data quality problem with their synopsies as they tend to use their same review on different presentations of the same material (eg a review of an unrestored DVD release seem to be used for restored BD release, etc - so buyers should conduct further research before buying). This BD presentation is unequivocally recommended.
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