Review: ‘The Servant’

The Servant is for the most part strong dramatic fare, though the atmosphere and tension is not fully sustained to the end. Harold Pinter's screenplay based on the Robin Maugham novel is distinguished by its literacy and sharp incisive dialog.

The Servant is for the most part strong dramatic fare, though the atmosphere and tension is not fully sustained to the end. Harold Pinter’s screenplay based on the Robin Maugham novel is distinguished by its literacy and sharp incisive dialog.

Dirk Bogarde plays a manservant who is hired by a young and elegant man about town to run a house he has just bought in a fashionable part of London, and who, almost imperceptibly, begins to dominate his master.

Up to the point where the servant gains supremacy, Joseph Losey’s direction is first class, despite a few conventional shots which are used to gain effect. The last segment of the story, which puts some strain on credibility, is less convincing and, therefore, less satisfying. But the relationship of master and servant, with its underlying suggestion of homosexuality is sensitively handled.

Bogarde not only looks the part, but plays it with natural assurance. There is also a noteworthy performance from James Fox, who assuredly suggests the indolent young man about town. The two main femme roles are also expertly played, Sarah Miles making a highly provocative and sensuous maid, and Wendy Craig giving a contrasting study as the fiancee who is overwhelmed by events she cannot control.

The Servant

UK

Production

Springbok. Director Joseph Losey; Producer Joseph Losey, Norman Priggen; Screenplay Harold Pinter; Camera Douglas Slocombe; Editor Reginald Mills; Music John Dankworth; Art Director Richard Macdonald

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1963. Running time: 117 MIN.

With

Dirk Bogarde Sarah Miles Wendy Craig James Fox Catherine Lacey Richard Vernon

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