Part of our Essential Cinema series. See classic art films the way they were meant to be seen - with an audience, on the big screen!
“The nastiest movie ever made! A vile snake pit of appalling manners, lust and degradation … Bogard’s performance as the scheming servant sets the standard for sly corruption.” – David Denby, New Yorker
“FIVE STARS! (highest rating). A perfect storm of perversity! Losey’s masterpiece!” – David Fear, Time Out New York
“A charged, claustrophobic fever dream of privilege, power and perversion ... the performances are note-perfect and Harold Pinter’s script is smart, subversive and sly.” – Tom Huddleson, Time Out London
In the wickedly clever thriller The Servant, a wealthy layabout is gradually drawn into a decadent game of power and corruption by his duplicitous manservant, who harbors dark secrets that threaten to upend the master/servant relationship in ways both deadly and perverse. In the first of American director Joseph Losey’s three collaborations with British playwright Harold Pinter, upper-crust James Fox thinks he’s found a “treasure” in his Jeeves-efficient new butler Dirk Bogarde (in a brilliant performance of corrupt desires and malicious intentions) — just the man to put his life and swankily restored Knightbridge townhouse in order — though his suspicious fiancée Wendy Craig sniffs more than a little disapprovingly. But after Bogarde’s mini-skirted “sister” Sarah Miles suddenly shows up on Fox’s doorstep, the line of demarcation between Upstairs and Downstairs blurs, and a Mod melodrama of class warfare and psycho-sexual perversity is off and running. With a screenplay that’s pure Pinter (featuring venomously witty dialogue designed to conceal the characters’ true agendas and misshapen desires) and deliriously extravagant cinematography and mise-en-scène illustrating the story’s multiple layers of deception, role play and power struggle, The Servant is both a brilliantly subversive satire of the British class system and a gripping psychological thriller. (Dir. by Joseph Losely, 1963, UK, 115 mins., Not Rated) Digital