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The Servant (1964)

tomatometer

67

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.

audience

91

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 3,254

My Rating

Movie Info

Wealthy wastrel James Fox hires insouciant cockney Dirk Bogarde as a valet. No sooner has he donned his working clothes than Bogarde begins exercising a subtle but insidious control over his master. Suggesting that the house could use a little fixing up, Bogarde convinces Fox to spend a whopping amount of money on it. But this is just a warm-up session for Bogarde, who by mid-film is calling all the shots in the Fox household, all the while pretending to keep his place. Fox's fiance Wendy Craig

Unrated,

Drama, Art House & International, Classics

Harold Pinter

Mar 22, 2003

$36.7k

Rialto Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (26) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (3) | DVD (4)

Glaciers might be melting, the polar caps might be crumbling, but not even the passage of half a century has taken the frozen edge off this brilliantly icy film.

August 29, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A perfect storm of perversity, pre-Persona identity transference, prole pole-positioning and mutually assured psychological destruction, Joseph Losey's masterpiece immediately transformed the director from has-been Hollywood exile to European auteur.

July 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Servant is for the most part strong dramatic fare, though the atmosphere and tension is not fully sustained to the end.

July 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The performances are note-perfect and Pinter's script is smart, subversive and sly, lifting the lid on our age-old feudal hierarchy and having a good dig about inside.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is a flesh-creeping demonstration of human destructiveness that Mr. Pinter and Mr. Losey are presenting in this film, and it is made all the more horrifying by the genteel surroundings in which it occurs.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is very studied and smooth, even though it deals in sexual hysteria; it could use some of the roughness and drive of Losey's early work.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Losey's ripping comedy of breakdown, a master class in ominous mise-en-scène

August 5, 2013 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

The film's sidelong narrative glances suggest a privileged world brimming with innuendo-laden excess and barely concealed sexual jealousies.

July 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

From the first frame it's clear we're about to see a masterpiece.

April 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Essentially a two-hander, with Fox admirable as a latter-day Sebastian Flyte and Bogarde (finally nailing his matinée reputation) chilling as the mercenary valet.

March 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Claustrophobic film-making carries a charge it's not easy to forget. Only Pinter could match it.

March 22, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

It is a brilliant, subversive account of class relations and the changing times.

March 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

Losey's use of off-kilter camera angles and an ornamental convex mirror helps to emphasise the stifling architecture of the building while offering eerie portents of things to come.

March 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Losey creates an atmosphere of deepening claustrophobic menace shot through with episodes of savage black humour.

March 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Slight comedy based on the antics of a group of naughty Brit medical students at a London hospital.

August 15, 2009 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A masterful cat and mouse game.

August 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Opaque but hypnotically absorbing allegory of power, exploitation, and sublimated sexuality in a class-based society.

July 16, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Certainly difficult to define, this period piece messes with genres, power relationships and your head.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

The formidable triumvirate of Bogarde, Losey and Pinter each stamp their personalities on this deliciously unpleasant film.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Audience Reviews for The Servant

well i can only say this blew me away. losey is a very interesting director, showing flashes of brilliance even in his worst films, and it finally all comes together for him here, with a marvelous harold pinter script and once in a lifetime performance by dirk bogarde. superb
March 15, 2013
rubystevens
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

This is a superb, sinister movie of the very highest class. Unlike the character Tony (James Fox) who is upper class without being high class, if you get my drift. You cannot really sympathise with Tony, who toys with some high falutin' development projects but basically is a wastrel just waiting to be ponced off. Tony is a later-day Bertie Wooster. The sinister element comes from the servant (Dirk Bogarde), who is no Jeeves. Barrett, like Jeeves , is a gentleman's gentleman or valet (not a butler as suggested in some other comments on this film). Tony needs a valet because he is incapable of doing anything much without help. Barrett and his accomplice Vera (Sarah Miles) take Tony to the cleaners, sweeping aside the fiancee Susan (Wendy Craig) in their wake.

Harold Pinter has written the screenplay in similar vein to the superb movie The Accident, also a Losey piece, which I also commend. The cinematography in both movies is simply excellent. The subject matter of The Servant suits Pinter, although much of the screenplay is not really in Pinter's voice. However, there is one scene, set in a restaurant, which includes a tiny cameo by Pinter himself and which contains a short Pinteresque exchange between two women. There is also one tense exchange between Susan and Barrett "do you wear deodorant" etc. which is very reminiscent of a scene in The Caretaker "you stink from arsehole to Thursday" etc. Indeed the story of The Servant resembles The Caretaker in many respects, except that in The Servant the interloper, Barrett, is on top and stays there, whereas in The Caretaker the interloper, Davies, lacks the skill and circumstances to dislodge the incumbent.

There is a homoerotic undercurrent to the film and this works so well because it is an undercurrent (in 1963 there could have been no more than an undercurrent even if they had wanted more). The overt debauchery with Vera and the orgy party towards the end of the film is the only bit of the film that has aged without grace. But I quibble.

This is a truly great film and it deserves to be more widely known.
February 10, 2011
matertenebraum

Super Reviewer

Let's play master and servant! A subtly twisted trademark Pinter screenplay. Collaboration with Joseph Losey for direction. Bogarde in a polished, sinister, homoerotic role. Film making doesn't get much better than this.
November 25, 2010
bookmunki

Super Reviewer

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