The Servant (1964)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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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 sees through Bogarde's game. Bogarde then brings his own lady friend Sarah Miles into the house. At Bogarde's insistence, Miles seduces Fox, thereby loosening Craig's hold on the confused young man. And so it goes. The homosexual subtext of The Servant disturbed some of the more hidebound critics of 1963; Harold Pinter based his cryptic screenplay on a novel by Robin Maugham. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Art House & International , Classics , Drama
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James Fox
as Tony
Dirk Bogarde
as Hugo Barrett
Wendy Craig
as Susan
Catherine Lacey
as Lady Mounset
Richard Vernon
as Lord Mounset
Ann Firbank
as Society Woman
Doris Knox
as Older Woman
Patrick Magee
as Bishop
Jill Melford
as Younger Woman
Alun Owen
as Curate
Harold Pinter
as Society Man
Derek Tansley
as Head Waiter
Brian Phelan
as Irishman in Pub
Hazel Terry
as Woman in Big Hat
Philippa Hare
as Girl in Bedroom
Dorothy Bromiley
as Girl Outside Phone Box
Colette Martin
as Her Friend
Joanna Wake
as Her Friend
Harriet Devine
as Her Friend
Alison Seebohm
as Girl in Pub
Johnny Dankworth
as Jazz Bandleader
Chris Williams
as Cashier in Coffee Bar
Gerry Duggan
as Waiter
John Dankworth
as Jazz Bandleader
Bruce Wells
as Sidewalk Painter
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Critic Reviews for The Servant

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (6)

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.

Full Review… | August 29, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | July 23, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | July 16, 2008
Top 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.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top 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.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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

Stella Dallas
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.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

"The Servant" (most noted for it's collaboration between play write Harold Pinter and Director Joseph Losey and for Dirk Bogarde's BAFTA winning performance) is a bit to elusive to truly engage, but it's intoxicating photography, subtly creepy performances and enough homoerotic psychosexual mind games to fill three films, nearly make up for it. It's ending however seems almost too straightforward for it's twisty beginning and middle, but it at least gives you something to think about when it's over. "The Servant" is a dense film, and one that will engage anyone looking for a good mind game.

Steven Carrier
Steven Carrier

Super Reviewer

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