Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. United Kingdom, 1963. Elstree Distributors, Springbok Productions. Screenplay by Harold Pinter, based on the novel by Robin Maugham. Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Produced by Joseph Losey, Norman Priggen. Music by John Dankworth. Production Design by Richard Macdonald. Costume Design by Beatrice Dawson. Film Editing by Reginald Mills.
Joseph Losey’s superb production stars Dirk Bogarde as a butler who insinuates himself into the life of a carefree playboy (James Fox) and proceeds to slowly take over his household. After Bogarde moves his sister (Sarah Miles) in as parlor maid, the two of them wreak havoc on the place until Fox kicks them out for their disrespectful behaviour. Time passes, however, and the dapper gentleman finds he can’t live without his trusted manservant, leading to his eventual moral demise. This excellent treatise on the rigid class system of Great Britain is compelling, brilliantly written (by Harold Pinter) and beautifully shot in murky black and white. The performances are all top-drawer, especially the unforgettable Bogarde, who has never been more subtly disquieting.