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The Servant depicts the story of Barrett, a seductive and subtle manservant hired by foppish aristocrat Tony to manage his new townhouse. Barrett’s awe-inspiring efficiency gives way to a suspicious and insidious control, where the roles of master and servant are subtly reversed.
For more about The Servant and the The Servant Blu-ray release, see the The Servant Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Wendy Craig, Catherine Lacey, Richard Vernon
Director: Joseph Losey
» See full cast & crew
The Servant Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 9, 2013
Nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, Joseph Losey's "The Servant" (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; interview with actor James Fox; interview with actress Wendy Craig; interview with actress Sarah Miles; interview with Harry Burton, director of Channel 4's Working with Pinter; interview with producer and director Stephen Woolley; audio interview with cinematographer Douglas Slocombe; archival video interview with playwright Harold Pinter; and a lot more. In English, with optional English SDH, French and German subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
After years of living and working in Africa, Tony (James Fox, A Passage to India) returns home to London and buys himself a new home. To get the house in order Tony also recruits Barrett (Dirk Bogarde, The Night Porter, The Damned), a quiet and very efficient servant.
Barrett immediately decorates the house like a stylish club for wealthy gentlemen. Then he proceeds to reorganize Tony's chaotic life. But the move quickly annoys Tony's upper-class fiancee, Susan (Wendy Craig, The Mind Benders), who likes to be in control. With Tony present, Barrett is made aware that his efforts are not appreciated.
Sensing that tension is building up, Tony attempts to spend more time with Susan and make her understand that Barrett is simply trying to be helpful. For a while Susan relaxes, but when Barrett accidentally spoils what should have been a very special night for her and Tony, she once again confronts him.
But instead of stepping back, Barrett introduces his sister, Vera (Sarah Miles, Blow-Up), to Tony. Shortly after, she is hired as a maid. Before Susan can intervene, Vera completely overwhelms Tony with her physical attributes and he makes a crucial mistake.
Based on the novel by Robin Maugham (nephew of Somerset), Joseph Losey's The Servant is a wildly entertaining and subversive film that is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest ever made in Britain. Scripted by the legendary Harold Pinter, The Servant is like a giant puzzle whose pieces can be rearranged in endless ways to expose different themes and undertones.
The film is loosely divided into two somewhat uneven parts. In the first the main characters' interactions are predetermined by a familiar set of rules – Tony, the wealthy master, gives all the orders and Barrett, the poor but sophisticated servant, follows them. Here the two men are well aware of their roles and never dispute them. Vera's arrival, however, quickly undermines the authority of the master and a gradual shift of powers occurs. After a series of provocative scenes, most highlighting in different ways the hypocrisy of the master and his servant, the roles are discarded. Without their masks the 'new' characters and their actions are carefully used to produce some quite scathing observations about the true nature of the British class system.
Also in the second part plenty of attention is given to the homoerotic nature of the relationship between the stripped of their class identities characters. Very sharp and at times brilliantly subversive exchanges between them repeatedly target different stereotypes and prejudices.
The majority of the film takes place inside the house where the master and his servant live, but it never feels claustrophobic. On the contrary, light and shadow are carefully used by the great cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Titfield Thunderbolt) to give the film a notably stylish look. A fantastic jazz score with lush sax solos courtesy of John Dankworth (TV's The Avengers) also compliments the elegant visuals.
Note: In 1964, The Servant won BAFTA Awards for Best British Actor (Dirk Bogarde), Best British Cinematography, and Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (James Fox).
The Servant Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.64:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Joseph Losey's The Servant arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal.
Freshly restored, The Servant looks remarkably healthy in high-definition. There are dramatic improvements in every single area we typically address in our reviews, from detail to contrast stability to shadow definition. All close-ups boast outstanding depth while the few panoramic shots (see screencapture #5) convey terrific clarity. Even extremely small objects are now extremely easy to see. Furthermore, there are absolutely no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Sharpening corrections have not been applied either. Needless to say, the film has a very solid organic look. Large debris, stains, cuts, and flecks have also been carefully removed. Serious compression anomalies also do not plague the high-definition transfer. When projected, the film also remains exceptionally tight around the edges. All in all, the new restoration has literally given this classic film a new life. Indeed, it looks absolutely spectacular. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Servant Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, StudioCanal have provided optional English SDH, French, and German subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless English track opens up the film very well. The wonderful sax solos for instance are lush, crisp, and very well rounded. The dialog is also stable, clear and free of problematic background hiss. Overall dynamic intensity is modest, but there is a good range of nuanced dynamics. For the record, there are no audio dropouts or problematic high-frequency distortions.
The Servant Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Servant Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
StudioCanal's 50th anniversary Blu-ray release of director Joseph Losey's masterful film The Servant is a thing of beauty. Recently restored, the film looks absolutely spectacular, without a shadow of a doubt the best it ever has. The release also comes with an outstanding selection of supplemental features, amongst them many brand new interviews conducted exclusively for the Blu-ray release. As far as I am concerned, this is the most complete addition to The StudioCanal Collection we've seen to date. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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The Servant Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Joseph Losey's The Servant Joins the StudioCanal Collection - February 21, 2013
StudioCanal have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray director Joseph Losey's The Servant (1963) starring Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox, and Wendy Craig. Recently restored and screened at the 2013 BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, ...
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