Celebrated in its own time and home country (even netting a few BAFTAs), The Servant is sorely overlooked now, despite its decades ahead of its time homoerotica and social commentary. The film plays no cheap tricks and still surprises, shows nothing graphic and still shocks. The great Dirk Bogarde is hired as a manservant by the supremely sexual James Fox, here playing a blithe and lazy but basically good aristocrat. This sparks a rivalry between Fox’s girlfriend (played by ice-cold Wendy Craig) and Bogarde as they both vie for control of Fox’s easily influenced life. Bogarde one-ups Craig by bringing in his sister, the devilishly bewitching Sara Miles, to manipulate his ‘master’.
There are far more twists and betrayals, but the film’s core is the then-shocking, albeit coded, relationship between Fox and Bogarde. Seductive and subversive, The Servant is a quiet powerhouse of a film, a delirious punch to the gut and genitals.
Britta R. Moline 8/27/11