By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 24, 2014)
One of my all-time favorite British dramas has received a restored print for its 50th anniversary.
Joseph Losey’s brooding and decadent class-struggle allegory features the great Dirk Bogarde in a note-perfect performance as the “manservant” hired by a snobby playboy (James Fox) to help him settle into his upscale London digs. It soon becomes apparent that this butler has a little more on the agenda than just polishing silverware and dusting the mantle. Sara Miles is also memorable in one of her earliest film roles.
Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe’s striking chiaroscuro composition and clever use of convex mirrors (which appear to “trap” the images of the principal characters) sustains a stifling, claustrophobic mood throughout. If you’re an aficionado of the 60’s British folk scene, keep your eyes peeled for a rare (and unbilled) screen appearance by guitarist Davey Graham, featured in a scene where Fox walks into a coffeehouse. Harold Pinter’s screenplay was adapted from the novel by Robin Maugham.