Joseph Losey's 1963 dark and ambiguous psychological drama The Servant is to be released onto DVD and Blu-ray Monday 8 April, so I thought it was high time to create a post about one of the iconic film locations of the 60s - the house at the centre of the power struggle between James Fox's upperclassman Tony and Dirk Bogarde's The Servant. Some thought on the 50th Anniversary restored re release of The Servant can be found here!
The creative partnership between Director Joseph Losey and Writer Harold Pinter heralded in a new era of British Art Cinema and it started with their first collaboration The Servant.
The story of The Servant is delivered through a taut battle of wills and seduction between two men on either side of the class barrier. Most of the film is set in Aristocrat Tony's (James Fox) Townhouse which becomes a metaphor for the mental state of Tony has he slowly spirals downward, the field of battle between the wills of the men as well as the prize of victory for the winner. Granted it is a very one sided battle that will leave one of the men in a state of disorder.
Looking at the Townhouse that served for the location you would never guess the depth of the cinematic battle that place beyond its facade.
We are first shown Tony's Townhouse, located just off King's Road, in the early shots of the film, full of symbolism, which permeates the film and tells much of the tale. After fleeing the Mccarthy era witch hunts of the US Losey made his way to Europe, settling in the UK in number 29 Royal Avenue - directly opposite the townhouse location used for Tony's pad.
30 Royal Ave, London, Greater London SW3 4QF
The Servant is a stunning dissection of two men, the idle, wealthy young bachelor Tony (James Fox, Performance, The Remains Of The Day) and his new servant Barrett (Dirk Bogarde, Accident, Death In Venice).
Pinter’s razor sharp script unravels the ups and downs of class warfare and sexual games, as the two men play a constant tug of war for power. Recently returned from Africa, Tony recruits Barrett, a ‘gentlemen’s gentlemen’, to get his life in order. Barrett initially seems like a paragon of domestic virtue, and they settle comfortably and closely into their roles as master and servant. Only Tony’s perceptive bride-to-be Susan (Wendy Craig), increasingly threatened by the control Barrett is imposing on her fiancées life, starts to suspect something is amiss and makes her loathing of the manservant increasingly clear.
When Barrett introduces his supposed "sister" Vera (Sarah Miles, Blow-Up, Hope And Glory) into the house as maid, the psychodrama escalates as Vera, with Barrett’s encouragement, soon insinuates herself into Tony's bed. Are the pair working together to play upon Tony's vulnerabilities, whether for fun or profit? As their perverse psychological grip on Tony tightens, the power dynamic between Tony and Barrett dramatically switches and in their increasingly mutually dependent, often erotically-charged relationship, Tony becomes the eager-to-please lackey and Barrett starts to hold the reins of power.
Screenplay by Harold Pinter adapted from the novel by Robin Maugham
Starring Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig & James Fox
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