Written by Harold Pinter the author of that strange,corrosive play "The Caretaker" which also reflected on British society,it tells of the slow degredation of a well-born London bachelor under the cruelly calculated seductions of his gentleman's gentleman.
Politely and serenely,this servant comes into the not yet furnished home of the elegantly indolent hero,assists him with faultless taste in putting the place in order with all that a genteel host could wish---splendid furniture,silverware,paintings,family portraits,napery and books.
Then,without seeming intention,he ever so casually intrudes upon his master's intimate evenings with his competent fiancee,stirs a frustration between them,excites a strange ooze of jealousy and then brings into the house a teasing trollop he pretends is to be a kitchen maid.
This trap for the carnal inclinations of the young master easily works.In no time at all,he is emeshed in a sorid relation with the maid.And from that point on,the servant leads him relentlessly down a path of dissoluteness and abandon to a stage of complete decadence.
It is a flesh-creeping demonstration of human destructiveness that Mr.Pinter and Mr.Losey are presenting in this film,and it is made all the more horrifying by the genteel surroundings in which it occurs.Amid dignified imitations of the substance of a privileged potent class,against paintings of lordly ancestors and British heros performing gallant deeds,a handsome,undisciplined inheretor of a social tradition disintegrates.And the schemer who contributes to his downfall is,ironically,a descendant of loyal servitors to this tradition in the past.
There are hear some shattering implications of many dismal things that have taken place in British and Continental society since World War II,and Mr.Losey and his cast convey them in vivid and subtle terms.
In the young master played with dazzling whimsey and effeteness by James Fox,we are made to see the arrogance,impotence and the helplessness of those who are caught in the wreckage of a system that society will no longer support.And in the servant played by Dirk Bogarde, we are made to see the bitter counter part.
This man is the ugly representative of a professionally emasculated group,as feeble and obsolescent as the people they still pretend to serve and now possessed by a destructive sadism and vengefulness.He is as much a victim as the man he helps to destroy.Mr. Bogarde's performance,oily and insolent and cruel, conveys the entire range of weakness and wastage in his parallel decay.
As the stalwart and stubborn young woman who retains a certain pride and dignity in trying to save the hero,Wendy Craig is the strongest character.She trails the one strain of romantic pathos forlornly.Sarah Miles makes a shrill,saucy,slatern---a strumpet who is but an incidental contributor to the fall of a man.
The photography is worthy of special mention,and John Dankworth has provided a musical score that hits precisely the right note of melancholy for this decline in an old Georgian house in Chelsea,which could be the mausoleum of a class.
"The Servant,"incidentally was one of the pictures shown at the first New York Film Festival last fall.
Also on the bill at the Little Carnegie is "The Kite,"a 10-minute color film that envisions a fanciful romance on a waterfront roof in New York.
With the lashing shapes and shadows of a man's nightshirt,a black negligee and a Japanese dragon-kite that gets entangled in the clothesline on which they hang,Merle Worth has developed a sly and poignant bit of cinema poetry,a smooth and sophisticated whimsey.It's another fine Go Pictures release.