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In a fashionable section of London, middle aged valet Hugo Barrett arrives at the townhouse of wealthy, young bachelor Tony for a three o'clock interview. Upon arriving Barrett finds the young man sleeping soundly on a wooden cot.

Tony is unaware of the time as he awakens. After some informal banter Tony hires Hugo as his valet and explains that there will be much to do in order to make the now vacant premises presentable. In the days and weeks to follow Tony defers most of his decisions regarding furnishings to his new employee. Barrett exhibits faultless taste in these matters and, significantly eases his employer’s burden.

Soon the townhouse is moderately lavish. Tony begins to trust his soft spoken valet implicitly. Susan, Tony’s aristocratic, young fiancée, takes an immediate dislike to the servant and treats him with disdain. At one point Susan condescendingly tells Barrett he needs to learn what deodorant is.

After what appears to be an accidental intrusion on his employer and, his fiancée during a moment of intimacy, Susan’s dislike of Barrett intensifies. Tony steadfastly maintains that Susan's dislike and, suspicion of Barrett are unfounded and shrugs them off. During this time Barrett's mere presence seems to alienate Susan and, Tony.

Soon Barrett convinces Tony to hire a young woman he presents as his sister as a maid. Upon returning home one evening he is seduced by the ‘sister’ Vera. Tony becomes involved with Vera while attempting to maintain his relationship with Susan. Meanwhile, Tony begins to avoid Barrett under the assumption that he is carrying on an affair with his sister unbeknownst to the servant.

After returning home with Susan one evening, Tony discovers Hugo and Vera in bed together. Barrett at this point dispenses with the pretense of genteelness. He appears in front of Tony and Susan in a bathrobe and cigarette dangling from his lips. He calmly states that, outside of using Tony's bedroom to entertain Vera, He was well within his rights. Barrett further tells Tony that he is guilty of carnal indiscretions with Vera as well. Barrett and Vera quickly pack up and leave the premises laughing to themselves through out. Susan leaves Tony because of his infidelity and soon he is desolate.

Days later Tony is drinking his sorrows away in a pub. Barrett joins him and apologizes telling him that Vera left him for another man and almost begs Tony to reinstate him. Soon Barrett and Tony are sharing a bizarre coexistence. Tony mopes about drinking while Barrett effeminately whines about not being used to working in "such squalor ".They start to argue over the upkeep of the home and, later have dinner together wearing suit and tie for no apparent reason. Barrett tells Tony, almost seductively; that he feels Tony is more like a "pal" than an employer. The two men chat in the study Barrett encouraging Tony to continue consuming alcohol. They play catch on the staircase and later a fateful game of hide and seek during which Tony screams in terror when Barrett discovers him.

Tony is now an alcohol ravaged invalid dependent on Barrett to feed his dual addictions of Women and liquor. Vera visits him asking for money and tells him Barrett was responsible for her seducing him. Barrett feigns making her leave. Susan then arrives and is horrified at what Tony has quickly become. Barrett then informs Tony of the arrival of women they have been expecting. They are all attractive yet display almost robotic demeanors. Barrett pulls the drunken Tony up by his collar and makes clear who now is in charge. Barrett no longer needing to hide his contempt for Susan arrogantly blows cigarette smoke directly into her face. Susan, confused and aroused, begins to kiss the surprised Barrett as Tony looks up at them in a stupor from the floor. Barrett starts to laugh manically as the now repulsed Susan struggles to free herself from his grasp. Tony then screams” Get out!” and that command is repeated by Barrett to the Women, who then leave. Susan leaves after slapping Barrett in the face. Vera reappears and joins Barrett in Tony's bedroom as the emotionally castrated young man lies inebriated on the hallway floor aware of their laughter and contempt.