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The aristocratic Tony moves to London and hires the servant Hugo Barrett for all services at home. Barrett seems to be a loyal and competent employee, but Tony's girlfriend Susan does not like him and asks Tony to send him away. When Barrett brings his sister Vera to work and live in the house, Tony has a brief hidden affair with her. After traveling with Susan for spending a couple of days in a friend's house outside London, the couple unexpectedly returns and finds Barrett and Vera, who are actually lovers, in Tony's room. They are fired and Susan breaks with Tony. Later, Tony meets Barrett alone in a pub and hires him back, and Barrett imposes his real dark intentions in the house, turning the table and switching position with his master. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While this little known British classic has been badly neglected for the last thirty years or so, it shouldn't be; it is one of the most expertly realized portraits of British class warfare ever. Aside from Bogarde's (obviously) letter perfect portrayal of a sinister lower class valet with some ugly designs on his upper crust victim (well played also, by James Fox, who came to specialize in similar roles), one scene in particular stands out, and underlines beautifully the whole film's entire message. When Fox's aristocratic girlfriend (played by Wendy Craig) comes to visit, she has an amazing encounter with Bogarde. She suspects he's moving in on her boyfriend, ready to replace her in his affections. She imperiously orders him into the front room, abruptly quizzing him for his opinions on just about everything. She isn't concerned with his answers-she just enjoys ordering him around, Queen Victoria style. The effect is stunning-Bogarde clearly wants to strangle the bitch, but must restrain himself, he's only the servant after all. But he's still a man, and will get his revenge soon enough. The whole upper class system will be turned on its head. The resolution (if it can be called that) is not totally satisfying. In fact, it seems just as confused just and messy as life itself is.
Some reviewers have stated that Ms. Craig was miscast as the classy girlfriend. Not so-as she imperiously and hatefully orders the helpless servant around, her face and voice become a hateful mask of the arrogance and cruelty of British snobbery. A minor classic of its kind, somewhat dated, but still relevant and brilliantly filmed in moody black and white, and Bogarde's best moments on film.
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