Blu-ray Review: The Caretaker

Harold Pinter was one of the most influential and accomplished playwrights and poets of the twentieth century. Whilst he’s best known for his theatrical work, Pinter was also an accomplished screenwriter; adapting several of his own works as well as many by other writers. In 1963, he wrote the treatment of his own play The Caretaker for director Clive Donner. It turned out to be arguably his best.

Whilst renovating an old house, Aston (Robert Shaw) decides to take pity on an old man (Donald Pleasance) and lets him stay. The devious vagrant does his best to inveigle himself into his affections. However, his attempts are repeatedly scuppered by Aston’s ill-tempered brother Mick (Alan Bates) who takes great pleasure in tormenting the cantankerous retch. A power struggle between the three men ensues.

The Caretaker is a wonderful three-hander with phenomenal performances from Shaw, Bates and Pleasance. The writing is perfectly judged, as is the direction. It’s a showcase of British talent and the power of the theatre to seep into celluloid. All three actors feed off each other, the dialogue oscillating from severe to placatory. The Caretaker is a triumph which deserves to be discovered by a new generation.

Special features:

  • Newly restored from the original camera negative by the BFI, and presented here in High Definition and Standard Definition
  • Audio commentary by actor Alan Bates, director Clive Donner and producer Michael Birkett (2002)
  • Introduction by critic and author Michael Billington (2002, 6 mins)
  • On Location with The Caretaker (1962, 4 mins): an extract from the TV series This Week in Britain
  • The Caretaker: From Play Into Film (2002, 17 mins): a video essay by Michael Billington using materials donated by Clive Donner to the BFI National Archive
  • US opening titles (1963, 2 mins): the opening title sequence from the US where the film was released as The Guest
  • Last To Go (1969, 6 mins): the last of five animated shorts directed by Gerald Potterton for Pinter People voiced by Harold Pinter and Donald Pleasence
  • Harold Pinter’s Play Discussed by Clive Donner (1973, 47 mins): the BAFTA-winning director discusses his adaptation of The Caretaker
  • Stills Gallery
  • **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Fully illustrated booklet with new essay by critic author Amy Simmons, writing by Michael Billington and full film credits

The Caretaker is released on dual format (DVD & Blu-ray) by the BFI on 15 April.

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