09th Jun2017

‘The Naked Civil Servant’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: John Hurt, Liz Gebhardt, Patricia Hodge, Stanley Lebor, Katherine Schofield, Colin Higgins, John Rhys-Davies, Stephen Johnstone, Antonia Pemberton | Written by Quentin Crisp, Philip Mackie | Directed by Jack Gold


When John Hurt died we lost a true legend of film, and an actor loved by both young and old. Some knew him for his role as Kane in Alien, John Merrick in The Elephant Man, and even Doctor Who. Perhaps his most daring role though was as Quentin Crisp, The Naked Civil Servant.

The Naked Civil Servant is the story of Quentin Crisp, a shamelessly (and famously) homosexual man who was never afraid to be himself, even at a time when it was illegal. Looking at his coming of age and growth into old age the film celebrates the life of a truly inspirational individual.

Quentin Crisp is anything but shy, you get to see this in The Naked Civil Servant as he appears on-screen at the very start to introduce the movie. This is a good move, as for people who have never seen the man himself, they may feel that Hurt overplays him somewhat. After the introduction though we find out about the man himself and the world in which he grew up.

While we do see him persecuted for the life he led, there is still a light-hearted feel to the film and that is both endearing and helps the audience to empathise with Crisp. We are disgusted by the people who attack him on the street for being different, and we are welcomed into the world he discovers, as he moves into it.

The fact that Crisp is the narrator (and that the film is based on his autobiography) lets us experience a time in British history that has thankfully passed us by. While there is still homophobia in society, it is much less normalised, especially by the authorities who in the film tend to join in with the discrimination against Crisp. Thankfully though he never backs down, he just adapts to live life how he sees fit.

This ability to adapt is interesting, because in the film he appears to adapt many times. From being a man who cares little for sex and sexuality, he discovers his attraction for men, when the society around him changes due to things like the war, again he adapts. He never tries to fit in, and this is where the inspiration comes in.

When we move into the seventies we see that people have caught up with his style and the way he acts, it is like he was a man born before his time. Saying that though, certain other historical figures like Oscar Wilde could also be said to have been born in the wrong era, but this is only because of the prejudice they encountered. Why should these men (and women of course) have had to fit in to what is seen as “normal”? In truth normality is not having to hide who you really are.

The reason why this film is celebrated as one of John Hurt’s best is the performance he gives. Before this he was known as more of a tough guy actor, so this must have been an eye opener for the audience at the time. This shows just how flexible an actor Hurt was though, and it is nice to hear him on the commentary track included in this release talking about how proud he was of the role.

Fans of John Hurt should have The Naked Civil Servant in their collection, and this new Blu-ray is the perfect chance to add it. Not only does it show Hurt at his best, but it also lets us into the world of Quentin Crisp a truly flamboyant, fabulous, and unique character who definitely made his mark on society.

****½  4.5/5

The Naked Civil Servant is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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