The Maids [DVD] [1975]

Christopher Miles' The Maids, adapted from the play by Jean Genet, comes to DVD in a decent, if rather unexceptional-looking, edition. There have long been master-material problems with the American Film Theatre series (of which this movie was a part) and it's on the DVD of The Maids that one sees the consequences. Except for a few more solid colors in some shots, the image is little better than a 1980s television transfer would have looked. The image has been letterboxed to a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, recreating the movie's original non-anamorphic theatrical image. Although some shots do look good, there is still a softness and slightly washed-out quality in about half of the film, and a darkness in certain shots that seems more a result of limited resolution in the source than a creative decision by the telecine operator. In all, despite being mastered in early 21st century technology, the disc does recall the bad old days of one-light transfers, which is an indication of just how poor the condition of some of the surviving materials must be. The chaptering is generous and, as with the rest of this part of the series, there is an essay by Michael Feingold dealing with the history and origins of the work. The supplement also includes the same interview and series trailer material that appear on other releases from the American Film Theatre and the trailer from Murderous Maids, a more recent movie dealing with the same historical incident that was the inspiration for the Genet play. The disc opens on a multi-layered menu that is reasonably easy to maneuver.
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Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer
  • "Jean Genet and The Maids," an essay by Michael Feingold, chief theatre critic of The Village Voice
  • The American Film Theatre Cinebill for The Maids
  • Stills gallery
  • Interview with Edie Landau, executive-in-charge of the American Film Theatre
  • "Ely Landau: In Front of the Camera" AFT promotion reel
  • American Film Theatre trailer gallery (including a complete list of the AFT films)
  • American Film Theatre Scrapbook
  • Enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs


The Maids
Directed by Christopher Miles, The Maids is a 1974 film version of the play by French absurdist writer Jean Genet. Solange (Glenda Jackson) and Claire (Susannah York) are two sisters who work as servants for a strict Madame (Vivian Merchant). When Madame and Monsieur (Mark Burns) leave the house, the two women enact dramatic role playing games. To get out their sexual frustrations against their boss and each other, they alternate the parts of master and servant. They both love and hate the Madame passionately enough to plot her murder. During a particularly intense game of play, Claire accidentally drinks the poison that was meant for the Madame. The Maids is part of producer Ely Landau's American Film Theatre Series, which ran in select theaters from 1973-1975. In 2003, all 14 films in the series were given a wide release on home video from Kino International. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Glenda Jackson
    Glenda Jackson - Solange
  • Susannah York
    Susannah York - Claire
  • Vivien Merchant
    Vivien Merchant - Madame
  • Mark Burns
    Mark Burns - Monsieur
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