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The Naked Civil Servant

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 77 mins . M15+ . PAL


Denis Pratt was born on Christmas Day in 1908 in London, the youngest of four children. His parents, a lawyer and governess, always thought he was lazy, preferring to spend time admiring himself in the mirror rather than seeking employment. Always knowing he was a homosexual, he changed his name to Quentin Crisp and decided to devote his life to “making the existence of homosexuality abundantly clear to the world’s aborigines”. He was not just a homosexual, he was an extremely effeminate one and, in the time of his youth, this was a dangerous thing to be. He felt very alone until one day while out walking he happened upon another effeminate homosexual who introduced Quentin to a group of like minded men who met every evening in a local coffee shop. Quentin now felt more comfortable and decided to leave home, much to the relief of his parents.

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I feel pretty.

Facing all kinds of bigotry, he struggled to gain acceptance from most and often encountered violence from local roughs. This didn’t deter him though; he faced these problems head on and became more determined than ever. After working as a prostitute, as much for companionship as money, he went on to work as a book illustrator, a dance teacher and as a nude model for government funded art schools, thus naming himself The Naked Civil Servant. He went on to become a writer, his most famous work being an autobiography entitled The Naked Civil Servant, the basis of this film. First shown to US audiences in 1976, the British made-for-television film gained critical acclaim, particularly for the accurate portrayal of Crisp by John Hurt.

He moved to New York in 1977 and proclaimed it was his proudest achievement. He felt more comfortable in America and less of an outcast and freak, the way he had been treated all of his life in England. With a newfound celebrity, Crisp started performing on stage in his show An Evening With Quentin Crisp in 1978. Receiving favourable reviews he demonstrated his sharp wit, something he had used as a defence mechanism for most of his life.

"I’m one of the stately homos of England!"

Beginning with an introduction from Crisp himself, this film adaptation of his book looks at his life. The fact that he introduces the film is testament to its accuracy, as well as giving the viewer a look at the man himself which is a great gauge to judge the performance of Hurt in the lead role. And what a performance it is, he captures the mannerisms of Crisp to perfection, portraying an extremely feminine man with class. The film focuses on the plight of Crisp and his need to make the general public aware of his existence.

He is shunned by the general public and even fellow homosexuals, who see him as a threat as much as straight society do. At one point he is asked to leave an underground gay club because the members there proclaim that if the police come they are just regular men but with him there they are homosexuals. Crisp never once attempts to be anything other than what he is and whether you approve of his behaviour or not, you must admire his courage.

The dangers faced by Crisp are still evident in today’s society, however they are nowhere near the degree that he faced, especially in London where Crisp spent much of his life. There are certainly many rednecks and religious nuts in the world that still see homosexuals as a threat to the family structure and we all live in hope that one day common sense will kick in and prove to these people that there is nothing to fear and that we should all treat each other as we wish to be treated. Hang on, who put that soapbox under me?

Sadly, Quentin Crisp died in November 1999 at the ripe old age of 90, ironically on English soil in Manchester. He was about to embark on another series of shows and after stating for many years that he planned to finish his life in his new homeland of America, his end came in his original land of birth.


Having been produced in the mid ‘70s and also made for television, this full frame transfer is not terrific, although it does look reasonable taking these factors into account. The image is generally quite soft, as are the colours for the most part, although some scenes do provide some strong colour images. Film artefacts are a constant menace, mostly in the form of specks, while grain is generally at an acceptable level. There are no subtitles supplied with this film, however dialogue is always clear so they are not really needed.


Audio comes in the default Dolby Digital stereo and although it is nothing special, it serves its purpose for this type of film. Dialogue is always clear and although the general sound mix seems a little flat, it is sufficient. The supporting music is well suited and the best indication of that is that it is purely a supporting soundtrack that never takes over scenes. There are never any synch problems and, again, for a film of this age it is not bad without being outstanding.


Extras are limited for this release. First up is an Interview With Quentin Crisp. This runs for 25:11 and comes from the television show Mavis Catches Up With…. It consists of two interviews taken with Crisp from 1975 in London and 1989 in New York. This is an interesting conversation with the man and it is quite evident how happy he is to be living in America. The only other extra on this release are four teaser trailers, for Prick Up Your Ears, My Beautiful Laundrette, Death of a Salesman and Peter Allen, Boy From Oz.


This is an interesting film about an interesting character. To most he is best known for being a homosexual rather than a writer and, considering this film is based on his autobiography, this should leave the viewer regarding him more as a homosexual writer rather than just a homosexual.

The video and audio transfers are very average, although this can be excused due to the age of the source material. The extras are minimal, although the interview is well worth seeing.

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      And I quote...
    "One of the pioneers of “queer”, this is the self told story of Quentin Crisp."
    - Adrian Turvey
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